This introduction situates the special double issue ‘Canonizing Q1 Hamlet’ in the context of the early publication history of Shakespeare’s tragedy and the recent critical and editorial interest in the first edition. The first edition of Hamlet – often called ‘Q1’, shorthand for ‘first quarto’ – was published in 1603, in what we might regard as the early modern equivalent of a cheap paperback. Q1 Hamlet is becoming increasingly canonical not because there is universal agreement about what it is or what it means, but because more and more Shakespearians agree that it is worth arguing about. If we read or perform it, rather than simply dismissing it (as was done for most of the twentieth century), Q1 makes us think: about performance, book history, Shakespeare’s relationships with his contemporaries, and the shape of his whole career.
Why Q1 Hamlet Matters
Though it may seem perverse – Shakespeare being synonymous with creativity itself – to speak of ‘creating’ that which is already so manifestly and abundantly created, Shakespeare criticism and scholarship is tending increasingly towards the view that every act of scholarly reproduction, critical interpretation, theatrical performance, stage and screen adaptation, or fictional appropriation produces a new and hitherto unconceived Shakespeare. This volume presents discursive evidence to support this hypothesis in relation to the fields of transcultural reproduction, screen adaptation, theatrical improvisation and fictional re-writing.
This introduction maps the prospectus of the issue, introducing the concept of applied Shakespeare in terms of its roots in the applied, socially engaged and participatory performance practices that have developed in a wide variety of educational, theatrical and community settings in recent years. Operating in the nexus between this work and a body of canonical plays that serve as a resource to address the needs of diverse user constituencies, applied Shakespeare is represented in this issue by a series of case studies, which the introduction summarises.
To my knowledge, this is the first essay collection in any language to be devoted to Arab appropriations of Shakespeare. Studies of international Shakespeare appropriation have mushroomed over the past fifteen to twenty years. Excitement began to build in the 1990s, as several lines of academic inquiry converged. Translation theorists found in Shakespeare’s plays a convenient (because widely known and prestigious) test case. Scholars in performance studies, having noted how sharply local context could influence a play’s staging and interpretation, saw a need to account for ‘intercultural’ performances of Shakespeare in various languages and locales. Marxist scholars became interested in the fetishisation of Shakespeare as a British cultural icon which, in turn, was used to confer cultural legitimacy on the project of capitalist empire-building. Scholars of postcolonial drama and literature explored how the periphery responded. The ‘new Europe’ provided another compelling set of examples. All this scholarship has developed quickly and with a great sense of urgency. Shakespeareans in many countries have contributed. By now there is a rich bibliography on Shakespeare appropriation in India, China, Japan, South Africa, Israel and many countries in Latin America and Eastern and Western Europe.
Literature of the Thirties – Region and Genre
The second special issue on the literature of the thirties follows on from an earlier edition of Critical Survey which brought together new critical writings on the period (volume 10, number 3, 1988). The first four essays selected are responses to regionalism and identity and the last two to the issues raised by the relationships of gender and generic fiction. Simon Featherstone analyses how two popular artistes, Gracie Fields (the ‘mill girl’) and Max Miller (‘the cheeky chappie’) achieved success in an entertainment industry that was changing rapidly in response to technological and cultural pressures. Their stardom depended on the dialogues between regional and national identities as part of a national cultural dynamic during a decade in which mass popular forms reconstituted the older regional and local traditions of dialogue and performance. Steven Matthews sees Auden’s injunction to ‘Consider this and in our time’ as a ‘clarion call to a particular, post-The Waste Land, form of modernity’. Focusing on Scottish and Irish writers (Louis MacNeice, Sorley Maclean, Grassic Gibbon et al.) Matthews argues that the temporality of some thirties’ writing aligns it closely with the emergent nationalisms familiar in recent postcolonial theory.
Katherine Hennessey and Margaret Litvin
contributors examine everything from an Omani performance in Qatar and an Upper Egyptian television series to the origin of the sonnets to an English-language novel about the Lebanese civil war. They address materials produced in several languages: literary
interpretation, theatrical performance, stage and screen adaptation, or fictional appropriation produces a new and hitherto unconceived Shakespeare. We expect to see much more Creative Criticism, and Critical Survey intends to be at the cutting-edge of this new
Creative Critical Shakespeares
Rob Conkie and Scott Maisano
planned very interesting creative critical pieces but were thwarted by the creative practice – through failure to obtain performance rights or through the non-running of a creative writing graduate class – that they were depending upon not, at last
to devalue materialist and what might be called ‘provincial’ interpretations of Shakespeare's plays. Marlow considers the conditions of production of early modern drama in the sixteenth century, and Wolfit's Second World War performances of
details, and with critical commentary by both editor and dramatist. The Al-Hamlet Summit then went on a successful world tour, involving performances in Bath, Cairo, Kuwait, Elsinore and Singapore. The relationship of collaboration between academic and