I’m excited to announce a new, yearlong project I will undertake. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I spend the majority of my time and energy writing, thinking, and posting original and secondary content about William Shakespeare. While I have certainly enjoyed this, in doing so I have neglected the rich and eclectic mosaic that is the rest of the Early Modern Period (specifically the plays from this period). This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s rare, for example, to see the New York Times post anything about Ben Jonson or Thomas Kyd. The degree to which the majority of people know anything about this period in English history is usually represented by a passing familiarity with Shakespeare (or The Tutors I suppose). I’m certainly not laboring under some delusion that this blog will remedy this problem. The point is that I see the same sort of deficiency in myself. While I have read Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Kyd just to name a few, my instinct is not to turn to them when I want to read or write about something from this period; my instinct is to turn to Shakespeare. So, for the remainder of 2014 I will undertake reading and writing about 27 Early Modern, non-Shakespearean plays from English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology edited by David Bevington. Considering how much time is left in 2014, I will read and post once every other week. Obviously, this may fluctuate at times—the last two weeks in April, for example, are particularly busy.
While I alluded to one reason why I’m undertaking this project, a second reason is worth mentioning. Unlike any other literary figure in the Western canon, Shakespeare has an unmistakable ability to blot out his competition. Of course, scholars and academics have to varying degrees complicated such Bardolatry, but those conversations have remained firmly entrenched in academic literature, thus rarely filtering out. Therefore, attempting to learn anything about the theatrical practices, tendencies, and traditions of this period, one often begins (and too often ends) with Shakespeare’s vast but limited contribution. My goal is to better understand not only those “other” contributions but to place those contributions in conversation with my existing knowledge of Shakespeare.
I guess I would say that unlike Hamlet, I don’t wish “from the table of my memory [to] wipe away all trivial fond records, / All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past.” No, I merely wish to clear a corner from my table for his obscured brethren, a table that dear Will has colonized for far too long.