The Media Players

The Media Players: Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News

STEPHEN WITTEK
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 241
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3998/mpub.8178177
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  • Book Info
    The Media Players
    Book Description:

    The Media Players: Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of Newsbuilds a case for the central, formative function of Shakespeare's theater in the news culture of early modern England. In an analysis that combines historical research with recent developments in public sphere theory, Dr. Stephen Wittek argues that the unique discursive space created by commercial theater helped to foster the conceptual framework that made news possible.

    Dr. Wittek's analysis focuses on the years between 1590 and 1630, an era of extraordinary advances in English news culture that begins with the first instance of serialized news in England and ends with the emergence of news as a regular, permanent fixture of the marketplace. Notably, this period of expansion in news culture coincided with a correspondingly extraordinary era of theatrical production and innovation, an era that marks the beginning of commercial theater in London, and has left us with the plays of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-12134-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Early Modern Drama and the Idea of News (pp. 1-26)

    This book builds a case for the central, formative function of Shakespeare’s theater in the news culture of early modern England. In an analysis that combines literary criticism with historical research and recent developments in public sphere theory, I argue that the unique discursive space created by commercial theater helped to foster the conceptual framework that made news possible. On this view, the animating force behind the emergence of news culture lies, not only with the development of new technologies and trade routes, but also with the groundbreaking cultural developments that gave rise to the sophisticated idea of “the news”...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Winter’s Tale, News, Truth, and Belief (pp. 27-58)

    The Winter’s Taleis an extended meditation on truth and belief: how to evaluate the truthfulness of any given reality, how to know what to believe, how to accommodate uncertainty. Thinking through these problems, Shakespeare develops a narrative that moves from unbridled skepticism (radical doubt) to faith (radical belief), passing over various manifestations of truth and nontruth, belief and nonbelief, along the way. As his investigation proceeds, he finds a particularly rich focus for reflection in the emergence of news, a form he interrogates alongside a variety of other ways of knowing and telling, including dreams, balladry, gossip, rumor, romance,...

  6. CHAPTER 3 A Game at Chess and the Making of a Theatrical Public (pp. 59-86)

    During the course of a nine-day run in August 1624, Thomas Middleton’sA Game at Chessattracted thirty thousand spectators, or a seventh of London’s adult population, approximately twelve times the regular attendance rate for all of the city’s theaters combined.¹ This unprecedented popularity derived from the players’ impersonation of contemporary public figures and enactment of political events, a daring innovation that made the convergence of theater and news culture a patent point of attraction. Presented as a conflict between warring black and white pieces on a chessboard, the play dramatizes issues surrounding James I’s Spanish policy—particularly Prince Charles’s...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Staple of News and the Invention of Media Criticism (pp. 87-114)

    No study of theater and news in early modernity could be complete without paying due consideration to Ben Jonson’sThe Staple of News(perf. 1626, pub. 1631), an extraordinary meditation on the social dynamics of news culture that stands as one of the earliest and most thoughtful examples of seventeenth-century media criticism. More than any other play of the era,Stapleshows the theater actively caught up in a robust process of thinking about news—thereby providing news culture with a space where it could develop the reflexive, critical dimension fundamental to the new idea of news that began to...

  8. Epilogue: News Is What They Say It Is (pp. 115-118)

    Andrew Pettegree sums up his formidable history of news production in early modern Europe by observing that the “news media of [the] era presented every bit as much a multi-media phenomenon as our own. It is that which gives this period its particular fascination.”¹ Building on this observation, I would add that, in the seventeenth century as in the twenty-first, the proliferation and cultivation of news in factdepended,not only on a multiplicity of media platforms, but also on a multiplicity of vehicles for sharing, feeling, and thinking through topical discourse, vehicles that ranged from relatively straightforward reportage to...

  9. Appendix: Names Frequently Used in Butter Newsbooks, 1623–1626 (pp. 119-120)
  10. Notes (pp. 121-134)
  11. Bibliography (pp. 135-150)
  12. Index (pp. 151-158)

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