FILM AND M
Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

But alceste would have taken her to his own swinburne

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But Alceste would have taken her to his own. (Swinburne, 152) 1 F. Kreyssug, Vorlesungen ueber Shakespeare (1862), cited in Furness, 374; Heinrich Bulthaupt, Dramaturgie tier Classiker (1884), in Furness, 378; Andrew Lang, Harper's Magazine, September 1891, in Furness, 361; Faucit, in Furness, 361. 123
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Introduction This 1880 account by A.C. Swinburne no doubt bears the influ- ence of the actress Ellen Terry's gracious and graceful Beatrice, and in his reading the play, far from being a botched version of comic and drawing room decorums alike, approaches a classical ideal of both dramatic proportion and female self-sacrifice. Some of Shakespeare's works turn on enigmas that repeatedly fuel critical approaches (Why does Hamlet delay? Is Henry V nasty or nice?), so that different critical generations return time and again to the same question, trying to answer it with the tools and vocabulary of the particular moment. If Much Ado's critical history offers such a touchstone, it is in fact this question of the play's tonal and generic mixture. In the formalist era, for instance, this sometimes showed up in criticism as the question of Much Ado's stylistic 'unity' (usually answered in the negative), or of its formal coherence (one plot or two?), or of its relationship to its multiple sources. 1 Historically Much Ado has been judged a rather motley effort, though agreeable in parts; it is the rare reader who perceives Shakespeare's mixture as, in fact, the point. To wit: 'Shakespeare . . . generatefs] a novelistic sense of the real, of a world where people live together to a degree that is socially and psychologically convincing, and new in the poet's work ... by embracing contradic- tions everywhere' (Everett, 'Unsociable', 73; see also Craik). In more recent times, questions of aesthetic unity have become less fashionable, as have questions of character and morals, but attempts to find coherence in the play's construction have persisted, only moving from the formal to the thematic register. Shakespeare comes across in such accounts as concerned throughout the play with some governing preoccupation that works to unify otherwise discordant elements: for instance, with knowledge, 2 or fashion, 3 or slander, 4 or social status, 5 or self-regard, 6 or the power of 1 See, for instance, D. Cook; Mueller; Osbourne; Prouty; Traugott. 2 Berry; Fergusson; Henze; Lewalski, 'Love'; Myhill; Rossiter. 3 J. Evans; Friedman, 'Man'; Ormerod. 4 Cerasano; Sexton. 5 Kreiger; M. Taylor. 6 Rose. 124
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Introduction language, 1 or the role of wit. 2 The standard dialectical move of such analyses is to note the play's formal and ethical disparities, but then to overcome them by pointing to the overriding currency of the theme in question. This play, like most of Shakespeare's works, has run the twentieth-century critical gauntlet that stretches from formalism 3 through psychoanalytic, 4 feminist, and materialist and new historicist criticisms.
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