Shakespeare Relocated

Studies in Historical Psychology

by Hugh Macrae Richmond (Author)
©2018 Monographs VIII, 306 Pages


In Shakespeare Relocated, Hugh Macrae Richmond uses his previously published essays to illustrate the development of modern attitudes towards religion, politics, and sexuality. He traces the complex evolution from classical and medieval sources to Reformation and Renaissance ones by reviewing literary themes, styles, and attitudes. He stresses Shakespeare’s unique place in the evolution of historical psychology as an author profoundly affected by the Reformation. This study of developing sensibility employs a method of critical analysis bridging the apparent gap between scholarly research and practical criticism and transcends the discontinuities and tensions in modern literary theory. He seeks to harmonize the critical alertness of the New Critics with the traditional scholarship of their opponents, while avoiding the narrowness of many fashionable modern methodologies such as New Historicism, Neo-Freudianism, radical feminism, etc. This historical perspective involves a comparative critical procedure defined as "syncretic criticism." It combines close reading and comprehensive perspective over previous literary analogues to identify distinctive progressions towards many modern attitudes about politics, morality, sexuality, and fashion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Part I: Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Shakespeare Relocated: Studies in Historical Psychology
  • References
  • Part II: Historical Psychology Versus “Literary” Criticism
  • Chapter 2: “New Criticism” as a Humanist Fallacy
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 3: Personal Identity and Literary Personae
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 4: Shakespeare and “Globe”-alization
  • Note
  • References
  • A Chart of Shakespearean Polarities
  • Chapter 5: Shakespeare and Prehistory
  • References
  • Chapter 6: Richard III and the Reformation
  • Note
  • References
  • Part III: How to Write a Renaissance Play
  • Chapter 7: Amatory Magnetism: Shakespeare’s Algorithm
  • References
  • Chapter 8: Feminist and Gay Readings of Shakespeare Performances
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 9: The Triple Bond: Cinthio, Lope de Vega, and Shakespeare
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 10: Romeo and Juliet and Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses
  • Note
  • References
  • Part IV: Comical-Historical
  • Chapter 11: Shakespeare’s Navarre
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 12: Comical Historical: Literary History Beyond Historicism
  • References
  • Chapter 13: Shakespeare’s Anti-Reformation Comedies
  • References
  • Chapter 14: Ethnic Conflict in Much Ado
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 15: Much Ado in Context
  • Note
  • References
  • Part V: “Reformed” Love Poetry
  • Chapter 16: The Dark Lady as Reformation Mistress
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 17: Shakespeare’s Emilias
  • References
  • Chapter 18: Aretino Bettered: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130
  • References
  • Chapter 19: Donne’s Master: The Young Shakespeare
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 20: Proto-Feminism: Seductions in Shakespeare and Milton
  • References
  • Part VI: Tragedy Transcended
  • Chapter 21: “To be or not to be …” Reinterpreted
  • References
  • Chapter 22: Iago as Director
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter 23: Enjoying King Lear
  • Note
  • References
  • Index

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Studies in Historical Psychology

During the sixty years of my professional career at the University of California at Berkeley much of the material in the following essays progressed through many re-incarnations, in public lectures, conference papers, published essays, book chapters, and Internet publications—for all of which I must express humble gratitude for their encouragement to innumerable individuals, institutions, journals and publishers from Moscow and Munich, Paris and London, to New York, Washington, Toronto, Los Angeles. What I have done here is to consolidate these multiple presentations into a new more or less sequential pattern of argument, of which half is fresh material, all basically following Shakespeare’s career through the vicissitudes of my own intellectual evolution as a student and teacher of the humanities. Though not explicitly continuous, I believe these essays do register the creation of a mode of critical appreciation that transcends the narrower formulas favored by many recent critics and scholars, and indeed may on occasion even have pre-empted some of their later insights. It may help to clarify my point of view if I identify its broader intellectual contexts.

Many years ago, and somewhat prematurely, since I still teach, U.C. Berkeley asked me to give a Last Lecture: what I might say if I were never to speak further. I found to my surprise that, in defining my guiding personal ← 3 | 4 → principles, various classic cultural patterns were very relevant in drawing me away from current critical orthodoxies, such as the close reading I learned from the New Critics at Cambridge (1951–54), and the classical scholarship acquired at Oxford (1955–57). The most crucial was the provocative aphorisms and wry narratives of the New Testament, reflected in my stress in these essays on its decisive literary impact during the Reformation. Paradoxically, another key influence came from my long-time residence in the context of powerful Asian cultures in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1957 onwards. This richly diverse context specifically reinforced my fascination with seemingly remote Chinese cultural traditions, for I was particularly struck by the subversive narratives and aphorisms of the Taoist literary tradition in ancient China, running against Confucian scholarly orthodoxy from Lao Tzu to Chuang Tzu—which provided me with a salutary multicultural distancing from any excessively European perspective.

Both Biblical and Taoist cultural traditions repudiated conventional political ambition and facile orthodoxy, and invited challenge to any political, administrative, academic or ecclesiastical hierarchy that fostered conventional thinking. Chuang Tzu, though a mystic, was acutely aware of the paradoxes of everyday life, seeing it as so transitory that the pursuit of wealth and power was folly. His skeptical perspective is seen in his most famous remark, which I shall render as: “Once I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly and was happy as a butterfly. Suddenly I awoke, and there was I, visibly Tzu. I do not know whether it was Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that he was Tzu” (see Musings of a Chinese Mystic, 50). Surely such fantastical sentiments resemble those of Lear after his apotheosis:

Indeed, these few exquisite lines, alone, would fit in perfectly with the circumstantial poems of the great Chinese poet Li Po.

I should also note that some of the more recent of the following essays respond to yet another Californian multi-ethnic impetus, the increasing emphasis on Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. The vitality of the deep-rooted Spanish artistic traditions of the South-West U.S.A. has re-emerged ← 4 | 5 → via such local theatrical groups as the Teatro Campesino. The Teatro has restaged the traditional pastorelas, matching the broader recovery of interest in the Spanish Golden Age drama reflected in the Chamizal Siglo de Oro Drama Festival held annually at El Paso. That drama’s rewarding comparability to the Elizabethan theatre is explored in our video documentary, Shakespeare and the Spanish Connection (TMW Media). Such influences also reappear strongly in our web-site at Shakespeare’s Staging, and are apparent here in my essays using such masters as Lope de Vega to clarify Shakespeare’s achievement, via examination of their mutually relevant aesthetics.

And I now realize that in my Last Lecture I neglected yet another, rather more bizarre artistic reinforcement: the Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov, particularly the first one, in which he evokes the creation of “Psychohistory.” However, this admiration I apparently do share with a wide range of modern celebrities: psychologist Martin Seligman, Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, astronomer Carl Sagan, and even House Speaker Newt Gringrich. Asimov, himself a notable Shakespeare enthusiast, was not primary in identifying the historical significance of broad evolutions in human psychology, for he claimed his own model was Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But my attraction to “Psychohistory” is only a surface clue to a more profound intellectual influence. This attraction, to what now is a sub-branch of what universities now call “big history,” surely resulted from earlier sociological precedents for such sweeping perspectives, that filtered throughout the cultures of twentieth-century Europe.

During my postgraduate teaching in the Lycée Jean Perrin at Lyon, I do remember being greatly impressed by the work of Lucien Febvre, particularly Le problème de l’incroyance au XVIe siècle. La religion de Rabelais, which has deeply affected my research throughout my later career. For it gave me a powerful sense of the importance of full context in exactly appreciating any major author, not just Rabelais. In his recent study Between Mind and Nature: a History of Psychology (2013), Roger Smith notes that in 1929, in Strasbourg, Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch had established a journal, Annales d’histoire économique et sociale (or Annales) to study “the present so as to reach a profounder understanding of the past through study of the interaction of customs, manners, gestures, and beliefs.” The Annales group, as seen in Lucien Febvre’s history of sensibility, studied enduring mentalité through time, location and biography, following Zevedei Barbu’s view that “of all living creatures man alone is truly historical,” providing the objective subject-matter for psychology (Smith, 225–26). ← 5 | 6 →

Sociologist Zevedei Barbu deployed the concept in his Problems of Historical Psychology (1960), displaying through his studies a broad psychological history of varied employments, such as the remarkable evolving subversiveness of weavers (recognizable in literature no doubt in the Wife of Bath and Bottom). In his Contrary Imaginations and Frames of Mind Liam Hudson similarly analyzed the evolution of professional psychologies in various academic disciplines: convergers who focused on mathematics and science, and divergers drawn to the Humanities (more narrowly he noted that biologists tend to have more children, English faculty to commit more adulteries, and so on).

Such exact professional analyses may undercut any doubts about the meaningfulness of so broad a vision of society as mine may evoke. For a research group at George Washington University has applied Hudson’s terms to far vaster divergencies in international identities, as this summary reveals: “Cultural differences emerged from verbal associations when two groups of American and European professionals responded to stimulus words such as ‘bank, innovation, corporation, profit, and labor union.’” Associated words from the groups did not overlap. Americans tended to “look down” to specifics, whereas Europeans tended to “look up” to general categories. “For ‘bank,’ Americans listed money, savings, loans, and checking, while Europeans listed economy, capital and necessity. This divergence in thinking has cultural as well as scientific implications.” (Tsay, et al. “Convergers and Divergers,” passim). Such precedents suggest how many subtler and less dogmatic alternatives there are to Foucault’s fixation on pursuit of power in societies, thus providing almost unlimited sociological options for literary critics of Shakespeare such as myself.

Finally against this broad background I should perhaps outline my own professional career of explorations from such multi-dimensional perspectives, as displayed in my publication of broad overviews of Western culture. Febvre carried on the Annales for many years, influencing among many others Fernand Braudel, and died in 1956. Thus his last years were also my formative ones at Cambridge and Oxford, where achievements such as his follower Braudel’s vision of Mediterranean cultures were widely recognized. For example, I even share in Braudel’s recognition of the Shakespearean qualities of the victor at Lepanto—and hated inspirer of the Armada—the Bastard Don John of Austria, who appears so unexpectedly but accurately in the Messina of Much Ado (see below “4.5 Much Ado in Context”). Such derivations provided the European backgrounds to my own thinking, which diverges crucially from Annales chiefly in concentrating on literary texts as the source of the most sophisticated thinking about the theme of possible cultural evolution—to ← 6 | 7 → which I hope to demonstrate hereafter that Shakespeare and his peers like Lope de Vega have made decisive contributions. I believe that to some degree their imaginations provided models for actual behavior.

The survey of a broad evolution of human awareness resulting from my use of Historical Psychology has been validated in detail through a recurring pattern of multicultural comparisons and contrasts, recognizable via a critical accumulation which I have called Syncretic Criticism. This procedure was demonstrated in my books The School of Love (1964, reprinted 2016) and Renaissance Landscapes (1973), which illustrated some increased flexibility in analogous amatory attitudes as seen in love poetry over the centuries, and an increased subjectivity in recurring views over specific rural settings in autobiographical verse. These changes are illustrated through systematic comparisons of topical texts in different cultures, selected in the vein of Ernst Curtius in European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Thereafter I formulated my pattern of psychological evolution in subjective identity among Renaissance intellectuals in an article reprinted here (chapter 3) and considered seminal, in PMLA: ”Personal Identity and Literary Personae: a Study in Historical Psychology” (1974)—which diverges markedly from my then colleague Stephen Greenblatt’s later publication of Renaissance Self-Fashioning (1980). I also pursued comparable sequences of changing artistic attitudes as reflected in the continuous histories of productions of Shakespeare’s King Richard III and of its closely related sequel, King Henry VIII. This current book’s sequence redeploys such techniques, to demonstrate the exact location in these broad traditions of much that we admire in Shakespeare—yet without detracting from his unique contributions to them. Indeed I aspire to identify those contributions perhaps far more accurately and yet less narrowly than they have been via the New Criticism, the New Historicism, and all the other current yet anachronistic-isms.

Inevitably, I do not expect to achieve the sweeping insights of Asimov’s hero, Hari Seldon, with his predictions of human psychology’s trajectory into the distant future; but I do hope to have plotted some of the distinctive evolutionary patterns in subtleties of behavior recorded in specific literary traditions, at least those of Europe—above all as uniquely established in Shakespeare’s writing. Even this narrowed field still requires a range of inter-cultural awareness so vast as to escape my individual expertise. However, a cumulative effort may hope, on the democratic, mass-investigative model of Crowd Research, to achieve a plausible preliminary draft of some overall progressions, particularly when bold outlines and methods have already been ← 7 | 8 → sketched by such genuine polyglots as Auerbach, Curtius, Nygren, Popper, Dufy, and others—my own modest comparative method being derived, among others, from Auerbach’s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. The methodology involves matching closely related situations, characters and expressions at key points of cultural transformation—not simply to stress their resemblances but rather to assert their creative divergences at such points of maximum similarity.

Contrary to Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence, this anti-Romantic methodology assumes some unavoidable congruences in the progression of cultures, in which literary tradition is often more powerful than individual innovation. Indeed, such innovation may result (like some scientific discoveries) less from realized intention than from accidents, misunderstandings, reapplications, or (typically in literature) from the inevitable mistranslations that occur in shifting themes from one language or medium to another. Detection of such cumulative and almost involuntary achievements requires that overall technique that I have identified as Syncretic Criticism. For use of this term I find some further justification in the conclusion of François Laroque’s celebrated study of Shakespeare’s Festive World where he observes that his collection of sources is “of a necessarily heterogeneous nature, but we should remember that syncretism also characterized Shakespeare.” (303) Such broadly synthetic yet exact procedures are essential to create those detailed perspectives surveyed by the discipline of Historical Psychology, to which I have been so compellingly committed throughout my career as scholar and teacher.


Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. New York: Gnome Press, 1951. Print.

Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans. Willard Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953. Print.

Barbu, Zevedei. Problems of Historical Psychology. London: Routledge and Paul, 1960. Print.

Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973. Print.

Braudel, Fernand. La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen à l’Epoque de Philippe II. Paris: Armand Colin, 1949. Print.

Chuang, Tzu. Musings of a Chines Mystic. Ed. Lionel Giles. London: John Murray, 1955. Print.

Curtius, Ernst. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Row, 1953. Print.

Febvre, Lucien, Le problème de l’incroyance au XVIe siècle. La religion de Rabelais. Paris: lbin Michel, Éditeur, 1942. Print. ← 8 | 9 →

Hudson, Liam. Contrary Imaginations: A Psychological Study of the English Schoolboy. London: Methuen, 1966. Print.

———. Frames of Mind: Ability, Perception and Self-perception in the Arts and Sciences. London: Methuen, 1968. Print.

Laroque, François. Shakespeare’s Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage. Trans. Janet Lloyd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.

Richmond, Hugh Macrae. Shakespeare in Performance: “King Henry VIII.” Manchester: Manchester University Press: February 1994. Print.

———. Shakespeare in Performance: “King Richard III.” Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1990. Print.

———. The School of Love: The Evolution of the Stuart Love Lyric. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964. Print.

———. Renaissance Landscapes: English Lyrics in a European Tradition. Mouton: The Hague, 1973. Print.


VIII, 306
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. VIII, 306 pp.

Biographical notes

Hugh Macrae Richmond (Author)

Professor Emeritus of English at University of California, Berkeley, Hugh Macrae Richmond (B.A. at Cambridge, D.Phil. at Oxford) has diplomas in Italian (Florence) and German (Munich). His work includes books on Shakespeare and Milton, love poetry, and landscape poetry; documentaries on Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton; and the websites Shakespeare’s Staging and Milton Revealed.


Title: Shakespeare Relocated