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Reviews115 Tom McAlindon. Shakespeare Minus 'Theory.' Burlington,Vt.: Ashgate, 2004. Pp. xii + 198. $94.95. This book is one ofthe most engaging as well as thorough ofthose undermining the engines ofthe radical criticism that have attacked the Shakespeare who was not of an age but for all time. McAlindon's approach is similar to that of one of his heroes, Prince Hal, whose mastery of"theory" was no less admired than his capacity for action. McAlindon, too, has read carefully the works of our prominent theoreticians—the master spirits of the current critical age— and tests carefully their formulations against the Shakespearean text. The result shows the ever-widening fault lines ofsome oftheir evidence but also the infinite variety and subtlety ofthe dramatic poet. Shakespeare Minus Theory does not attempt to read its subject from a perspective before Foucault, Derrida,Greenblatt, and others had deconstructed and anatomized the author but rather counters their arguments to re-engage the Shakespearean text. This is highly useful for those—and surely there are many in the heartland ofEnglish studies—who want to imagine again the timeless issues that Shakespeare portrays from a contemporary viewpoint. To do this the kind of cheerful and vigorous argument McAlindon wages against his opponents is highly useful; the odds against him are great, roughly, perhaps, the same as those against Henry at Agincourt, but his purpose is not so much to defeat his opponents in debate as to reanimate discussions of the poet. He in fact succeeds in both. Most of the chapters of the book have appeared in print before but the author takes care to revise so that there is coherence between chapters and appropriate cross-references throughout the text. The bookbegins with one new chapter on the state today of radical criticism of Shakespeare, proceeds to discuss the second Henriad in three chapters, takes on Jonathan Dollimore and other cultural materialists in a discussion ofthe"Radicalizing ofJacobean Tragedy ," continues with two chapters on Shakespearean tragedy generally, and Coriolanus in particular, initiates discussion ofthe"The Discourse ofPrayer in The Tempest" and concludes by countering theoretical discussions of Dr. Faustus with McAlindon's own fresh reading. One ofMcAlindon's principal charges against the ideological critics is their selectivity in citing sources for their arguments. He makes telling and numerous —really overwhelming—illustrations of this but his overall aim is to show that the unity ofthe Shakespearean work is a function ofits continual conflicts and oscillations between order and chaos, unity and disunity. It is of course possible, for example, to see Prince Hal as coldhearted and manipulativenumerous critics have and McAlindon is not unresponsive to their argumentsbut what the author objects to in Stephen Greenblatt's discussion in "Invisible 116Comparative Drama Bullets" in Shakespearean Negotiations is its obvious skewing or omitting of evidence. Greenblatt, for example, finds no difference between Prince Hal and his brother Prince John, who defeated the forces that had rebelled against his fatherat Gaultreebytrickeryand deceit,except to remarkthat Hal is even"more coldhearted" than "the coldhearted betrayer of the rebels" (35). McAlindon remarks that this is"remarkablyatvariance with the text"and proceeds to make his argument with not so much heat as light: Cool and self-controlled though he is, Hal shows unquestionable signs of a warmhearted nature: in the tenderness and generosity which he extends to the dying and dead Hotspur and the supposedly dead Falstaff; in his bitter allusions to unexpressed grief when talking to Poins about his father's illness; and in the tears to which his father's savage criticism reduces him. Pointedly, it is his father who publicly emphasizes the two sides of his nature: "being incensed, he is flint," but "he hath a tear for pity, and a hand ... for meting charity" (2HlV, 4.3.31-3). (35) In addition, McAlindon observes that Falstaff also has noted"difference in similarity, remarking that the cold blood which the brothers inherited from their father has been changed in the 'very hot and valiant' Hal." All of this, the critic pointedlybut with restraint notes,"goes unrecorded in'Invisible Bullets'" (35). Similar detailed and specific rejoinders are made throughout the book— to Jonathan Dollimore's contention,for example, that in TheBookofthe...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 115-117
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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