This is a solid and compelling collection of articles dedicated to the themes of conflict, memory and language in early modern English theatre and poetry. Shakespeare is the main focus of most of the papers, but there are welcome deviations from this rule, either as complements to the discussion (usually other early modern dramatists, who are dealt with in varying degrees of detail) or as independent objects of investigation (John Donne’s poetry in Margaret Edson’s Wit). In the two essays having more directly to do with memory, “Memory of Tragedy” and “This is my play’s last scene”, memory is illuminatingly exercised from different temporal positions, in one case as the early modern memory of tragedy and in the other as the contemporary moment’s memory of early modern poetry. However, in “Memory of Tragedy”, some additional bibliographical support would be welcome. The use of the concept of memory, which is central to the article, would benefit from explicit grounding in cultural or collective memory studies. The article could also be improved by a conclusion bringing together, under the theme of the memory of tragedy, the several variants of tragedy discussed throughout the paper. “This is my play’s last scene”, which also deals, though more implicitly, with forms of memory, is an engaging and compelling essay about the central role played by John Donne’s poetry in a contemporary play, Margaret Edson’s Wit. The close attention devoted to poetic detail, which is itself a theme in Wit, neatly brings out the relations between Donne’s poetry and Edson’s play, while linking this paper to the remaining ones. Whereas “Memory of Tragedy” discusses issues of genre, “As You (Don’t) Like It” focuses on plotting. By means of a structural analysis of central aspects of the plots of As You Like It, King Lear and Hamlet, the author proposes a convincing account of the importance of heterotopic spaces in the movement towards the restitution of order in all three plays. The shift from As You Like It, where an effective restoration does occur, to the two tragedies, where this restoration is complicated and eventually cancelled by contingency, is itself historicised as a general transition from “‘cyclical-temporal’ myth-making into ‘discrete-linear’ plot-making” (Lotman). A common link between these papers is the attention devoted to language and form. This focus is attained not at the cost of history, but rather in close connection with it. In its attention to issues of poetic language, this collection of articles strikes a welcome note in a field which, in recent times, has frequently disparaged attention to form as mere formalism. The importance of analysing the language of these texts in detail is especially borne out in the remaining three articles of this collection. “NEW LANGUAGES” is a fascinating, and bibliographically supported, discussion of the transformations undergone in the use of rhetoric during the early modern period, as exemplified in and mapped out by a number of history plays from this time. The relations between rhetoric, truth, value and power are brought out through a persuasive discussion of specific moments from Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy as well as from John Ford’s Perkin Warbeck. “The Insults of The Merchant of Venice”, on the other hand, makes a forceful and amply demonstrated case for understanding insults in The Merchant of Venice as profoundly and disturbingly different from other, more playful types of insults in the Shakespearean canon. This article needs some editing (especially because of incomplete references) and matters of style should occasionally be attended to, namely in the first paragraph (the phrase “I started a paper” is used several times without variation). In section 3, the paragraph containing the final sequence of words as well as their dictionary meanings may perhaps be tightened in terms of its structure. Although these words and their meanings are all motivated by the central connection which is made between insults and rating, their brief appearance in quick succession seems occasionally gratuitous. The final article in this collection, “With all my Heart”, also focuses on The Merchant of Venice. In what is an admirably pursued and amply footnoted source study, the author reconsiders the motif of the pound of flesh in The Merchant of Venice, and more specifically of Antonio’s heart, by bringing out its double-edged signification. This contextual approach moreover benefits from being carried out through a close analysis of emblem books and accounts of public executions in early modern England, while also paying attention to other, more canonically established narrative sources.
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