The letters that this book has examined operate in a bewildering variety of ways, but a theme emerges. As Mary Poovey and Barbara Shapiro have argued, the culture in which and for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays had an increasing interest in and reliance on bureaucratic record-keeping, documentary evidence, and verifiable proofs. Letters were part of this trend, not merely a means to maintain communication across distances, but increasingly taken as documentary evidence of transactions, of responsibility, and ultimately of guilt. This impulse is registered repeatedly throughout Shakespeare's plays. Indeed, an account focused on the sheer incidence of these letters in the plays might well conclude that Shakespeare was admitting the priority of written documents. However this verdict ignores the fact that these are plays performed in a theatre in front of an audience: the audience does not read the letters, but instead sees the transactions they produce.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.