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Given the challenges war posed for direct physical representation on the Elizabethan stage, much of Shakespeare’s mimetic success depends on his techniques of linguistic construction, especially of narrated war scenes and dialogic encounters. For narrated scenes, Shakespeare follows Marlowe in translating the “high-astounding terms” of the classical grand style to the Elizabethan stage, a choice with ideological implications explored in the chapter. Shakespeare often favors the prospective narration of imagined war scenes, turning potentially static description into the terrorizing speech acts of Henry V and other leaders. In dialogic encounters, Shakespeare develops the dynamics of verbal quarrels and of diplomacy as themselves central events of war. Plays like King John parse war as dysfunctional communication and explore what meager possibilities verbal diplomacy affords for remediation. The chapter assesses contradictions inherent in a rhetorical culture that idealizes eloquence as peacemaking and yet makes eloquence the default language for violent militarism.
Shakespeare’s plays suggest not so much a preoccupation with war as his recognition of its inescapability. He seems never to have experienced warfare firsthand, but no doubt had spoken to people who had. But most of what Shakespeare knew came from books. Chief among these were the chronicles he depended upon for his histories, primarily the group project we refer to as “Holinshed.” What he found was that warfare is more or less indistinguishable over time, a fact revealed in the tedious repetition of battle accounts, further blurred by the echoing of aristocratic family names over generations – and, in the often-overlooked source of the 1577 Holinshed, in which the recycling of a limited number of woodcuts to illustrate events separated by hundreds of years reveals the dispiriting reality. Ironically, it is in Henry V, Shakespeare’s seemingly most triumphal presentation of English military heroism, in which “the question of these wars” finds an answer.
From his two historical tetralogies to his great tragedies, civil and dynastic conflict is a near-constant presence in Shakespeare’s plays. This chapter sweeps across his career to explore the political ferment against which he developed his nuanced depictions of civil discord. It begins with the political contexts that shaped the rise of the English history play in the 1590s and extends through the bitter dynastic rivalries that mark Shakespeare’s depictions of Greek and Roman history, his tragedies, and the full body of his plays. It finds that, while Shakespeare studiously avoided taking sides in the warring factions he depicts, he embraced the opportunity to study the genesis of civil strife – its causes, personal motivations, and means by which it is intermittently brought under control. Civil and dynastic conflict serves Shakespeare brilliantly as essential to his craft as playwright, with implications about civil discord at all times and in all places.
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra displays a remarkable understanding of the period of history it describes, especially in its understanding of the corporate ideology of the Roman Republic. In describing the collapse of the Republic into one-man rule, Shakespeare highlights the roles of other candidates for power (Lepidus, Sextus Pompey) in order to remind the audience of the corporate state that is being left behind. Shakespeare’s depiction of the Roman civil wars as being wars of brother against brother is very unlike his depiction of the English civil wars, where such imagery is very rare compared to cases of father against son.
Written by a team of leading international scholars, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and War illuminates the ways Shakespeare's works provide a rich and imaginative resource for thinking about the topic of war. Contributors explore the multiplicity of conflicting perspectives his dramas offer: war depicted from chivalric, masculine, nationalistic, and imperial perspectives; war depicted as a source of great excitement and as a theater of honor; war depicted from realistic or skeptical perspectives that expose the butchery, suffering, illness, famine, degradation, and havoc it causes. The essays in this volume examine the representations and rhetoric of war throughout Shakespeare's plays, as well as the modern history of the war plays on stage, in film, and in propaganda. This book offers fresh perspectives on Shakespeare's multifaceted representations of the complexities of early modern warfare, while at the same time illuminating why his perspectives on war and its consequences continue to matter now and in the future.
The relation of Keats to Shakespeare seems straightforward: lifelong admiration; the desire to imitate him; delight in Shakespeare’s use of language; approval of Shakespeare’s bypassing of the ethical in order to enter myriad kinds of human experience through negative capability; and wonder at his imagined worlds. Byron’s complex, shifting and almost never straightforward relation to Shakespeare is unlike this. Yet Byron, I will argue, is more pervasively, though less devoutly, Shakespearian than Keats.
As the preeminent black orator and author of the nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass filled his speeches and writings with intertextual references, from the Western classical tradition to the Bible to contemporaneous British and American writers. In his various roles as antislavery activist, writer, editor, and publisher, Douglass employed intertexts as tools of rhetorical suasion and authority. As his fame grew, so too did the complexity and range of literary references. This essay looks at intertexts in Douglass’s speeches, his 1845 Narrative, and his 1853 novella, The Heroic Slave.
This groundbreaking study of girlhood and cognition argues that early moderns depicted female puberty as a transformative event that activated girls' brains in dynamic ways. Mining a variety of genres from Shakespearean plays and medical texts to autobiographical writings, Caroline Bicks shows how 'the change of fourteen years' seemed to gift girls with the ability to invent, judge, and remember what others could or would not. Bicks challenges the presumption that early moderns viewed all female cognition as passive or pathological, demonstrating instead that girls' changing adolescent brains were lightning rods for some of the period's most vital debates about the body and soul, faith and salvation, science and nature, and the place and agency of human perception in the midst of it all.
Mental illness is not strictly divisible from physical for much of the long eighteenth century: many mental disorders were thought to originate from physical causes and were treated by similar methods. But this category of disease had an enormous influence on literary productions throughout the period. In the early years, in Swift, for example, and in Pope and in adaptations of Shakespeare, being mad, or eccentric, tended to figure largely, while after the rise of the novel, and of sensibility in particular, the figure of the madman, and especially madwoman, featured prominently as a means of arousing fine feelings, as in Richardson, Sterne, and Henry Mackenzie. Similar currents developed within medicine and psychiatry, not least the movement towards ‘moral management’, taking the mad more seriously, and identifying them as a specialist branch of scientific understanding and treatment. These tendencies reached their height within the Romantic period, with madness being seen by Wordsworth, for example, as one danger of the heightened imagination, but also being valorised, as by Blake, as an exceptionally sensitive and privileged condition. This chapter analyses the major types of mental illness that dominated during the period and the ways in which they were discussed and represented.
Many people describe themselves as secular rather than religious, but they often qualify this statement by claiming an interest in spirituality. But what kind of spirituality is possible in the absence of religion? In this book, Michael McGhee shows how religious traditions and secular humanism function as 'schools of wisdom' whose aim is to expose and overcome the forces that obstruct justice. He examines the ancient conception of philosophy as a form of ethical self-inquiry and spiritual practice conducted by a community, showing how it helps us to reconceive the philosophy of religion in terms of philosophy as a way of life. McGhee discusses the idea of a dialogue between religion and atheism in terms of Buddhist practice and demonstrates how a non-theistic Buddhism can address itself to theistic traditions as well as to secular humanism. His book also explores how to shift the centre of gravity from religious belief towards states of mind and conduct.
William Shakespeare remained an artistic touchstone for Stoppard throughout his career, from his early success with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to his Oscar-winning screenplay for Shakespeare in Love.
Archives are an important dimension of Stoppard’s work. The extensive collection of his papers at the Harry Ransom Center show the range of his interests and activities, as well as the development of his various projects. Archives also play an important and often ironic role within many of his texts, suggesting that researchers should exercise caution in interpreting the historical and biographical record.
The 'Scylla and Charybdis' episode of Ulysses makes questions of personal and national literary rivalry its topic. Stephen Dedalus’s wrestling with Shakespeare’s Hamlet in front of a skeptical audience in the National Library acts out the dramas of mimetic rivalry and anxiety of influence that are the chapter’s theme. Here, Joyce reflects on the nature of literary production and on national and international literary competition and consecration. The episode compresses a compendium of irreverent earlier Irish readings of Shakespeare into Stephen’s performance and transacts Joyce’s ongoing rivalry with his own Irish contemporaries, this articulated in a ghostly or doubled timeframe that counterpoints the 1904 Dublin of the novel’s setting to the 1922 Paris of Ulysses’ eventual triumphant publication. 'Scylla and Charybdis' satirizes the liberal humanist sentimentalism of the Goethean concept of weltliteratur. Weltliteratur, in Ulysses, consecrates the texts it elevates into a cosmopolitan supranational system that claims to be neutrally above the national field and its melancholy petty obsessions; nevertheless, national rivalries are essential to world literary systems and even when, maybe especially when, they are elevated to 'world classics' canonical texts are made to serve some political purpose.
Stoppard engages with the legacy of the historical avant-garde throughout his writing; literary history energises and informs his theatre. It is modernism, though, that paves the way for Stoppard’s view of the artist as one who reorganises material into meaning. In Travesties, Stoppard uses Joyce to reaffirm the modernist tenet that authorial labour produces texts worth attending, events worth staging, and fictions that revise fictions.
Chapter 3 considers the representation of the food gift in Shakespeare’s Pericles and Timon of Athens, and Massinger’s The Unnatural Combat. It argues that attention to hunger enables recognition of the role played by use value in gift exchange and places this in the context of the declining significance of traditions of hospitality in the period. It considers the recurrence of figures such as the discharged soldier and suggests that the soldier’s hunger constitutes a key means by which contemporary texts commented on the policies of pacifism carried out by monarchs such as James I. It emphasises the nostalgic dimension to representations of hospitality, but argues that this nostalgia frequently marks the system itself as untenable. It demonstrates that these plays manifest anxiety not simply at the scarcity and want which was produced by the nascent capitalist mode of production, but also at the problems of plenty and excess.
Chapter 7 considers the interrelation of hunger, appetite and armed resistance to the state. It explores how the initial causes of revolt are represented in these plays, stressing the interrelation of the hunger of the poor with the appetites of the rich. But it also emphasises the degree to which these onstage revolts are represented as processes, which move from depictions of an initial grievance to representation of the appetites which can be unleashed by the act of rebellion. Lastly, it stresses the utopian possibilities of presenting these rebel appetites onstage, arguing that discernible in the most radical of these texts is a proto-communist emphasis on the potential creation of a society in which all are equal. The depiction of hunger, appetite and revolt emerges as the subject of a pronounced interpretative instability, rooted in the legitimation of the contemporary status quo, but permeated, nevertheless, by insurrectionary possibilities.
Chapter 2 explores the recurring dramatic stereotype of the hungry servant in plays such as John Lyly’s Campaspe, Massinger’s The Bashful Lover and The Picture, and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. It argues that the representation of hungry servants mystifies the conditions of the average servant’s existence, representing hunger resulting from deprivation as an insatiable appetite. It emphasises that this process of mystification is comic in function, binding the audience together through the production of normative laughter. But it also demonstrates that the servingman’s appetite could be deployed as a means to explore England’s nascent capitalist system. Lastly, the chapter considers the relationship between the hungry servant and gender. Although female servants are rarely driven by appetite, the representation of hungry male servants constitutes a significant means through which the theatre explored the complex relationships between husbands, wives and their servants.
Hunger and appetite permeate Renaissance theatre, with servants, soldiers, courtiers and misers all defined with striking regularity through their relation to food. Demonstrating the profound ongoing relevance of Marxist literary theory, Hunger, Appetite and the Politics of the Renaissance Stage highlights the decisive role of these drives in the complex politics of early modern drama. Plenty and excess were thematically inseparable from scarcity and want for contemporary audiences, such that hunger and appetite together acquired a unique significance as both subject and medium of political debate. Focusing critical attention on the relationship between cultural texts and the material base of society, Matthew Williamson reveals the close connections between how these drives were represented and the underlying socioeconomic changes of the period. At the same time, he shows how hunger and appetite provided the theatres with a means of conceptualising these changes and interrogating the forces that motivated them.
This chapter explores the notion of a private language as a way to achieve perfect communication and defeat skepticism. Borrowing from Wittgenstein's idea of private language as interpreted by Stanley Cavell, the chapter argues that Shakespeare and Donne experiment with an elusive tongue so as to investigate the possibility of Edenic intimacy in marriage. Each imagines a sublime and transparent marital union as overcoming the problem of other minds, but each represents this in opposed ways. In “The Phoenix and Turtle” Shakespeare creates the semblance of a private language by a virtuoso tour of poetic genres. His lyric thus entertains a Wittgensteinian puzzle: namely, that genre, the most consensual of linguistic conventions, can resist signification and become an abstruse language game. In “The Ecstasy,” by contrast, Donne invents an arcane dialect for his true lovers, showing private language in action, until he turns to the body for more complete erotic communication. Shakespeare’s and Donne’s contested engagements with skepticism and with deferred or partial knowledge inform the way these two poems parry the temptations of a private language.
This short history of Shakespeare in global performance-from the re-opening of London theatres upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 to our present multicultural day-provides a comprehensive overview of Shakespeare's theatrical afterlife and introduces categories of analysis and understanding to make that afterlife intellectually meaningful. Written for both the advanced student and the practicing scholar, this work enables readers to situate themselves historically in the broad field of Shakespeare performance studies and equips them with analytical tools and conceptual frameworks for making their own contributions to the field.