Introduction: Shakespeare's public spheres

2019-07-17T15:43:53Z (GMT) by Nigel Wood
Habermas’ sense of a “cultural Public Sphere” is a notoriously complex term and, when applied to Early Modern cultures, needs careful definition. This essay both introduces the variety of methods by which we might approach playtexts with a view to their public – auditory – impact and contributes to a debate about an audience's understanding of Shakespeare's plays. By selecting two words and their spread of use in one play, Twelfth Night, we might appreciate the potential for meaningful ambiguity latent in how we hear the language of live performance. If we search for how certain terms (in this case, the cluster of semes derived from repetitions of “fancy” and “play”), we might find at times incompatible senses, yet we get near to appreciating the range of Early Modern dramatic language.