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Chapter 11 - Emotional Labour

Hamlet

from Part I - Contexts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2020

Katharine A. Craik
Affiliation:
Oxford Brookes University
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Summary

This chapter considers the concept of emotional labour in relation to Shakespearean drama. Emotional labour, a term coined by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her pioneering study of flight attendants, describes the skilled management of feeling by service and care workers. The concept has recent been taken up by critics of Shakespeare to characterise the work of the theatre in manipulating the emotions of its audience, a natural development given that theorists like Hochschild were themselves inspired by work on the performing arts. Against conceptions of emotional labour as evanescent and lacking in surplus value, the chapter argues that the emotional work of the stage has enduring effects on the bearing and sensibilities of its audience. Through readings of metatheatrical moments in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ben Jonson’s Every Man Out of His Humour, it contends that early modern plays were not only concerned with the expression and solicitation of emotion: they also explicitly sought to condition the emotional practice of their spectators.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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