The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769

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The century between the Restoration and David Garrick's Stratford Jubilee saw Shakespeare's promotion from the status of archaic, rustic playwright to that of England's timless Bard, and with it the complete transformation of the ways in which his plays were staged, published, and read. But why Shakespeare? And what different interests did this process serve? The Making of the National Poet is the first full-length study since the 1920s of the Restoration and eighteenth century's revisions and revaluations, and the first to consider the period's much reviled stage adaptations in the context of the profound cultural changes in which they participate. Drawing on a wide range of evidence - including engravings, prompt-books, diaries, statuary, and previously unpublished poems (among them traces of the hitherto mysterious Shakespeare Ladies' Club), it examines how and why Shakespeare was retrospectively claimed as both a respectable Enlightenment atuhor and a crucial and contested symbol of British national identity. It shows in particular how the deification of Shakespeare co-existed with and even demanded the drastic and sometimes bizarre rewriting of his plays for which the period is notorious. The book provides, through engaging and informative analysis, the definitive account of the theatre's role in establishing Shakespeare as Britain's National Poet. From reviews of the hardback: 'Dobson . . . is one of the band of recent critics who have viewed the history of Shakespeare's reputation as a political matter. He proves himself to be certainly the wittiest and possibly the most learned and judicious of these critics. He has a marvellous way of unearthing some forgotten adaptation . . . he has a strong grasp of the intricacies of eighteenth-century politics.' Times Literary Supplement 'distinguished book' Shakespeare Survey 'rich in insight' London Review of Books