Value and Shakespeare
in Cultural value in twenty-first-century England
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Stephen Greenblatt, in a collection appropriately entitled Shakespearean Negotiations, distinguished Shakespeare's work from other 'collective expressions' that, he finds, 'when moved from their original settings to a new place or time are dead on arrival'. In Greenblatt's case the intrinsic value of Shakespeare is re-negotiated as the 'social energy' with which the plays engage subsequent readers; in Jonathan Bate's case it is identified by selective quotation, glossed and explicated for particular rhetorical purposes. In the closed world of Shakespeare's dramatic narratives, value can, for the duration of the story, seem completely transcendent, and is the occasion for struggle, fighting and death. In both King Lear and The Merchant of Venice, the turns of the plays' events work to expose the gap between these symbolic values and their all too material outcome.


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