The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre

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Part of a larger project to examine the Elizabethan politics of representation, this work refigures the social and cultural context within which Elizabethan drama was created. The author first locates the public and professional theatre within the ideological and material framework of Elizabethan culture. He considers the role of the professional theatre and theatricality in the cultural transformation that was concurrent with religious and socio-political change, and then concentrates upon the formal means by which Shakespeare's Elizabethan plays called into question the absolutist assertions of the Elizabethan state. Drawing dramatic examples from the genres of tragedy and history, Montrose finally focuses his cultural-historical perspective on A Midsummer Night's Dream . The book demonstrates how language and literary imagination shape cultural value, belief and understanding including social distinction and interaction, and political control and contestation.