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Shakespeare and Domestic Loss: Forms of Deprivation, Mourning, and Recuperation.

Heather Dubrow, Shakespeare and Domestic Loss: Forms of Deprivation, Mourning, and Recuperation

(Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 32.) Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. xiii + 242 pp. $54.95. ISBN: 0-521-62633-1.

The book is a valuable contribution to the growing scholarship on early modern cultural configurations of the "everyday." Dubrow explores how the various forms of loss that gave rise to domestic anxiety in Tudor and Stuart England -- in particular the loss of dwelling, the death of parents, and the loss of property through burglary and other crimes -- underwrite some of Shakespeare's best-known plays and non-dramatic works (those discussed most extensively are Cymbeline, 1 Henry 1V, Richard III, The Winter's Tale, King Lear, The Rape of Lucrece, and the Sonnets) as well as Renaissance rogue literature, romance, and pastoral. Dubrow calls the social-historical lense through which she views early modern history and cultural production "monovision": that is, the eye's ability to perceive what is near and to focus "on events occurring in short and precise time spans, such as the mortality crisis of 1557-9 or the 1611 changes in coinage that ... shape some passages in Cymbeline" (9), while the other eye takes in a n entire epoch. Dubrow, however, distances her approach from the narrower confines of new historicism, with its focus on the state, London, and the court, by underscoring the importance of region, marginalized individuals (recusants, rogues, beggars, vagabonds, and prostitutes), and the home. In addition, she explores connections between historical inquiry and the close analysis of language and literary genres, and between history and myth, finding the analogues of "Tudor and Stuart losses ... in the stories of Eden and Troy" (9). Also fascinating, although not always fully developed, are Dubrow's insights into the continuities between Renaissance articulations of domestic loss and recuperation and twentieth-century perspectives, which Dubrow gleans from the representations of social problems found in popular culture and "the complex relationship between language and loss" (4) inscribed in lyric poetry.

In highlighting the domestic, Dubrow's aim is "to reinterpret, not repress analyses of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England as a nation by demonstrating that the intersections between home and nation "are as complex and dynamic as those between text and state" (5-6). The critical focus on the works of Shakespeare might appear restrictive to scholars who have been arguing for the need for more critical assessments of non-canonical Renaissance texts. However, Dubrow's trenchant discussions of the authorial preoccupation with domestic deprivation and recuperation that she uncovers in Shakespeare's works are complemented by her equally satisfying analyses of quotidian experience as manifested in numerous other canonical and non-canonical texts and genres. Especially illuminating is how the trope of homelessness, the perversion of hospitality, and the parodies of home in King Lear, thievery in the Sonnets and the Henry IV plays, and the multiple versions of loss, mourning, and recovery in The Rape of Lucrece have parallels in works as varied as, for example, Thomas Harman's Caveat for Common Cursetors, Robert Greene's cony-catching pamphlets, Dekker's Be/man of London, Spenser's Faerie Queene, and Sidney's Asprophil and Stella, among many others. All of these texts, like the archetypal narratives of Eden and Troy, depict loss as the effect of "a single traumatic" event that is "relational inasmuch as one ... event changes the interaction among other components of a system," one fundamental example being the ways in which domestic roles "may shift homeostatically, a process involving considerable regendering, after the demise of a parent" (11). Recuperation, albeit often only partial, is brought about through recourse to "versions of pastoral" and the promise of a "second and better Eden" (11). There are also excellent discussions of the gendering of domestic space, of how domestic anxiety underpins the ambivalence towards the female body expressed in many Renaissance texts and discourses, and of the effects of p olitical and religious persecution on the very notion of home among recusant women and men.

Dubrow provides important new and stimulating insights into early modern domesticity and the book will quickly become a standard source on the subject.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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