Shakespeare Quarterly 54.4 (2004) 466-467
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In the Company of Shakespeare: Essays on English Renaissance Literature in Honor of G. Blakemore Evans. Edited by Thomas Moisan and Douglas Bruster. Madison and Teaneck, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2002. Illus. Pp. 357. $57.50 cloth.
Festschrifts are always inclined to be odd ducks, especially the more catholic and collegial their honorees. To judge from this volume published in his honor, Gwynne Evans is a scholar of tremendous breadth and great generosity of intellect. Testimonies to his scholarly personality are both explicit and implicit in these pages—explicit in the included bibliography of his published works and in the warmth and heartfelt gratitude expressed by contributors, implicit in the wide range of interests represented in their own essays. Yet this very amplitude presents editors and reader with a problem. A volume honoring a mentor or colleague whose work has stamped a powerful method or narrow disciplinary rigor on those around him could be expected to evoke a corresponding coherence of address, shaping a more or less defined topic or, at least, arena. But here Evans's very virtues have conjured a highly miscellaneous collection of essays and studies, ranging from close arguments for minute reminiscences of Nashe in Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor (J.J.M. Tobin), to a discussion of Cartwright's The Royal Slave in the context of Caroline absolutism (Scott Paul Gordon) to a meditation on the nostalgic aura of Roman numerals (Marjorie Garber). A wide, even bewildering, variety of critical questions, stances, and tones is on display, and buckling them together is a task finally beyond the editors' best efforts in their introduction, despite several proposals for finding common themes or gestures, such as a concern with evidence, with form, or with history—all terms capacious enough to accommodate almost anything. It might have been better not to try to unify the volume in any other way than through its dedicatee, and certainly a sustained reflection on what Evans's work has meant to Shakespeare studies, preeminently in the field of textual criticism, would have been welcome. Most of the essays likewise contrive to mention Evans's work in one way or another, but none of them engages that work substantively.
The collection nevertheless offers many individual pleasures. Helen Vendler's thoughts on sonnets and related forms embedded in Shakespeare's plays usefully supplement her book The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1997), and, as always, she writes with a clear eye and pen, illuminating whatever she touches. Her piece is complemented by [End Page 466] Jonathan Hart's thoroughgoing review of the rhetorics of time, monument, and immortality in the sonnets, as Gordon's essay on Cartwright is by Thomas Moisan's reconsideration of the prefatory material to the 1647 Beaumont and Fletcher Folio. Brian Gibbons's exploration of how Shakespeare's stage kings haunt Alan Bennett's George III, and Marvin Spevack's detailing of J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps's enormous enterprise in bringing forth his sixteen Victorian folios are likewise both useful and entertaining. Bruce W. Young's trenchant remarks on the monolithic character of some readings of English patriarchy in King Lear are salutary, even if his decidedly metaphysical account of Cordelia via Levinas works from premises that could use more thorough grounding. Garber's essay is typically spirited—though I wonder whether marking act-divisions in Shakespeare with Roman numerals doesn't attest to the regular use of Roman ordinals in the 1623 Folio (almost the only such divisions in early texts) more faithfully than our "plain" Arabic notation. Vincent F. Petronella advances a suggestive case for the resonance of Elizabethan domestic spaces in theatrical design and architecture and in the imaginative experience of theatergoers, underscoring with solid material evidence the place of the house in playhouse. Even when essays build on what seem tenuous or odd hypotheses—such as Frederick Kiefer's case for a masque of the five senses in Timon...