Shakespeare, Theory, and Performance

Shakespeare, Theory, and Performance

Shakespeare, Theory, and Performance

Shakespeare, Theory, and Performance

Synopsis

Shakespeare, Theory and Performance is a groundbreaking collection of seminal essays which apply the abstract theory of Shakespearean criticism to the practicalities of performance. Bringing together the key names from both realms, the collection reflects a wide range of sources and influences, from traditional literary, performance and historical criticism to modern cultural theory. Together they raise questions about the place of performance criticism in modern and often competing debates of cultural materialism, new historicism, feminism and deconstruction. An exciting and fascinating volume, it will be important reading for students and scholars of literary and theatre studies alike.

Excerpt

W.B. Worthen

What means are available to help us analyze performances so that we can properly understand and then judge the significance of the production? How can we know whether we are seeing Shakespeare performed or something that passes under the name of Shakespeare but is really something else, not Shakespeare at all?

(Jay L. Halio, Understanding Shakespeare's Plays in Perfonnance 3)

Despite Roland Barthes's announcement of “The Death of the Author” nearly thirty years ago, the Author remains alive and well in at least one corner of Shakespeare studies. We might expect this “Shakespeare” to inhabit modes of scholarship that have traditionally invoked the authorial origin of the literary work to challenge the ways that theatrical production rewrites the script. Yet when “Shakespeare” appears in contemporary literary studies, the name often summons a kind of critical ghost, a fiction, an openly rhetorical convenience labeling a network of discursive practices, legitimating strategies, and institutional pressures. “Shakespeare, ” that is, demarcates a zone of cultural transmission that includes various sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts, their textual and performative history, and our own labor and conversation with them. It's odd, then, that Shakespeare-the-Author emerges in more conventional ways in stage-oriented studies, both in accounts of theatre practice and in the divergent forms of “performance criticism.” I don't mean to suggest that this “author” emerges simply or unproblematically. After Artaud, reverence for masterpieces has been forever compromised, and the governing authority of the word has been similarly displaced as well. the theatre today produces a range of “Shakespeares”: in stiffly “authentic” productions; in the vaguely “authorized” versions of the major British subsidy theatres; in the explicitly co-creative work of directors like Marowitz and Brook; in culturally confrontational productions around the globe. and “Shakespeare” is differently staged in other performance media-not only in recent films like Hamlet, Henry V, the Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, My Own Private

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