January 1, 2001
"You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate / As reek o'th'rotten fens, whose loves I prize / As the dead carcasses of unburied men / That do corrupt my air: I banish you!" (from Coriolanus
Kenneth Gross explores Shakespeare's deep fascination with dangerous and disorderly forms of speaking--especially rumor, slander, insult, vituperation, and curse--and through them offers a vision of the work of words in his plays. Coriolanus's taunts or Lear's curses force us to think not just about how Shakespeare's characters speak, but also about how they hear, overhear, and mishear what is spoken, how rumor becomes tragic knowledge for Hamlet, or opens Othello to fantastic jealousies. Gross also shows how Shakespeare's preoccupation with "noisy" speech echoed and transformed a broader cultural obsession with the perils of rumor, slander, and libel in Renaissance England. More ...