New methods are needed to do justice to Shakespeare. His work exceeds conventional models, past and present, for understanding playworlds. In this book, Simon Palfrey goes right to the heart of early modern popular drama, revealing both how it works and why it matters. Unlike his contemporaries, Shakespeare gives independent life to all his instruments, and to every fraction and fragment of the plays. Palfrey terms these particles 'formactions' - theatre-specific forms that move with their own action and passion. Palfrey's book is critically daring in both substance and format. Its unique mix of imaginative gusto, thought experiments, and virtuosic technique generates piercing close readings of the plays. There is far more to playlife than meets the eye. Influenced by Leibniz's visionary original model of possible worlds, Palfrey opens up the multiple worlds of Shakespeare's language, scenes, and characters as never before.
Simon Palfrey is Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the joint founding editor of Shakespeare Now! His books include Late Shakespeare: A New World of Words (1997), Doing Shakespeare (2004, 2011 - named a Times Literary Supplement International Book of the Year), Shakespeare in Parts (with Tiffany Stern, 2007 - winner of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Innovations Award and the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society David Bevington Award for best new book on Medieval and Renaissance drama), and Poor Tom: Living 'King Lear' (2014).
Part I: 1. Where is the life?; 2. Purposes; 3. Embryologies; 4. Shakespeare the impossible; 5. Popular theatre and possibility; 6. Shakespeare v. actor; 7. Formactions; 8. Playing to the plot; 9. Middleton; 10. Jacobean comi-tragedy; 11. Everyman tyrant; Part II: 12. The monadic playworld; 13. The truth of anachronism; 14. Possible history: Henry IV; 15. Anti-rhetoric; 16. Falstaff; 17. Scenes within scenes; 18. Strange mimesis; 19. How close should we get?; 20. Metaphysics and playworlds; 21. Pyramids of possible worlds; Part III: 22. Perdita's possible lives; 23. A life in scenes; 24. Scene as joke: Much Ado; 25. Buried lives: Macbeth; 26. The rape of Marina; 27. Life at the end of the line: Macbeth; 28. Dying for life: Desdemona; Epilogue: life on the line.