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(2016) Shakespeare and consciousness, Dordrecht, Springer.

The distributed consciousness of Shakespeare's theatre

Laurie Johnson

pp. 119-138

Johnson argues that early modern conceptions of self-consciousness were expressions of identity manifesting through the recombination of always fragmentary, distributed materials. Focusing on Hamlet's "What a piece of work is a man" speech, Johnson dissects the differences between the Q2 and F1 versions and what they mean to Hamlet's assessment of human capacity. Johnson disagrees with Harold Bloom's often-quoted assertion about Shakespeare's invention of self-consciousness in the character of Hamlet. Further, Shakespeare's conception of consciousness was necessarily patchy and dispersed like the cognitive processes that circulated in early modern theatrical practice. Johnson, citing the relationship between theatrum mundi as a metaphor and as an internalized state, observes the importance of metatheatrical language to constructions of consciousness in Hamlet and other Shakespeare characters.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-59541-6_6

Full citation:

Johnson, L. (2016)., The distributed consciousness of Shakespeare's theatre, in P. Budra & C. Werier (eds.), Shakespeare and consciousness, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 119-138.

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