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Reading Between the Sheets

Letters in Shakespearean Tragedy

Lisa Hopkins

When A.C. Bradley came to write about King Lear in his book on Shakespeare’s tragedies, what annoyed him most about the play was what he considered the patently absurd fact that Edgar is supposed to have written Edmund a letter when they were both living in the same castle. That Edmund should have pretended anything so asinine, and, worse still, that Gloucester should have believed it, both seemed to Bradley utterly beyond belief. Approaches to reading Shakespeare’s plays have of course moved on in leaps and bounds in the days since Bradley, but, even so, I want to argue that we may still miss some of the meanings of the very frequent use of letters in Renaissance plays, and particularly those in Shakespeare’s four major tragedies. Letters sprinkle the drama in extraordinary abundance – the word ‘letter’ occurs thirty-three times in King Lear alone – and often occur at moments of particularly heightened significance, as when Lady Macbeth in her sleep repeatedly writes and seals a letter which neither we nor the characters ever discover the contents of. They frequently serve a vital role in plot development, particularly in the uncovering of hidden truths, and occasionally, as when Edmund makes such an issue of ostensibly wanting to conceal the supposed letter from Edgar about his person, they become in themselves significant dramatic properties in ways which seem almost to foreshadow Pamela and Clarissa. What I want to focus on here, though, is not so much the plot function of the letter as its rôle as discourse, and, in particular, its tonal and status relationship to other kinds of discourse in the drama.

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Shakespeare in Sarajevo

Theatrical and Cinematic Encounters with the Balkans War

Sara Soncini

Mitchell’s staging of 3 Henry VI at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1994, my own ‘Balkan trilogy’ includes Sarah Kane’s reworking of King Lear in her by now legendary play Blasted (1995), as well as Mario Martone’s 1998 documentary - style film

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Shakespeare and the Jews

Lily Kahn

explores the ways in which actors and directors can harness changing cultural norms in their interpretation of Shylock. By contrast, Richard H. Weisberg analyses Merchant, King Lear, Measure for Measure and a number of sonnets from a legal viewpoint. The

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Katherine Hennessey and Margaret Litvin

King Lear / Hamlet (2014) and Romeo and Juliet (2015), transfixing international journalists and others desperate for signs of hope. 8 But what about ‘local’ writers and directors, those who neither travel nor find international donors and audiences

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Nahrain al-Mousawi

Hanna’s Bourdieu in Translation Studies: The Socio-Cultural Dynamics of Shakespeare Translation in Egypt analyses the history of Arabic translations of the Shakespeare tragedies Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear and Othello as products of sociocultural

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Andrew Barnaby

Dramatis Personae (assuming four actors) King Lear Fool Goneril / Lenny Regan / Cordelia King Lear, Goneril, Regan discovered on stage, frozen in position; when they finally come out of these positions we immediately understand that they are in the

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Andrew Sanders

Edgar speaks of his preservation in Act IV Scene vi of King Lear . Later in the same scene, however, the word is used with bitter irony and then cruelly turned on its head when Oswald, Goneril's steward, threatens the outlawed Gloucester with his drawn

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C.W.R.D. Moseley

need to dance it’. Exactly. What does Troilus and Criseyde ‘mean’? Or King Lear? To Conrad’s Marlow, ‘the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in

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Safi Mahmoud Mahfouz

directors still conveyed political messages through Shakespeare adaptation, albeit at a high professional cost. Early political Shakespeare productions in communist Slovenia included Branko Gavella’s King Lear (1949), an ‘explicitly political tragedy about

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Challenging Hegemonic Patriarchy

A Feminist Reading of Arab Shakespeare Appropriations

Safi M. Mahfouz

of patriarchal structures to assert their feminine identity. These women include Cordelia in King Lear , Juliet in Romeo and Juliet , Rosalind in As You Like It and Imogen in Cymbeline . However, Carol Neely rejects Dusinberre's notion that