new historicist approaches

Since the late 1980s, new historicist critics have been important in literary criticism, particularily in discussions of Shakespeare and the renaissance. New historicism is characterised by a return to the [more]

Louis Montroses' essay on A Midsummer Night's Dream is probably the most influential new historicist work on this play. An impression of this approach may be gained in the following passage from the essay, where Montrose writes of the connections between the text of the play and historical contexts such as the possible presence of Queen Elizabeth at the play's first performance:

The perspecitive of my own analysis of the play's court connection is dialectical rather than causal, ideological rather than occasional. For, whether or not Queen Elizabeth was present at the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, her pervasive cultural presence was a condition of the play's imaginative possibility. This is not to imply that A Midsummer Night's Dream is merely an inert 'product' of Elizabethan culture. The play is rather a new production of Elizabethan culture, enlarging the dimensions of the field and altering the lines of force within it. Thus, in the sense that the royal presence was itself re-presented in the play, it may be said that the play henceforth conditioned the imaginative possibility of the Queen. (Montrose 1996: 102-3)

New historicism of this kind thus sees dialectical relationships between literature and contemporary society. Each affects the other.

See also

Montrose's discussion of amazons.

Other critical approaches to A Midsummer Night's Dream.