Arnold, Oliver 1962-

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Arnold, Oliver 1962-


Born 1962.


Office—Department of English, Princeton University, 22 McCosh Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and educator. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, associate professor of English.


President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, Princeton University, 2000.


The Third Citizen: Shakespeare's Theater and the Early Modern House of Commons, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2007.

Contributor to books. Contributor to periodicals and journals.


Oliver Arnold is a writer, editor, and associate professor of English at Princeton University. He has been recognized for his educational skills at Princeton with the President's Award for Distin- guished Teaching. Arnold teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, literary theory, and the drama of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, according to a biographer on the Princeton University Department of English Web site. He writes on topics such as Shakespearean comedy, the new historicism, and the English House of Commons in Elizabethan and Jacobean times.

In The Third Citizen: Shakespeare's Theater and the Early Modern House of Commons, Arnold explores the "paradoxes attached to political representation" and the widespread changes in the nature of political representation that occurred during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James, noted reviewer Marie-Dominique Garnier in Cercles. "This well-researched book musters a wealth of texts and documents relating to the political and aesthetic choices of two contemporary ‘houses,’" Garnier observed, consisting of the House of Commons and the house represented by Shakespeare's theatrical stage. Utilizing an array of pamphlets, bills, speeches, and other primary source documents, Arnold carefully considers the nature of "parliamentary practice and its relevance to contemporary drama," Garnier stated. Within Shakespeare's lifetime, he was witness to a profound change in the way the British House of Commons related to the "third citizens," or the unknown, unimportant, rank-and-file residents of the day. Shakespeare saw the House of Commons assume a new mission, allowing it to "articulate or relay public opinion," Garnier noted. Ironically, however, the composition of the segment of the population allowed and qualified to vote in Parliament—about one-sixth of the adult male population—tended to ensure that representation of the general public was largely an illusory concept that did not occur in actual practice. Arnold notes that freedom of speech, ostensibly a right extended to all citizens of Shakespeare's time, was also mostly a symbolic concept. Members of Parliament used their powers to punish any citizens who mentioned or discussed parliamentary matters outside St. Stephen's Chapel or Parliament itself. Elsewhere in the book, Arnold looks at a number of the debates that have arisen in academic circles concerning the political aspects of representation in the Elizabethan and Jacobean House of Commons. From there, Arnold branches off into a study of representation in the Rome depicted in some of Shakespeare's plays. Garnier commented favorably on Arnold's "brilliant and well-documented analysis of Shakespeare's ‘representational plays.’" Throughout, "Oliver Arnold's dense book explores the fertile ground left mostly unturned by new historicist approaches of early modern politics," Garnier observed.



Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of The Third Citizen: Shakespeare's Theater and the Early Modern House of Commons.

Renaissance Quarterly, winter, 2007, Arthur F. Kinney, review of The Third Citizen, p. 1474.


Cercles, (February 4, 2008), Marie-Dominique Garnier, review of The Third Citizen.

Johns Hopkins University Press Web site, (February 4, 2008).

Princeton University Department of English Web site, (February 4, 2008), biography of Oliver Arnold.