Shakespeare's Children

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Shakespeare had a thing for children. Ann Blake counts 30, Mark Heberle 39, Mark Lawhorn 45, and Carol Chillington Rutter counts well over 50 child parts. What it means that Shakespeare included more child figures in his plays and poems than his contemporaries remains an incitement to conversation as a recent burst of scholarship makes evident. That this interest follows the institutionalization of the study of childrenメs literature and the formation of childhood studies programs is instructive. Approaches taken by humanities scholars may not hold the same political sway as psychological or sociological studies, some of which have real implications for the policies and standards that impact the lives of actual children. But since attempts to tell the history of childhood often produce fantasies of the ideal, sentimental child, the works of Shakespeare offer an opportunity to understand constructions and fictions of childhood in a time of the rapidly shifting cultural and historical valuation of children. This essay examines central questions and problems in the study of early modern child figures, reviews past approaches to and recent publications on early modern children, suggests topics yet to be explored in the context of the child figures of Shakespeare and his contemporaries (sexuality, temporality, sovereignty, humanity, and economy), and concludes by suggesting we think of Shakespeareメs children not as strictly historical or affective objects but, rather, as figures pressed to signify with respect to cultural expectations of value, sovereignty, and futurity.

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Campana, Joseph. "Shakespeare's Children." Literature Compass, 8, no. 1 (2011) Wiley: 1-14.

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