Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama: An Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language
Study of the seventeenth-century dramatic literature has been dominated by attention to Shakespeare, often to the point of ignoring other very talented playwrights from the early modern period, men who, while virtually unknown in North America today, were, at one time, equally or similarly popular to Shakespeare: Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, Thomas Middleton, Philip Massinger, James Shirley, and Richard Brome. In this talk I shall discuss a recently published website, http://shakespeareauthorship.com/cotgrave, which provides a means of understanding the original reception of the works of these dramatists through focusing critical attention on John Cotgrave’s 1655 book of quotations The English Treasury of Wit and Language (London, 1655). I explore how Cotgrave’s Treasury, which brings together over 1,700 quotations from the plays of the time, gives a glimpse of the authors that seemed relevant and interesting to Cotgrave but which have since been lost in the subsequent Shakespeare-centric study of the drama. I introduce two new analytical tools created to assist researchers with navigating the volume: (1) a concept Search Tool devised around the subject headings of the Treasury, which gives critics and glossing editors the first non-anachronistic subject search of the Shakespearian drama; and (2) a Source Index, designed for Textual Editors around 242 previously unidentified sources, drawing attention to the editions in circulation in the 1650s and to extracts with no clearly identifiable source or with texts widely divergent from a known play (i.e., The Coxcomb, The City Wit, The Mayor of Quinborough). I briefly discuss the potential of Google Spreadsheets and non-traditional media to insure up-to-date reporting of facts in a fast-paced, ever-changing scholarly setting.
Joshua McEvilla (jmcevilla [at] gmail.com) is an Independent Researcher from the Greater Toronto Area. He holds a Ph.D. in English with a specialty in early modern drama from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, and certification in librarianship and Book History from the University of Toronto and American Library Association. He has been published in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, The Ben Jonson Journal, and Notes & Queries, as well as serving as editor of two journals and a book. He has spoken widely on Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s contemporaries, and the Digital Humanities.