Hamlet's Moment: Drama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern England

ISBN : 9780198746201

Andras Kisery
352 ページ
156 x 234 mm

Hamlet's Moment reveals how plays written in the first decade of the seventeenth century were shaped by forms of professional political knowledge and by the social promises such knowledge held, and they familiarized their audiences with them. This argument presupposes that there was such a thing as a political profession, however loosely understood: that there was a career path associated with political employment that was assumed to be a path to social advancement, and that there was a recognizable body of knowledge and mode of thinking defining it. To show this, the first half of the book focuses on Hamlet and its reflection on the conditions of political employment, on the characteristics of thinking in a politic manner, on the education and intellectual work required for advancement in political careers, arguing that in Shakespeare's play, drama turns from open, military conflict to diplomacy and court policy, and from the public contestation of power to the technologies of government. The later chapters turn to plays that follow in the wake of Shakespeare's path-breaking tragedy. Plays written by Ben Jonson, John Marston, George Chapman and others in the following years shared a similar focus, inviting the public to imagine what it meant to have a political career. In doing so, they transformed political knowledge into a more broadly useful type of cultural capital, something even people without political agency could deploy in conversation and use in claiming social distinction. The book suggests that the demand for this social asset was a driving force behind the burgeoning public discussion of the 17th century, and thus, ultimately, behind the rise of the modern public sphere.


Part I: Hamlet and the profession of politics
1 'The wiser sort': The distinction of politics and Gabriel Harvey's Machiavellian Hamlet
2 Some travellers return Diplomatic writing, political careers, and the world of Hamlet
3 'I lack advancement': political agents and political servants in Hamlet's moment
4 'Vile and vulgar admirations' Chapman and the public of political news
5 'The most matter with best conceyt' Tacitean observation and the margins of politics in Jonson's Sejanus
6 'For discourse's sake merely' political conversation-on stage and off


Andras Kisery is Assistant Professor of English at The City College of New York (CUNY). He is co-editor of Formal Matters: Reading the Materials of English Renaissance Literature (Manchester University Press, 2013) He has published articles about early modern English literature in the contexts of political culture and the history of the book in European Journal of English Studies, Philological Quarterly, and English Literary History. He is writing a book about the influence of the national and international topographies of the book-trade on the production and reception of early modern English writing called 'Books, Space, and English Literature'.