How far and in what ways do you agree with this statement? Include references to the new historian approach in your answer. The new historicist approach suggests that literature should be studied and interpreted in regards to the context of the history of the author as well as the history of the critic. From the context of the history of the author, this approach indicates that literature is influenced by the circumstances of the author in relation to the times of which they experienced living in.
From this, the critic forms their interpretations from the satirical context of which they have lived in. Therefore, in order for the reader to understand the text, they need to be aware of historical context, such as the dispersion of power and social hierarchies within the text. I disagree with the statement to an extent, as Shakespearean work consists of tragedies in relation to social context and hierarchy in society. For example, in Othello, the tragedy and character flaw of Othello is created because of the social context.
The chain of being which existed and was followed by society in Shakespearean time, classed Othello as being seen as a monster, below men and women in the hierarchy. However, the character of Othello that the audience are first presented with oppose against the description of what a man of such a color should be, causing the audience to have a somewhat surprised and shocked reaction. Shakespeare created a tragedy from the chain of being, by then subverting back to the social expectations of the audience within that time.
Without knowing the historical context and social expectations/hierarchy within Shakespearean time, the audience may not interpret the play in regards to social class, and therefore Shakespearean use of historical context and social differences, such as between Desman and Othello, would not be as effective as for the purpose he had used it for. This is also significant in other Shakespearian plays, such as King Lear. The concept of divine rights of Kings and the wheel of being have important significance in the play, as it comes to life through the plot of the play.
Also, the significance of social expectations of women come into consideration, as women are of a lower position than men, and extremely lower than that of a King, but Ignoring subverts these expectations, having a dramatic effect for the audience. For a critic to know this, they are able to understand the tragedy of he play, interpreting it in the way in which an Elizabethan audience would. They could then compare and criticize their understanding with the changes of society in relation to legislation and changes of expectations in society.
Without the understanding of the social hierarchy, Shakespearean work can be said to lack emphasis as the contrasts of characters wouldn’t be highlighted as it should, resulting in a less dramatic effect. However, this can be cut short; as the opposing argument is that the audience is still able to understand the play, but interpret it differently. Without knowing historical context, a ember of the audience may interpret Othello weakness as being his jealousy and vulnerability, which can also be perceived by those that do know in detail of the historical context.
Therefore, it can be argued that it isn’t always necessary for the audience to know about historical context in order to understand the play. In relation to the play King Lear, it can be said that the topic of family conflict isn’t of an age, but of a time. Which means that an audience at any period of time in history, can interpret the play in a similar way, as family conflict exists through different ages, and isn’t any more or less significant in one specific age.
From this, it can be said that a contemporary audience can relate to the topic of family conflict, in general, as well as possibly in regards to inheritance, as it is topic heard of regularly. Therefore, it can be said that Shakespearean work is ‘not of an age but of all time’ as these topics will always be of existence in a variety of societies. This is because Shakespearean themes through his plays are timeless, which make them interlink with all ages, as the topics are traumatized issues, such as love, betrayal, revenge, death and so on. When you look at what these topics have n common, it is that they are all human emotions/conditions.
I believe this is the most effective element of Shakespearean writing, as it is something that the audience, regardless of variations, will be able to relate to. It results in the audience either being able to have empathy towards, or dislike, as they most likely have experienced (in a less severe form) these emotions. This is why audiences even to this day are enticed with the situations that Shakespearean plays can present to on stage today. These topics will always exist; therefore all audiences will always acknowledges the traumatized issues Shakespeare presents in his plays.