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In the Footsteps of William Shakespeare is a suitably tractable title for a collection of essays bound by only occasion and glue. The volume's disparate papers were given at the University of Bamberg in 2004–5, and the editor has corralled them in four broad categories: "Shakespeare: Biography, Text, Canon and Theatre"; "Shakespeare and His Works"; "Shakespeare: Afterlives"; and "Shakespearean and Other Gossip." The volume has a refreshingly international cast—authors from Germany, Great Britain, and The Netherlands—and offers a generous handful of strong essays.
The book's first section includes two overviews: Stanley Wells on "Current Issues in Shakespeare Biography" and Richard Proudfoot on Shakespeare's apocrypha. Wells promises to focus on the "key bones of contention" (7) in recent biographies, but the result is an omnibus review in which Wells finds Stephen Greenblatt gullible and Katharine Duncan-Jones censorious. Richard Proudfoot better fulfills his title's promise, "Is There, and Should There Be, a Shakespeare Apocrypha?" The essay moves ably through the welter of plays ascribed at one time or another to Shakespeare, and Proudfoot guardedly suggests that the category of apocrypha may be "due for retirement" (65). He offers a replacement term, "'Shakespeare's unattributed repertoire'" (65) but ultimately suggests that "a profitable way ahead would be not to abandon the endeavour to match plays with playwrights but to see it as subordinate to other kinds of enquiry" (65), namely, a fuller understanding of the repertoires of the leading dramatic companies of the period. [End Page 492]
The ease and authority of Proudfoot's essay are matched by the editor's "'Now, sir, what is your text?': Shakespeare Editions Old and New." Christa Jansohn opens with a challenge to German academics to take textual matters more seriously, which, she claims, they have left entirely to their "English-speaking colleagues" (24). She then deftly reviews the topics that engage and bedevil Shakespeare's contemporary editors, including the legacy of Nicholas Rowe and the promise of emergent technologies. The first section concludes with Andrew Gurr's "Shakespeare in Three Dimensions," which proceeds from his odd claim that "All theatres nowadays are designed like cinemas for two-dimensional staging" (73). Straw men have their place, of course, and Gurr marshals his to argue that, on the three-dimensional Elizabethan stage, there was no "behind." He reminds us that today's theatrical idioms—"seeing a play," "upstage," and "downstage"—apply only anachronistically to Shakespeare's world. This is a simple but elegant point, one with ramifications for readers, scholars, and practitioners of early English drama.
The highlight of the second section, "Shakespeare and His Works," is Katherine Duncan-Jones's "Look Here, upon This Picture, and on This: Venus and Lucrece," where she reads Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece as a kind of diptych—linked poems from a playwright fond of connected works. The essay is nicely complemented by Dieter Mehl's investigation of the "political and ideological importance of the Troy-story for Shakespeare and his contemporaries" (105). Mehl locates Shakespeare's fascination with Troy in the legend's constant remaking, a process in which truth has "no other warrant than the word of the poets" (110). Taken together, Duncan-Jones and Mehl argue that, far from being inert narratives, the stories of classical antiquity were powerfully present for Shakespeare; the two essays marvelously refresh the stock image of source material.
"Shakespeare and His Works" also includes two essays that take best advantage of the occasion of an invited paper. Terence McCarthy and Catherine Belsey both posit provocative questions and then exercise a range of plausible replies. McCarthy wonders why Shakespeare had so little interest in Arthurian matters and suggests that if he was attracted to the adultery at the heart of Arthurian legend, "One might almost say that instead of Lancelot and Guenevere, Shakespeare wrote Antony and Cleopatra" (125). McCarthy concludes that, for Shakespeare, the legacy of Arthurian history was a play in which he could suggest "a wholehearted admiration" for Arthurian ideals "that could not...