The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

Synopsis

A substantial reference work that supersedes existing studies, the Companion, explores the place of Shakespeare in relation to a wide range of artistic practices and activities, past and present. The 'arts' are defined broadly as cultural processes that take in publishing, exhibiting, performing, reconstructing and disseminating. The 30 newly commissioned chapters are divided into 6 sections: Shakespeare and the Book; Shakespeare and Music; Shakespeare on Stage and in Performance; Shakespeare and Youth Culture; Shakespeare, Visual and Material Culture; and Shakespeare, Media and Culture. Each chapter provides both a synthesis and a discussion of a topic, informed by current thinking and theoretical reflection. Key Features• Addresses Shakespeare in terms of a global frame of reference• Chapters consider chronology and overview, critical history and analysis• Responds to a growing critical and pedagogical interest in the relations between Shakespeare, the arts, film, performance and mass media more generally.

Excerpt

In the courtyard of the “Casa di Giulietta”–and on the cover of this book–stands a striking embodiment of Shakespeare’s Juliet. In the same way that Montague, in Romeo and Juliet, memorializes Capulet’s daughter–“For I will raise her statue in pure gold” (5.3.298)–so has the city of Verona elected to honour and localize a character from the early modern English stage. The work of local artist, Nereo Costantini, the sculpture of Juliet was financed by the Lions’ Club of Verona, completed in 1968 and displayed, for the first time, in 1972. Dates are suggestive, and it was presumably in the wake of the success of the Franco Zeffirelli 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet that the Italian municipality decided to commission its own memorial to Shakespeare’s creation. In so doing, the city authorities showed themselves responsive to a series of artistic rewritings and accretions. For Zeffirelli’s screen statement is but one entry in the continuum of envisionings of Romeo and Juliet, and prior to this the director had worked on Shakespearean stage productions and operatic interpretations. To pinpoint the inspiration for Juliet, then, is to acknowledge adaptations of the classic narrative that function across and through history in an intricately layered fashion. The physical constitution of the sculpture bears witness to the process. In that Juliet’s pose recalls that of Botticelli’s “Venus”, she is represented in terms of celebrated Renaissance art. At the same time, the curved lines of her combined demure and sexualized appearance–one hand rests at her shoulder, and the other holds the hem of her dress–point to an idea of womanhood that is firmly located in the 1960s. Given the multiple artistic contexts in which Juliet operates, it is perhaps appropriate that her face is impassive, even expressionless–devoid of meaning, she becomes instead the canvas, the artistic work, onto which a range of emotions are projected, with the sculpture coming to function as an object of longing, veneration and displacement. Immediately significant as a photographic opportunity–to possess a representation of this representation is a key imperative for the visitor–the sculpture is also a source of talismanic power. Touching Juliet’s right breast guarantees, apparently, luck in love; accordingly, thanks to a ritual that suggests both eroticism and infantilization, one side of the figure has been worn smooth, burnished by the rub of hands. In the wake of the manual friction that attends the sculpture, the dull bronze has been transformed into the semblance of glittering gold, reinforcing a sense of a valuable Shakespearean ancestry and associating Juliet with an idealization of a “golden age”.

Certainly, Shakespeare is present in the courtyard of the “Casa di Giulietta”: a plaque with an apt quotation–“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” (2.1.44) -

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