For at least a generation, scholars have asserted that privacy barely existed in the early modern era. The divide between the public and private was vague, they say, and the concept, if it was acknowledged, was rarely valued. In Privacy in the Age of Shakespeare, Ronald Huebert challenges these assumptions by marshalling evidence that it was in Shakespeare’s time that the idea of privacy went from a marginal notion to a desirable quality.
The era of transition begins with More’s Utopia (1516), in which privacy is forbidden. It ends with Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), in which privacy is a good to be celebrated. In between come Shakespeare’s plays, paintings by Titian and Vermeer, devotional manuals, autobiographical journals, and the poetry of George Herbert and Robert Herrick, all of which Huebert carefully analyses in order to illuminate the dynamic and emergent nature of early modern privacy.
‘The close reading practices that are deployed through the book reveal a remarkable pattern on intersected social and literary practice…. Huebert takes readers on a richly rewarded journey through the interface of literary discourse and social theory.’
‘Ronald Huebert’s impressive book offers a welcome counter weight to many studies (recent and forthcoming) on various aspects of publicity, sociality, and material embeddedness in the Renaissance.’
"This book’s great strength is its survey of a diverse collection of literary works, including manuscripts and printed works, authors from the canonical to the obscure, women writers as well as men, and plays, lyric poems, utopian fiction, domestic advice tracts, commonplace books, and diaries."