"To Set a Form upon that Indigest": Shakespeare's Fictions of History


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

"History play" is an odd term, virtually an oxymoron, for a radical tension exists between the two words. "History" proclaims a commitment to fact, to events as they happened. Thus, Thomas Cooper defines historia in his Thesaurus (1565) as "the declaration of true things in order sette foorth." "Play" on the other hand, declares a commitment to fiction, to an artificial verbal structure whose "subject," as Chapman writes, "is not truth, but things like truth."1

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