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Jennifer Richards

How did an influential writer from the age of Shakespeare – a collaborator with Shakespeare no less – become so unpopular in the present age? Through addressing Nashe’s grounding in rhetoric in the sixteenth-century schoolroom, his use of punctuation, his relationship with his peers. and his influence on later writers, Jennifer Richards examines the paradox of Nashe’s status both as one of the most influential Elizabethan writers and as a minor Elizabethan writer.

in Thomas Nashe and literary performance
‘The guiled shore to a most dangerous sea’
Ben Haworth

Beginning with Shakespeare’s marine imagery and the friction between sea and shore, this chapter addresses the concepts of national identity and ‘otherness’, with the oceans an uncontrollable force that mirror the inward motivations of humanity and the coastline as a symbol of the limit of man’s control. The chapter develops John Gillies’s notion that Shakespeare created dramatic literary geographies, and argues that the playwright often utilised the metaphoric inferences of such settings, juxtaposing city and sea to play on the resistance inherent in such liminal spaces. Ambiguity, conflict and subversion are the by-products of the contrasts of sea and shore and a consideration of parallels the poet created between the imagined theatrical spaces of islands, Mediterranean cities and the familiar realities of one of the greatest maritime cities of its day, London, highlights the presence of opposition with which his audiences would have been all too familiar. The Comedy of Errors forms a case study for these cultural conflicts as Ephesus epitomises everything from England’s monarchical systems of power to the recent upheavals in religious ideologies, the patriarchal hierarchy to the disparity between social classes. The chapter thus develops the notion that Shakespeare was repeatedly drawn to the dynamic and dramatic potential of a literary geography that placed the sea and city in close proximity.

in Shakespeare’s liminal spaces
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Ben Haworth

The Conclusion summarises how the book has worked to define the indefinable, to explore Shakespeare’s stable interest in unstable spaces that challenge and subvert conventional power structures. In so doing, the study has revealed ways in which the tides of new critical movements have often returned the same flotsam to the same shores. Returning to the work of the new historicists and cultural materialists is not an exercise in picking at the already clean bones of Shakespeare’s plays, but rather an exercise in fleshing out these bones by considering how liminality had the potential to complicate previously held ideas of how the playwright engaged with power. In doing so, the book has sought to do more than simply dust off or reignite theoretical approaches to Shakespeare that went out of circulation or fashion shortly after their inception in the 1980s.

in Shakespeare’s liminal spaces
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The liminal garden and cultures of resistance
Ben Haworth

Shakespeare’s cultivated spaces – parks, gardens, orchards and vineyards – are the focus of the fourth chapter. Initially, such spaces may not appear to be liminal as they may seem to represent human control over the wilderness and hence look to be cultivated and contained. However, in exploring the significance of such spaces, particularly in the rich literary traditions that incorporate biblical imagery and Church doctrine through to horticultural metaphor, it becomes apparent that the garden is one of the most semantically complicated settings used by the writer in terms of the sheer scope and nuance of what it may embody. As such, the garden is indeed a liminal space, rendered so by its links both to the domicile, of which it is an extension, and to the wilderness, where it originates. The imagery of encroaching weeds and seasonal cycles creates a uniquely slippery space in which power is constantly in flux, progressions of life and death, youth and decay, the battle between nature and culture played out within its bounds. As a metaphor for control, Shakespeare’s garden presents a very cynical vision of the systems of societal jurisdiction that focuses not so much on the outward order but on the fundamentally negative, fallible and corrupt aspects within such structures. This, in turn, raises thought-provoking questions about the negotiation of power, emphasising the flaws in such models of governance inevitably resulting in repetitions of Edenic expulsion into the wilderness of mankind’s postlapsarian condition.

in Shakespeare’s liminal spaces
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Nashe, news and monstrous topicality
Kirsty Rolfe

The Anatomy of Absurdity contains stinging criticism of responses to a recent publication. In a section criticising overreaching curiosity, Nashe describes frivolous ‘newes’ moving, during ‘vacation times’, out into rural spaces, carrying confusion with it. The effect of this silly-season news on its rural audiences is both bathetically comic and unsettling. Nashe describes rural figures who have encountered ‘news’ of a range of prodigious events: a comet, a flood, an earthquake, and even a flying dragon – and who apply them to their own surroundings. News of far-flung events disrupts normal patterns of rural understanding and labour. These events can be traced to the 1587 ‘prodigy’ pamphlet Strange News out of Calabria, supposedly by the astrologer ‘John Doleta’. ‘Doleta’ and his work turn up repeatedly in Nashe’s corpus – most notably when used to criticise John and Gabriel Harvey in Strange News and Have With You to Saffron Walden, respectively. References to Doleta, and to other ‘prodigious’ texts form part of Nashe’s vocabulary for ridiculing the presumption of those who claim interpretative and prophetic authority, and those who are taken in by them. The rural ‘readers’ of Doleta in The Anatomy of Absurdity express a common trope in criticism of popular newsreading: that dissemination of news leads to people gaining access to reports, and to interpretations of them, that go beyond their own social and interpretative capacities. This chapter argues that Nashe’s use of such anti-news discourse is crucial to his depiction of textual culture, and to his own positioning within it.

in Thomas Nashe and literary performance
The pneumatic spirits of Thomas Nashe's 'Paper stage'
Chloe Kathleen Preedy

Thomas Nashe is perhaps best known today for his intensely material writing style. Yet Nashe’s experience as a dramatic author who crafted dialogue for live performance, and his familiarity with early modern discourses that associated literary composition with the circulation of aerial spirits, simultaneously influenced and inflects his prose publications. This chapter considers various instances in which Nashe foregrounds the self-proclaimedly pneumatic and transitory qualities of his writing, referring to texts including Pierce Penniless, Lenten Stuff, Summer’s Last Will and Testament, and Have With You to Saffron Walden. From identifying his style with the ‘mercurial’ Graeco-Roman god of messengers and thieves, to celebrating his ‘light’ prose through mocking attacks on Gabriel Harvey’s ‘heavy’ tomes, Nashe frequently aligns his authorial practice with airy and transitory experiences. Moreover, Nashe’s writings are pervaded by extensive ongoing allusions to the anticipated pneumatic experience of both his fictional narrators and his anticipated corporeal readers. At times Nashe explicitly characterises the textual communication between author, speaker(s), and readers as an ongoing exchange of breath, presenting and self-consciously reflecting on his textual matter in terms that recall the dialogic and pneumatic exchanges of live theatre. This chapter argues that Nashe’s focus on lively, breath-fuelled, and often increasingly breathless exchanges responds to contemporary attacks on his texts as insubstantially ‘airy’ by implying that his light style possesses refreshing and even purgative qualities, rehearsing a line of defence that he might have encountered while writing for the English commercial theatre within the ‘paper stage’ of the Elizabethan print market.

in Thomas Nashe and literary performance
The theoretical landscapes of power
Ben Haworth

The first chapter lays the groundwork for understanding just what early modern English society looked like, from its centralised pillars of Church, Court, Law and systems of patriarchal control, to its margins and the means by which control was negotiated within such structures. It also looks at the means by which combining concepts of the liminal and the mutability of social control forces a reappraisal and adjustment in the way we view containment of culturally subversive elements. It traces the emergence and increasing significance of liminality from its anthropological roots as well as the idea of early modern English society as envisioned by early twentieth-century scholars up until the appearance of cultural materialism and new historicism in the 1980s.

in Shakespeare’s liminal spaces
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Why Nashe? Why now?
Chloe Kathleen Preedy
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Rachel Willie

This introduction provides an overview of the edited volume’s key concerns and themes. The first section surveys historical trends in literary scholarship on Thomas Nashe and his writings, and briefly considers the significance of recent developments in Nashe studies. The second part contextualises the collection’s interest in Nashe’s authorial performances and the reception of his works by examining early modern print culture and contemporary attitudes towards publicity, prose composition, and literary production. We further evaluate how Nashe’s adversarial relationship with Gabriel Harvey framed and shaped both early modern and subsequent understandings of and attitudes towards his prose writings. The final section of the introduction offers a comparative insight into Nashe’s dramatic practice. Although relatively few examples of Nashe’s dramatic output survive today, this introduction argues that his involvement with the English theatre nonetheless deserves reconsideration. By focusing on Pierce Penniless, 1 Henry VI, and Summer’s Last Will and Testament, we here offer an initial appraisal of Nashe’s dramatic style and preoccupations, discussing how his theatrical experiences might have intersected with his contemporary activities as a prose author and a poet.

in Thomas Nashe and literary performance
Contesting authority on the early modern stage
Author:

This book offers the first in-depth examination into the metaphorical and symbolic significations of Shakespeare’s transitional spaces. It advances recent critical developments in the way the playwright created his worlds to reflect concurrent cartographic, geopolitical and social anxieties. In seeking to expose the dynamics and fluctuations of power on the stage, the book demonstrates how liminal settings such as forests, battlefields, shores and gardens were often employed to subvert centralised structures of power. The nuanced consideration of these spaces reveals that they were ideally suited to the staging of social frictions, as traced through the shifting balance of power between opposing ideological standpoints and the internal struggles between an emergent subjectivity and conformity with the centralised authorities of Church and Court. The book also presents a decisive resolution to long-standing critical disputes over the movement of power and the potential for subversion in both mental and physical representations of place, space and location. Shakespeare's liminal spaces provides a unique set of perspectives through which Shakespeare’s liminal settings and geographic referents are revealed as deliberate dramatic devices with the capacity to destabilise social structures.

Dark humours and the theatrical forest
Ben Haworth

This chapter moves under the boughs of Shakespeare’s sylvan worlds. Reflecting on contemporaneous historical and social contexts, the chapter demonstrates how the prevailing conceptualisation of forests shaped the dramatist’s works. It also addresses more recent critical approaches to these topographies, overturning ideas of the existence of such forest spaces being the locus of benign transformation. Rather, Shakespeare’s woodland realms constitute paradoxical spaces that serve to conceal those who enter from the disapproving judgments of society yet equally unravel and amplify their inner character in a process of carnivalesque inversion. Parodies of centralised power structures exist within Shakespeare’s woods, the dramatic capital of such familiar settings effectively becoming the means to satirise and subvert the social, religious and juridical institutions of authority by which early modern society was regulated and maintained. As a liminal space, both geographically and within the collective cultural consciousness, Shakespeare’s forest becomes a testing ground for alternative models of power, a landscape that allows, even promotes, aggressive change, resistance and rebellion.

in Shakespeare’s liminal spaces