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If chastity has for generations served the needs and desires of men, can it still be taken seriously as a virtue? Dismissed in the west as a medieval superstition, or, at best, as a means of escape from an intolerable situation, chastity seems a worn-out version of goodness which belongs in the past. Putting forward a new reading of Pericles (1609), this chapter opens up chastity as forgotten version of agency which, in the most surprising ways, enables new kinds of assertion and affirmation. It offers an account of the Marina Project, an ongoing creative-critical collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which has resulted in the creation of a new play entitled Marina. Both the project and the play prioritize the perspective of the protagonist’s daughter, Marina, who powerfully and triumphantly refuses to play the game where women are sold to men. Chastity emerges as a specifically female and remarkably direct kind of action which overturns the withdrawal implied by obedience to a patriarchal frame. Marina’s "radical chastity" disrupts our sense of the way things have to be, opening up a constellation of important issues today.
Shakespeare for Freedom presents a powerful, plausible and political argument for Shakespeare's meaning and value. It ranges across the breadth of the Shakespeare phenomenon, offering a new interpretation not just of the characters and plays, but also of the part they have played in theatre, criticism, civic culture and politics. Its story includes a glimpse of 'Freetown' in Romeo and Juliet, which comes to life in the 1769 Stratford Jubilee; the Shakespearean careers of the Leicester Chartist, Cooper, and the Hungarian hero, Kossuth; Hegel's recognition of Shakespearean freedom as the modern breakthrough; its fatal effects in America; the disgust it inspired in Tolstoy; its rehabilitation by Ted Hughes, and its obscure centrality in the 2012 Olympics. Ultimately, it issues a positive Shakespearean prognosis for freedom as a vital (in both senses), unending struggle. Shakespeare for Freedom shows why Shakespeare has mattered for four hundred years, and why he still matters today.