Randall Martin and Katherine Scheil, Eds.: Shakespeare/Adaptation/Modern Drama: Essays in Honour of Jill L. Levenson

By Boland-Taylor, Sara | Theatre Research in Canada, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Randall Martin and Katherine Scheil, Eds.: Shakespeare/Adaptation/Modern Drama: Essays in Honour of Jill L. Levenson


Boland-Taylor, Sara, Theatre Research in Canada


RANDALL MARTIN and KATHERINE SCHEIL, eds.

Shakespeare/Adaptation/Modern Drama: Essays in Honour of Jill L. Levenson.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. xiii + 329 pp., 4 illustrations.

In Shakespeare/Adaptation/Modern Drama: Essays in Honour of Jill L. Levenson, the editors bring together fifteen scholars whose work is possible because of Levenson's ground-breaking studies in the three title topics. Defending the seemingly arbitrary combination of topics in their introduction, the editors, Randall Martin and Katherine Scheil, argue: "These asymmetrical but overlapping spheres have created a mega-field of intertextual relations," (3) and that these fifteen essays "contribute to the historical and contemporary discursive relationships that partially constitute both Shakespeare and modern drama as adaptive fields" (4). Throughout the introduction the editors play on a double meaning of the word 'adaptation.' Within the context of discussing dramatic and performative work, 'adaptation' means a new work derived from a sustained engagement with a literary text, as Julie Sanders defines it, whereas the term takes on Darwinian undertones when the editors shift to the use of 'self-adaptation.' Although this term is never explicitly defined in the introduction, I take it to be closely related to the New Historicist 'self-fashioning.'

The essays have logically been compiled and organized into three sections: Shakespeare and Modern Drama, Shakespeare, and finally, Modern Drama. Part I focuses on Shakespeare in modern adaptation and performance, on stage, screen, and in narrative. This section broadly explores topics that include Hersh Zeifman's discussion of Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead as being heavily influenced by not only Waiting for Godot, but also Beckett's short stories and the Belgian philosopher Arnold Geulincx. Andrea Most examines West Side Storythrough the lens of early- and mid-twentieth-century Jewish influences on the entertainment industry in "West Side Storyand the Vestiges of Theatrical Liberalism." Peter Holland performs a reverse-chronological analysis of three adaptations for the stage in "Unwinding Coriolanus: Osborne, Grass, and Brecht." Robert Ormsby and John H. Astington argue for performances of Shakespeare as reflections of nationalism in "'Bold, but Seemingly Marketable': The 2007 Stratford Ontario Merchant" and "Macbeth and Modern Politics," respectively. This section, not only the longest in the book, but also the most diverse in its subject matter, also manages to discuss representations of live performance on film in Margaret Jane Kidnie's "Staging Shakespeare for 'Live' Performance in The Eyre Affair and Stage Beauty," as well as the various identities crafted for the Bard with the emergence of the Shakespeare memoir in Katherine Scheil's contribution.

Part II moves toward discussing Shakespeare's stylistic evolution not only over time, but also within a single work. James C. Bulman's contribution on "Editing the Bawdy in Henry IV, Part Two," explores the increased use of bawdy wordplay from Part One to Part Two of Henry IV, whereas Stanley Wells's "Extremes of Passion" examines the way that Shakespeare cues actors' emotional shifts within the text of King Lear. This section also seeks to challenge long-held assumptions of Shakespearean scholarship, as in Alexander Leggatt's "Shakespeare and the Indifference of Nature," and Hanna Scolnicov's "Lear's Conversation with the Philosopher," wherein they each seek to problematize canonical readings of these studied texts. …

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