Thomas Speght was the first Chaucer editor to present readers with a
‘medieval’ Chaucer firmly situated in the past. By providing a substantial
apparatus of supplementary materials aiming to facilitate access to
Chaucer’s works, Speght was implicitly highlighting Chaucer’s datedness. At
the same time, Speght also used his ‘additions’ to present Chaucer as a true
English classic and national poet still worthy of being read, and to insist
that Chaucer’s works continued to be relevant to his sixteenth-century
readers. This chapter traces the evolution of the front and back matter of
Speght’s editions (of 1598 and 1602) and analyses how they serve Speght’s
double agenda to present Chaucer as a poet both ancient and ‘modern’. In
particular, it examines how Speght pursued his double strategy by stressing
links between Chaucer and Edmund Spenser and by fashioning a ‘friendship’
between the two major English poets of the past and present.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.