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Shakespeare's Letters$
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Alan Stewart

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199549276

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549276.001.0001

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The Materiality of Shakespeare's Letters

The Materiality of Shakespeare's Letters

(p.39) 1 The Materiality of Shakespeare's Letters
Shakespeare's Letters

Stewart Alan

Oxford University Press

The raw materials of letter-writing in the early modern world were multiple and specific; their effective use took time, skill, and labour. While a handful of other playwrights did put letter-writing on stage, generally to comic effect, William Shakespeare chose not to, or at least not in a literal sense. This chapter argues that Shakespeare instead embues his plays with the language and experience of the material letter-writing process — what one might call the grammar of early modern letter-writing — and turns it into something richly theatrical. For Shakespeare's Jack Cade, parchment is still the skin of a lamb while wax comes from a bee, and contains the bee's sting. Elsewhere, pens are goose quills, ink is gall. The raw materials of writing possessed vivid associations for their early modern users, in part no doubt because they often prepared them themselves.

Keywords:   raw materials, letter-writing, William Shakespeare, plays, Jack Cade, parchment, wax, pens, ink

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