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The idea of the city, and citizenship, in Shakespeare is more abstract, and more poetic, than in the great city comedies of Ben Jonson and Middleton.
But the greatness of Shakespeare allows for plays like Measure for Measure and Timon of Athens to be re-minted as genuine city tragedies.
And there is a great and abiding strain in contemporary British drama of the vitality and satire in the best Jacobean comedy. Were their rulers like our rulers, their people like our people, their city like our city? Amazingly, to me at least, this filmic proletariat even takes a curtain call, bowing and waving to the real audience as if they could see us through the membrane of the celluloid.
When the Globe did the play some years ago, the authenticity of the funeral scene was so great, and the audience involvement so real, that one of the extras shouting out for the will to be read was asked to shut up and move on by one of the officious ushers who roam the pit and make sure that no-one is standing or sitting in the wrong place.
I will lay odds that, ere this year expire We bear our civil swords and native fire As far as France. I heard a bird so sing Whose music, to my thinking, pleased the king. Come, will you hence? Shakespeare often uses the idea of city life in a deliberately vague and unlikely way. By the time he writes a prologue to the Folio edition, however, he is adamant that the characters are to be English, and the setting, London.