Shakespeare's Binding Language by John Kerrigan

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Synopsis

This remarkable, innovative book explores the significance in Shakespeare's plays of oaths, vows, contracts, pledges and the other utterances and acts by which characters commit themselves to the truth of things past, present, and to come. In early modern England, such binding language was everywhere. Oaths of office, marriage vows, legal bonds, and casual, everyday profanity gave shape and texture to life. The proper use of such language, and the extent of its power to bind, was argued over by lawyers, religious writers, and satirists, and these debates inform literature and drama.

Shakespeare's Binding Language gives a freshly researched account of these contexts, but it is focused on the plays. What motives should we look for when characters asseverate or promise? How far is binding language self-persuasive or deceptive? When is it allowable to break a vow? How do oaths and promises structure an audience's expectations? Across the sweep of Shakespeare's career, from the early histories to the late romances, this book opens new perspectives on key dramatic moments and illuminates language and action. Each chapter gives an account of a play or group of plays, yet the study builds to a sustained investigation of some of the most important systems, institutions, and controversies in early modern England, and of the wiring of Shakespearean dramaturgy. Scholarly but accessible, and offering startling insights, this is a major contribution to Shakespeare studies by one of the leading figures in the field.
 

About John Kerrigan

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John Kerrigan was brought up in Liverpool. After studying at Oxford he went to a lectureship at Cambridge, where he is Professor of English 2000 and a Fellow of St John's College. He has published on many subjects, from classical drama through Renaissance literature to modern British and Irish poetry. Among his books are an edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint, Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon, and Archipelagic English: Literature, History, and Politics 1603-1707. He has lectured in many parts of the world, and writes for the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
 
Published March 10, 2016 by OUP Oxford.
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Oaths can be solemn, like the Oath of Allegiance imposed on Catholics after the Gunpowder Plot, or trivially blasphemous, like ‘tush,' ‘zounds' and other imprecations that have apparently been cut from the First Folio text of Othello in accordance with the Act to Restrain Abuses of Players.

Jan 06 2017 | Read Full Review of Shakespeare's Binding Language