Shakespeare for the wiser sort

Solving Shakespeare’s riddles in The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, King John, 1–2 Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth and Cymberline

Author: Steve Sohmer

Knowing William Shakespeare better, we are better equipped to know his plays. Better knowing his plays brings us closer to knowing him. This book suggests that Shakespeare wrote not only for the mass audience, but simultaneously for that stratum of cognoscenti whom Gabriel Harvey dubbed 'the wiser sort.' It identifies many passages in the plays which Shakespeare resolves famous cruces which scholars have never been able to unravel, and casts new light on Shakespeare's mind and method. Shakespeare wrote into Julius Caesar more than one passage intelligible only to that handful of the wiser sort who had read Plutarch and knew their Suetonius. Into Macbeth Shakespeare injected a detail accessible only to the few intrepid souls brave or reckless enough to have cast the horoscope of King James I. We find a poem in Hamlet, where the prince invites his love and bandies matters of cosmology which were burning issues (literally) throughout Shakespeare's lifetime. While Julius Caesar's old Julian calendar prevailed in England its rival, the scientifically correct Gregorian reformed calendar, dominated most of Europe. Shakespeare suffused his plays with references to calendrical anomalies, as seen in Othello. By relating Shakespeare's texts, the Renaissance calendars and the liturgy, the book produces a lexicon apt for parsing the time-riddles in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare handled religious subjects, examined and interrogated the dogmas of the received religions, and parodied the Crucifixion by exploiting Holinshed's account of the persecution and assassination of York.

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