In 1700, Shakespeare was viewed as one of the leading Renaissance playwrights, but not as supreme. By 1800, he was not only widely performed and read but celebrated as a universal genius and a national literary hero. What happened during the intervening years is the subject of this fascinating volume, which brings together Renaissance and eighteenth-century scholars who examine how Shakespeare gradually penetrated, and came to dominate, the culture and intellectual life of people in the English-speaking world. The contributors approach Shakespeare from a wide range of perspectives, to illuminate the way contemporary philosophy, science and medicine, textual practice, theatre studies, and literature both informed and were influenced by eighteenth-century interpretations of his works. Among the topics are Falstaff and eighteenth-century ideas of the sublime, David Garrick's 1756 adaptation of The Winter's Tale and its relationship to medical theories of femininity, the textual practices of George Steevens, Shakespeare's importance in furthering the careers of actors on the eighteenth-century stage, and the influence of Shakespeare on writers as diverse as Edmund Burke, Horace Walpole, and Ann Radcliff. Together, the essays paint a vivid picture of the relationship between eighteenth-century Shakespeare and ideas about shared nationhood, knowledge, morality, history, and the self.
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