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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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2 Paratext I: The Peritext

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2.1 Publisher’s Peritext: Title Pages and Titles 2.1.1 Introductory Remarks My discussion of peritexts of the Shakespearean adaptations follows the chronology of their printing rather than the date of their first stage representation (which might predate the printing date even by some years). This decision was determined by the fact that both publisher’s and prefatorial peritext are specifically tied to the printed text and not to the staged text. This is obviously not the case, however, for prologues and epilogues, both of which constitute the dramatic peritext. As recent studies have demonstrated,154 during the Restoration, these two parts became increas- ingly important, and more varied in type. Their authors were sometimes the author of the play and sometimes not; they were sometimes staged when the curtain was up and sometimes when it was down; they could demon- strate tenuous or strong connections with the plays that they framed; they sometimes deliberately attempted to elicit the audience’s goodwill, and so on. Sometimes they were only added to a later printed edition. In Michael Dobson’s view,155 the adaptations from the Restoration and the eighteenth century play a fundamental role in establishing Shake- speare’s place at the center of English literary culture. The present chapter aims to show how these groups of paratexts of the Shakespearean adap- tations function as an important literary space in which bardolatry is par- ticularly pronounced. It is a space in which the author – sometimes even as early as the front page – reveals his acknowledgment...

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