Shakespeare and Feminist Performance: Ideology on Stage

Shakespeare and Feminist Performance: Ideology on Stage

Shakespeare and Feminist Performance: Ideology on Stage

Shakespeare and Feminist Performance: Ideology on Stage

Synopsis

How do performances of Shakespeare change the meanings of the plays? In this controversial new book, Sarah Werner argues that the text of a Shakespeare play is only one of the many factors that give a performance its meaning. By focusing on The Royal Shakespeare Company, Werner demonstrates how actor training, company management and gender politics fundamentally affect both how a production is created and the interpretations it can suggest. Werner concentrates particularly on: The influential training methods of Cicely Berry and Patsy Rodenburg The history of the RSC Women's Group Gale Edwards' production of The Taming of the Shrew She reveals that no performance of Shakespeare is able to bring the plays to life or to realise the playwright's intentions without shaping them to mirror our own assumptions. By examining the ideological implications of performance practices, this book will help all interested in Shakespeare's plays to explore what it means to study them in performance.

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 battle-field. Echoing across its most beleaguered terrain, the student's weary complaint, "Why can't I just pick up Shakespeare's 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" towards "context" has increasingly been the concern of critics and scholars since the Second World War: 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 slightest

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