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Lisa Jardine is one of the most renowned and popular Renaissance scholars writing today. This collection of her essays charts ten years of her thinking on the relationship between early modern history and the period's canonical texts. At the same time, the essays provide a fascinating account of the rise of feminist scholarship since the 1980s and the diversifying of new historicist' approaches over the same period. Throughout, the book is written with a sharp sense of how present social and political concerns pose questions to the past whilst recognising that they must not write the answers for the past. Each chapter makes a surprising discovery. The laws and practices of defamation help the reader to see something new about Desdemona and her failure to protect her sexual reputation against Othello. The laws of prohibited degrees in regard to marriage and the rules of succession help to show Hamlet's grievance in a new light. The rhetorical rules for letter-writing help us understand the breakdown or misuse of communication in King Lear.
The sexual availability and the nature of male friendship and clientage heop us place the powers and vulnerabilities of male/female love in Shakespeare to contemporary dramatists, unease about the parallels between commerce in money and goods andcommerce in knowledge and information adds to the intensity of events in Marlowe's Jew of Malta, while the competing loyalties of companionate marriage and male friendship intensify the gender conflicts in Middleton's The Changeling. Reading Shakespeare Historically will fascinate and provoke students of shakespeare and his historical age, and general readers with an urge to understand how the culture and history of our past illuminates the key scoial and political issues of today.