Shakespeare without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage

Shakespeare without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage

Shakespeare without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage

Shakespeare without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage

Synopsis

Shakespeare Without Women is a controversial study of female impersonation and the connections between dramatic and political representation in Shakespeare's plays. In this exhilarating and provocative book, Dympna Callaghan focuses on the implications of absence and exclusion in several of Shakespeare's works: * the exclusion of the female body from Twelfth Night * the impersonation of the female voice in the original performances of the plays * racial impersonation in Othello * echoes of removal of the Gaelic Irish in The Tempest * the absence of women on stage and in public life as shown in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Excerpt

In our century, the field of literary studies has rarely been a settled, tranquil place. Indeed, for over two decades, the clash of opposed theories, prejudices, and points of view has made it more of a battlefield. Echoing across its most beleaguered terrain, the student’s weary complaint “Why can’t I just pick up Shakespeare plays and read them?” seems to demand a sympathetic response.

Nevertheless, we know that modern spectacles will always impose their own particular characteristics on the vision of those who unthinkingly don them. This must mean, at the very least, that an apparently simple confrontation with, or pious contemplation of, the text of a 400-year-old play can scarcely supply the grounding for an adequate response to its complex demands. For this reason, a transfer of emphasis from “text” toward “context” has increasingly been the concern of critics and scholars since World War II: a tendency that has perhaps reached its climax in more recent movements such as new historicism or cultural materialism.

A consideration of the conditions, social, political, or economic within which the play came to exist, from which it derives, and to which it speaks will certainly make legitimate demands on the attention of any well-prepared student nowadays. Of course, the serious pursuit of those interests will also inevitably start to undermine ancient and inherited prejudices, such as the supposed distinction between “foreground” and “background” in literary studies. And even the

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