Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

Synopsis

"This book examines the manner in which Shakespeare's Hamlet was perceived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and represented in the available visual media. The author's research has identified more than 2,000 visual images of Hamlet from this period. The images, it is argued, both reflected the critical reception of the play and simultaneously played a significant role in the history of the ever-changing constructed cultural phenomenon that we refer to as Shakespeare." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

It is now generally conceded that the study of Shakespeare's plays may involve far more than scrutiny of the transmission of his texts and critical analysis of them, however demanding and wideranging those tasks. the past several decades have seen Shakespeare scholars increasingly willing to acknowledge the theatrical context of the plays and their performance history as a necessary part of any critical approach. At the same time, New Historicists have helped legitimize explorations of Shakespeare as an everchanging constructed cultural phenomenon that both reveals the nature of each successive historical epoch while at the same time assists in creating the identity of each epoch. My goal in this book is to provide some insight into the manner in which Shakespeare's Hamlet was perceived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in particular the ways in which the available visual media represented the play during this period. I will try to show how the more than two thousand visual images of Hamlet that I have identified both reflect the critical reception of the play and simultaneously possess a significant role in the ever-changing constructed cultural phenomenon that we refer to as Shakespeare. This visual material, I contend, offers an often unique perspective that complements bibliographical, critical, and theater history studies by reminding us of the broad spectrum of the literate and not-so-literate lovers of Shakespeare, who absorbed and responded to his works, not necessarily in academic libraries or at play performances, but in their homes, when browsing in print shops, when reading in coffeehouses, or (a far rarer experience) when visiting an art gallery or exhibition.

Although there already exists a substantial body of literature concerning the illustration of Shakespeare, it impinges very little upon what I propose here. Mander and Mitchenson's fascinating Hamlet Through the Ages: a Pictorial Record from 1709, for example, though dealing specifically with Hamlet, is primarily concerned with theater history. Other book-length considerations deal with Hamlet only in passing and tend to concentrate only . . .

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