Date of this Version
Shakespeare’s Stage Traffic is a fit title for Janet Clare’s investigation of Shakespeare and his theatrical environment. While her subtitle outlines the key practices that underpin her readings of Shakespeare’s plays, their co-texts, and their competition, the idea of traffic best encapsulates the complexity of the relationships that Clare charts. As she writes, Shakespeare’s Stage Traffic may enable “a more conjoined critical study of the plays of the early modern stage — one that will take into account the networks of influence, exchange, and competition of stage traffic that make up the matrix essential for talent to flourish” (267). Her language here includes the multivalences of traffic at once, and the book is a compelling call for her integrated critical approach. She challenges traditional source study — as have many others in recent years — and brings forth a solid methodology that unites literary-critical reading and theater history.
Clare calls attention to the ways in which her approach can illuminate what Stephen Greenblatt called the “half-hidden cultural transactions” (266) that cultural poetics aimed to uncover thirty years ago. Avoiding the tendency of the New Historicism to pull Shakespeare plays from their theatrical context even with this goal in mind, her approach offers sustained readings of Shakespeare’s and his contemporaries’ plays together. She blends theories of Renaissance poetics and politics with elegant readings across texts, which attend to language and literary qualities but also to performance practices and dramaturgical echoes.