Shakespeare, Time, Theory



This article charts the range of ways in which literary scholars from the 1960s to the present day have approached Shakespeare's dramatic works through considerations of time. Time in the plays, as both subject matter (narrative theme) and as a key element of dramatic form (time scheme) has, with varying intensity, been a popular consideration in the field of Shakespeare criticism since the middle of the twentieth century. Time or temporality are also, however, important ordering principles for the majority of the theoretical approaches to early modern literary culture that have dominated modes of enquiry into Shakespeare's works in this period. This article considers the ways in which scholars' conceptualisations of time and the temporal in the plays have both shaped and been shaped by the increased popularity of critical temporal studies across the humanities, and more specifically by the range of theoretical frameworks – historicism, cultural materialism, new historicism, new materialism, presentism, new formalism, cognitivism – which have, to differing degrees, transformed the field of Shakespeare criticism over the last 50 years.