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The Rise of Bardolatry in the Restoration

Paratexts of Shakespearean Adaptations and other Texts 1660–1737

Enrico Scaravelli

This book explores from a new perspective the adaptations of Shakespeare in the Restoration, and how they contributed to the rise of the cult of the National Poet in an age where his reputation was not yet consolidated. Adaptations are fully independent cultural items, whose paratexts play a crucial role in the development of Bardolatry; their study initially follows seminal works of Bakhtin and Genette, but the main theoretical background is anthropology, with the groundbreaking theories of Mary Douglas.
The many voices that feature the paratexts of the adaptations and the other texts, such as those of John Dryden, Thomas Betterton, William Davenant, Nahum Tate, John Dennis, and many others, create a composite choir where the emerging sacrality of the cult of the Bard was just one of the tunes, in an age when Shakespeare has not yet become Shakespeare.


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This study is an examination of bardolatry in the “preliminaries” of the Shakespearean texts, placing particular emphasis on the adaptations of the Bard’s plays from the Restoration period. By preliminaries, I am referring to what Genette calls paratext – the sum of the peritext and epitext.1 In the analysis of the many voices that have contributed on bardolatry (some from before 1660), I have deemed it useful to refer to studies that were not exclusively literary: for example, I have used con- cepts such as those articulated by Mary Douglas in her anthropological studies from the second half of the twentieth century.2 The first chapter provides the theoretical framework for the key con- cepts of the book, such as bardolatry, paratext, and adaptation. The second chapter is the analysis of the paratexts of the Shakespearean adaptations themselves, while the third chapter completes the general picture with the discussion of texts that were relevant for the cultural milieu of the period. Finally, the appendix is a catalogue of the Shakespearean adaptations that I have analyzed previously, mainly in their paratextual aspect. In it, I have recorded the main information regarding staging, printed editions, and plot (for which I provide a detailed act-by-act account). It is always necessary to apply certain limits to the material under consideration, in order to have a field of study that is as homogenous as 1 This is Genette’s definition of paratext, outlining its constituent parts and function: “a title, a subtitle, intertitles; prefaces, postfaces, notices, forewords,...

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