Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

Restoration Shakespeare: Viewing the Voice

Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

Restoration Shakespeare: Viewing the Voice

Article excerpt

Barbara A. Murray. Restoration Shakespeare: Viewing the Voice. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2001. 306pp. $47.50.

Restoration Shakespeare is a thorough study of the 17 adaptations of Shakespeare's plays staged between the reopening of the theaters in 1660 and 1682, when the two patent theaters in London were merged into a single United Company (although this explanation is not given for the termination of the study). The book is divided into two chapters, each dealing with approximately one decade, in which each adaptation is examined individually. Murray's argument focuses on the visual aspects of these adaptations, both in terms of the scenic and linguistic changes made to Shakespeare's plays. As she states, "adapters consistently rendered his plays more visual, exploiting scenic settings, drawing attention to what is to be seen or imagined, and ensuring that metaphors were made assimilable to the mind's eye" (205). With this aim, her discussion of each play begins with an account of when and where the play was staged, followed by a summary of the changes made to Shakespeare's play, an account of the adaptation's use of scenic display, and a consideration of the use of language, specifically metaphor, in the play. The study does not attempt to employ contemporary literary theory nor to include new archival research. (Murray's copious notes indicate, however, that she has read the major studies on the history of Shakespeare's plays in the Restoration.) In general her methodology consists of providing readings of the individual plays in light of her two central topics.

Scholars of Shakespeare in the Restoration may well be startled by Murray's statement that "there has been no close discussion of the whole canon [of adaptations], indeed no discussion of the canon at all, since the pioneering works of the 1920s by Kilbourne, Odell, Summers, and Hazelton Spencer" (17). In a sentence Murray overlooks the equally pioneering work of scholars such as Gunnar Sorelius (The Giant Race before the Flood: Pre-Restoration Drama on the Stage and in the Criticism of the Restoration, 1966) and Michael Dobson (The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship 1660-1789, 1992), although both works appear frequently in her notes. Perhaps Murray's comment refers to the structure of her study in which, much like early scholars she cites, she addresses each play separately rather than discussing the larger developments that the adaptations exemplify, an approach employed in most recent scholarship. …

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