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"More than History can Pattern": Shakespeare and Historicism

Meek, Richard



This article explores current debates in Shakespeare studies regarding the claims of historicism and presentism. The article focuses upon Cymbeline and its fascination with the ways in which our attempts both to reconstruct the past and to understand the present are bound up with narrative. It is argued that Cymbeline exposes the limitations of a particular form of historicising reading; that is, a historicism that confines its attention to a literary text's political contexts. At the same time, however, Cymbeline demonstrates our insatiable need for historical narratives as a way of making sense of the world, and even of fashioning our identity, and thus also problematises some of the bolder claims of presentism. The article suggests that a consideration of Cymbeline's literary and historical sources, rather than its political contexts, illuminates Shakespeare's own interest in the philosophy and poetics of history.


Meek, R. (2010). "More than History can Pattern": Shakespeare and Historicism. Forum for Modern Language Studies, 46(2), 221-243. doi:10.1093/fmls/cqp164

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 12, 2010
Publication Date Apr 1, 2010
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Forum For Modern Language Studies
Print ISSN 0015-8518
Electronic ISSN 1471-6860
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 2
Pages 221-243
Keywords Linguistics and Language; Literature and Literary Theory
Public URL