This chapter introduces circumstances as topics of argumentative proof. It challenges the common critical tendency to oppose the ‘medieval’ mimetic freedom of Shakespeare’s theatre to restrictive neoclassical unities and reported action. The chapter shows, contrarily, that non-allegorical English drama shares with neoclassical theory an interest in implying times, places, and actions beyond those acted onstage (‘extramimetic’). Using the structuralist distinction between ‘sjuzhet’ and ‘fabula’, the chapter shows how an audience or reader of Shakespearean drama necessarily projects an implied or imagined coherence on to the theatrical action by inferring extramimetic times and places from circumstantial arguments. This is impossible to do with allegorical drama. The chapter discusses novelistic character criticism, neoclassical theory (Ludovico Castelvetro, Philip Sidney), Seneca, Sackville and Norton’s Gorboduc, and Sir Clyomon and Clamades.
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