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date: 25 February 2021

(p. v) Preface and Acknowledgements

(p. v) Preface and Acknowledgements

Rather than concerning itself with specific aspects of Shakespearean drama, this collection seeks to provide a broad sampling of current historical research that sheds light on the environment in which Shakespeare wrote and the thematic content of his plays and poems. I have attempted to avoid duplicating topics already covered in the companion Handbook to Shakespeare edited by Arthur Kinney and other planned or published collections in the Oxford Handbooks of Literature series, such as the role of censorship or the history of acting companies and stage practices. I also make no claim to have provided systematic coverage of the historical ‘background’ to Shakespeare and other contemporary writers. This would not only be impossible to achieve even in a collection of this size but presumptuous to attempt, since doing so would imply that we can know in advance all the various ways in which history may become relevant to analysis of Renaissance literature. While some chapters in this volume do summarize current views on subjects of obvious importance to an understanding the period, I have included several chapters that adopt more unconventional approaches. The guiding principle has been a belief that relationships between literary and historical studies ought to remain flexible, open-ended, and constantly evolving, rather than constrained by pre-conceived ideas about the central issues and characteristics of the period. The collection will have succeeded if it stimulates readers to think more expansively about historicist approaches to Shakespeare, as well as the relevance of literary masterpieces to historical investigations.

I would like to thank Arthur Kinney not only for commissioning this book but for numerous stimulating conversations, as well as both formal and informal opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary teaching within the highly congenial setting provided by the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, of which he is the founding director. My colleagues in the ‘Cultural History Group’ at the University of Massachusetts Boston—especially Libby Fay, Robert Lublin, Woodruff Smith, and Nancy Stieber—have also stimulated my thinking about interdisciplinary research. Keith Wrightson provided helpful advice on potential contributors at an early stage of the project. Paulina Kewes read and helpfully commented on the introduction to this collection, while she, Elizabeth Goldring, Paul Hammer, Roze Hentschell, Christopher Highley, Nicholas Popper, Deborah Shuger, Arthur Williamson, and Daniel Woolf provided constructive advice on preliminary drafts of several essays in the collection. Jacqueline Baker and Rachel Platt at Oxford University Press have been unfailingly helpful in answering endless detailed questions. Elizabeth Stone and Timothy Beck were exemplary copy editors.

Finally I would like to thank my wife, Marybeth, for her support during the long gestation of this book. (p. vi)