The Politics of Shakespeare’s Prose

  • Douglas Bruster


During the late 1580s English playwrights developed a conventional system for picturing the world in the commercial playhouses.1 Employing an unprecedented density of representational material, such dramatists as Christopher Marlowe, George Peele, and Robert Greene offered the world as a sequence of secular actions undertaken by eloquent characters. For their plays’ eloquence these university-educated writers drew upon a rich variety of media, including diverse forms and subgenres of verse and prose alike. As important as their astounding fluency of expression in dramatic dialogue was the use of this representational variety in the service of a system that charted social distinctions among, and psychological distinctions within, linguistically self-aware characters. Ironically, the very success of these dramatists’ system would lend it a kind of cultural invisibility. Indeed, so natural does this system strike us still that, despite a renewed interest in the material basis of culture and of cultural representations, we too seldom attend to its profoundly heterogeneous outlines and effects. To shed light on a crucial element of Shakespeare’s career, I examine his adoption of this world-picturing system and how he changed it — in particular, his increasingly sophisticated, functional alternation of verse and prose in dramatic dialogue.


Social Rank Functional Alternation Secular Action Theatrical Industry English Theater 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas Bruster

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