The Paradox of Historicizing Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 833. Tuesday, 23 November 1993.
From: William Godshalk <
Date: Friday, 19 Nov 1993 17:13:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: One more time: the paradox of historicizing Shakespeare
Recently, in our discussions of Shakespeare's ability to transcend his own
time, it seems to have been the historicist position that Shakespeare was
writing about early modern/Renaissance England no matter what names he gave his
locales or what history he was supposedly dealing with. He was trapped inside
his own history, his own material culture.
If he was, then so are we. It is impossible for us to transcend our own
grammar, our own archive, our own culture. That's why the new historicists do
not sound like the old historicists or the nineteenth century historical
critics. We are being written by our culture.
And it follows that the attempt to historicize only results in the
dehistoricizing of Shakespeare's text. Instead of reclaiming, or rewriting, the
early modern/Renaissance culture, we merely superimpose our own. If we are
caught in material culture, there is no way out, and certainly no way back.
Thw words of the ghosts ring in my ears: despair and die.
Despairingly yours, Bill Godshalk