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Title: Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida : audience expectation and matters of taste in relation to authorship and the book
Author: Gregory, Johann
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2013
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Questions concerning whether Shakespeare wrote for the stage or the page are a perennial issue in Shakespeare studies. Part of the problem rests on expectations of literature and theatre. These expectations are in fact voiced in Shakespearean drama itself, a drama that often articulates ideas concerning audience expectations. In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, before Troilus visits Cressida he exclaims “expectation whirls me round”. Of all the plays in the Shakespearean canon, variants of “expect” feature most in this play. Troilus and Cressida itself scrutinises expectation of a story with famous classical, medieval and contemporary precedents, for a play to be performed by the leading theatre company of the day, and of a play by a playwright who was also conscious of his role as a published author. In the play, characters are frequently staged as spectators or audience members, raising issues relating to expectations, taste, value judgements, and viewpoints. Shakespeare responds to the plays of his contemporaries and, arguably, the political scene as well. The thesis reworks Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the literary field to gauge the way that Shakespeare’s play engages with its theatrical and literary environment, and resituates Bourdieu’s work on taste and social distinction to consider how Shakespeare’s Trojan play responds to the contingencies of audience expectation. The first chapter considers critical expectations of the play from 1609 to the present; the second chapter focuses on the way Shakespeare stages patrons, performers and especially audience members; the third chapter reads the language of food and taste in the play in relation to developing early modern distinctions about literature and theatre; the final chapter provides a correction to readings of the play that have relied on the unique 1609 quarto preface to the play for understanding the work; this chapter argues that even the play, as staged, presents literary issues, and characters that show an awareness of print culture. Within its own early modern literary-theatrical field, Shakespeare’s play is far more about elitist tastes than it is elitist itself. Ultimately, the thesis argues that Troilus and Cressida marks Shakespeare’s growing confidence as a literary dramatist, not simply as an author whose plays were published as literature, but as a playwright who was capable of using theatre and audience expectation to re-evaluate literary tastes. Broadly positioned, the thesis provides a case study which revises critical expectations of this play in order to situate better Shakespeare’s contribution to early modern drama and literature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature