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Shakespeare Quarterly 52.1 (2001) iii-iv

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From the Editor

I return to this space joyfully in order to welcome Barbara Mowat back to the estimable list of Shakespeare Quarterly authors from which she, as editor, was barred. "Prospero's Book" combines within itself nearly all of what I consider the classic virtues of an SQ article. It offers the accumulated, nuanced responsiveness of a career-long immersion in a Shakespeare play. It provides a major reinterpretation of that play and its relation to early modern cultural history through the meticulous scholarly recovery of a lost literary tradition--in this case the magic manuscript books possessed by the real conjurors of early modern Europe such as John Dee. Its account of these books in the context of how one is used in The Tempest adds to the twinned histories of the book and of reading which are currently among the most exciting frontiers in literary scholarship. And, finally, it makes its case through the description of a unique artifact in the Folger collection--the grimoire catalogued as Folger MS Vb26--several pages of which we reproduce herein.

In Wendy Wall's, "Why Does Puck Sweep?" we move from the magical arts of conjuring to the domestic arts of housekeeping as practiced and overseen by the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Wall's essay, forerunner to her forthcoming book In the Nation's Kitchen: Early Modern Domestic Work and English Identity, establishes the critical place of housewifery in the emerging discourses of English nationalism, especially as those discourses are instantiated in the household.

I welcome Kenneth Jackson's essay, "'One Wish' or the Possibility of the Impossible: Derrida, the Gift, and God in Timon of Athens," on two grounds: one, it allows us to publish an essay about Timon of Athens (a play not featured in these pages since Coppélia Kahn's magisterial essay of 1987); and two, it offers another example (besides Julia Reinhard Lupton's "Creature Caliban," published in SQ a year ago) of a new, ethically- or even religiously-grounded literary criticism. Jackson's essay has the additional merit of introducing some SQ readers to the newer work of Jacques Derrida, specifically Derrida's Gift of Death, published in English in 1995, and perhaps recuperating for others among us the now-often-derided criticism of G. Wilson Knight. (Who would have predicted that?) To the concerns often voiced that Shakespeare and early modern studies are becoming predictable, I hereby provide powerful evidence to the contrary. [End Page iii]

Finally, we are very pleased to be publishing a double dose of "Shakespeare Performed"--sharply observed accounts from Russell Jackson on the latest from the RSC and from Lois Potter on the past season at the London Globe. Hearty thanks are due to both these doughty theatergoing scholars, who serve as the inspired eyes and ears not only for those who have not seen these important productions but also for those of us who have. It sometimes feels as if my woefully inadequate visual memory of stage action returns to me--even is created for me--when reading this wonderful writing.

Gail Kern Paster



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