Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2007
On first reading, the subtitle to Christoph Clausen's comparative study of Verdi's and Shakespeare's Macbeth seems a little unwieldy: 'negotiating historical and medial difference'. Amplified by Clausen's own metaphor of travelling between his two texts as 'two nations', however, it offers three axes for the development of the field of performance criticism evidenced in the books under consideration. Performances in different times and places are usefully triangulated by a notion of performance as the translation of Shakespeare's texts into different media: visual art, film and music as well as theatre.
Stuart Sillars's Painting Shakespeare: The Artist as Critic, 1720–1820 argues that the visual artists he discusses derive their inspiration from reading, rather than seeing, Shakespeare. He begins with John Wootton's 1750 painting Macbeth and Banquo meeting the Weird Sisters. Wootton depicts the two captains in plumed helmets and Jacobite drapes in the bottom centre of a forbidding khaki woodland scene from which three piratical female figures in chimneypot hats emerge, barefoot and leaning on sticks. Two birds are silhouetted against the bright break in the clouds. The composition of the picture bears down heavily on the figures, overwhelming them with the dark tones of windswept vegetation. It is one of sixteen colour plates – not enough – and 101 black and white illustrations to this volume. Sillars expertly sketches the ways in which this illustration draws on naturalistic painting conventions and on Gaspard Dughtet and Poussin, rather than on the theatrical Macbeth reintroduced by Garrick, arguing that its context is textual and art historical rather than dramatic.