Shakespeare and the wandering mind

by Raphael Lyne

24 Feb 2020
Journal of the British Academy, volume 8 (2020)
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Abstract: Cognitive scientists are beginning to explore the important work our minds do when attention wanes. In particular, it seems that orientation of the individual in relation to past, present, and future may be developed and maintained during periods of distraction. Shakespeare works with the potential for productive mind-wandering in characters and in audiences. In Henry V, they and we think beyond present business into the ideologies and costs of the underlying plans and possibilities. The King himself embodies the interaction of wandering and selfhood. In Much Ado About Nothing the friends and audience of Beatrice and Benedick may not be fully absorbed by their witty exchanges; there is another story to be told, in the gaps Shakespeare creates in the action of the play, in which they end up taking their inevitable roles as lovers.

Keywords: Shakespeare, attention, distraction, mind-wandering, Henry VMuch Ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare Lecture, read 18 May 2018.

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