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Title: A return to 'the great variety of readers' : the history and future of reading Shakespeare
Author: Williams, Robin P.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5361 6458
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2015
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For almost a century Shakespeare’s work has been viewed primarily under a supremacy of performance with an insistence that Shakespeare wrote his work to be staged, not read. This prevailing view has ensured that most responses in Shakespearean research fit within this line of enquiry. The recent argument that Shakespeare was a literary dramatist who wrote for readers—as well as audiences—has met with resistance. This thesis first exposes the very literate world Shakespeare lived in and his own perception of that world, which embraces a writer who wrote for readers. The material evidence of readers begins in Shakespeare’s own lifetime and grows steadily, evidenced by the editorial methods used to facilitate reading, the profusion of books specifically for readers of general interest, and the thousands of lay reading circles formed to enjoy and study the plays. Readers of the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries are shown to have spontaneously responded to the works as literature, as reading Shakespeare aloud within a family or social circle has a tenacious history. For three hundred years after Shakespeare’s death it was readers and Shakespeare reading groups who created and maintained Shakespeare’s legacy as a literary icon and national hero. The history of millions of lay readers reading aloud in community was engulfed by the transition of the texts into academia and performance criticism until by the 1940s Shakespeare reading groups were virtually non-existent. A new genre of editorial practice can support a re-emergence of community reading and point toward a greater acceptance of Shakespeare as a literary dramatist, enlarging the field of Shakespearean scholarship and criticism. A prototype of a Readers’ Edition of a Shakespearean play specifically edited and designed for reading aloud in groups is included with this thesis.
Supervisor: Leahy, W. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Shakespeare as literary dramatist ; Women and Shakespeare ; Editing Shakespeare for readers ; Reading groups ; Readers' editions of Shakespeare's plays