Impressive Shakespeare: Identity; Authority and the Imprint in Shakespearean Drama
By Harry Newman
London: Routledge, 2019
Shakespeare made a powerful impression on Milton, as the recent discovery of his copy of the first folio has confirmed. The 1632 second folio indeed includes a prefatory verse in which Milton notes that "[E]ach heart / Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book / Those Delphic lines with great impression took." Harry Newman's Impressive Shakespeare considers how Shakespeare makes and has always made his mark on readers and audiences. His book is also a history of sealing, coining and printing in early modern England which seeks new ways of approaching early modern embodiment through technologies of the impresse.
Newman's introductory chapter on the metallurgical processes of engraving, punching, casting, and compressing makes an important contribution to the continuing surge of interest in Renaissance material culture. Joseph Moxton's Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (1683-84) memorably described how typographic matrices, and pieces of lead type, each had their own bodies, feet, shoulders, necks, and faces, and Shakespeare's plays often refer to embodied acts of printing, and printed experiences of embodiment. In The Taming of the Shrew, for example, Lucentio's servant Biondello advises him to marry Bianca by assuming the sole right to make prints of her: "Take you assurance of her, cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum" (4.4.91-92). Women and children were proverbially impressable--"Youth and white paper take any impression"--and Newman builds here on Wendy Wall's 1993 book, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance, which uncovered complex relationships between printing, pressing and patriarchy. Impressive Shakespeare reveals the vocabulary of impressure as even more capacious and varied: here Shakespeare's...
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