Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters

Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters

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Lynne Magnusson
Cambridge University Press
Edition: 2, 4/1/1999
EAN 9780521641913, ISBN10: 0521641918

Hardcover, 232 pages, 23.6 x 15.9 x 1.8 cm
Language: English

Shakespeare and Social Dialogue deals with Shakespeare's language and the rhetoric of Elizabethan letters. Moving beyond claims about the language of individual Shakespearean characters, Magnusson analyses dialogue, conversation, sonnets and particularly letters of the period, which are normally read as historical documents, as the verbal negotiation of specific social and power relations. Thus, the rhetoric of service or friendship is explored in texts as diverse as Sidney family letters, Shakespearean sonnets and Burghley's state letters. The book draws on ideas from discourse analysis and linguistic pragmatics, especially 'politeness theory', relating these to key ideas in epistolary handbooks of the period, including those by Erasmus and Angel Day and demonstrates that Shakespeare's language is rooted in the everyday language of Elizabethan culture. Magnusson creates a way of reading both literary texts and historical documents which bridges the gap between the methods of new historicism and linguistic criticism.

Part I. The Rhetoric of Politeness
1. Politeness and dramatic character in Henry VIII
2. 'Power to hurt'
language and service in Sidney household letters and Shakespeare's sonnets
Part II. Eloquent Relations in Letters
3. Scripting social relations in Erasmus and Day
4. Reading courtly and administrative letters
5. Linguistic stratification, merchant discourse, and social change
Part III. A Prosaics of Conversation
6. The pragmatics of repair in King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing
7. 'Voice potential'
language and symbolic capital in Othello

"In this learned three-part study, Magnusson...employs linguistic criticism and new historicism to create a new understanding of Shakespearean dialogue in terms of the social and class relationships expressed in the speech forms of the culture. Highly readable prose and sociolinguistic insights make this book essential reading for graduate students, faculty, and theater professionals." F.K. Barasch, Choice

"Her study thus makes a strong contribution to the study of both literature and rhetoric." Judith Rice Henderson, Rhetorica

"...splendid book that offers both a compelling method of close reading and a number of careful, discriminating analyses of Renaissance English texts." Joutnal of English and Germanic Philology