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“Admit me Chorus to this history”: Shakespeare’s M.C.s and Choric Commentators—How Medieval, How Early Modern?

Authors
  • Ingham, Michael1
  • 1 Lingnan University, Department of English, Room 315, Ho Sin Hang Bldg, 8 Castle Peak Rd., Tuen Mun, N.T., Hong Kong , Tuen Mun (Hong Kong SAR China)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Neophilologus
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2018
Volume
103
Issue
2
Pages
255–271
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11061-018-9576-6
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

My paper discusses the relationship between typical medieval and Tudor prologues and epilogues, in which a moralistic and didactic tone is common, and Shakespeare’s more nuanced early modern use of framing devices. The latter’s approach, I argue, is driven more by a heightened sense of poetics and dramatic functionality than by didacticism or homiletic sentiment. Nevertheless, a distinctly medieval ethos is palpable in his framing speeches, and my paper will explore the balance between such medieval elements and an early modern dramatic application. This begs the question why Shakespeare avails himself of the choric device in some plays but not in others. I make the case for the history and romance genres being associated with choric devices in Shakespeare’s dramas, to a much greater degree than comedy and tragedy. Through textual analysis of language, such as the use of archaism, as well as diction and versification choices in his framing speeches, this article charts Shakespeare’s skilful creation and deployment of a medieval and early modern hybrid.

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