26 July 2012
Venue: Room 220, Arts 1 (Building 206)
2012 Alice Griffin Shakespeare Fellow- Professor Lorna Hutson, University of St Andrews
From the eighteenth century to the present it’s been generally assumed that Shakespeare’s plots are relatively unimportant compared with his characters. We suspend our disbelief about plots derived from longwinded, improbable tales because, argued Coleridge in 1818, of the imaginative power of Shakespeare’s characters. A recent study (2009) argues that character, not plot, is the ‘organizing formal principle’ of the plays. I will argue on the contrary that Shakespeare’s characters seem worthy of our continuing exploration because of the circumstantial design of the plots into which they are written, and because these ‘circumstances’, understood in a technical sense as rhetorical topics, continually stimulate our judgement of probability into acts of imagination.
Lorna Hutson is Berry Professor at the University of St Andrews and a specialist in Renaissance Studies. Her books include Thomas Nashe in Context (Oxford, 1989), The Usurer's Daughter (Routledge, 1994), Feminism and Renaissance Studies (Oxford, 1999) Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe (with Victoria Kahn, Yale, 2001) and The Invention of Suspicion (Oxford, 2007), winner of the Roland Bainton Prize for Literature, 2008.