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September 04 , 2010

The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare


The crises of faith that fractured Reformation Europe also caused crises of individual and collective identity. Structures of feeling as well as structures of belief were transformed; there was a reformation of social emotions as well as a Reformation of faith.

As Steven Mullaney shows in The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare, Elizabethan popular drama played a significant role in confronting the uncertainties and unresolved traumas of Elizabethan Protestant England. Shakespeare and his contemporaries—audiences as well as playwrights—reshaped popular drama into a new form of embodied social, critical, and affective thought. Examining a variety of works, from revenge plays to Shakespeare’s first history tetralogy and beyond, Mullaney explores how post-Reformation drama not only exposed these faultlines of society on stage but also provoked playgoers in the audience to acknowledge their shared differences. He demonstrates that our most lasting works of culture remain powerful largely because of their deep roots in the emotional landscape of their times.

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