The Demonic: Literature and Experience by Ewan Fernie, foreword by Jonathan Dollimore (Routledge, 2013), xxiii + 312 pp.
The Demonic: Literature and Experience
the Courtly and the Popular in The Merry Wives of Windsor
This paper explores the controversy as to whether The Merry Wives of Windsor is a celebration of royal and aristocratic power and of an imagined national community, or a suburban comedy whose viewpoint is that of the contemporary English middle-class. Drawing on recent work on female authority in household and community, it is suggested that Shakespeare's Windsor is not only discontinuous with the culture of nobility, but is presented as a parallel world or alternative universe where things are done quite differently. The play thus engages in a critique of the aristocratic values embodied in the Order of the Garter, and offers an alternative source of power in the domestic lives of ordinary women.
Some Further Account of the Life &c. of Mr. William Shakespear, with Corrections Made to the First and Second Editions, and with the Supplementation of New Matter Acquir'd from Diligent Researches in the Publick Records, and from Conversations Mr. Betterton had with the people of Stratford-upon-Avon (1715)
IT seems to be a kind of Respect due to the Memory of Excellent Men, especially of those whom their Wit and Learning have made Famous, to deliver some Account of themselves, as well as their Works, to Posterity. For this Reason, how fond do we see some People of discovering any little Personal Story of the great Men of Antiquity, their Families, the common Accidents of their Lives, and even their Shape,Make and Features have been the Subject of critical Enquiries. How trifling soever this Curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very Natural; and we are hardly satisfy'd with an Account of any remarkable Person, 'till we have heard him describ'd even to the very Cloaths he wears. As for what relates to Men of Letters, the knowledge of an Author may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his Book.
Underpinned by a cultural materialist study of the presence of Shakespeare in a series of great national festivals – the great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival of Britain in 1951, and the London Olympics of 2012 – this story uses imaginative methods to pursue a critical inquiry, combining documentary evidence and critical argument with imaginative speculation. To study Shakespeare diachronically through a time-line of national commemorations, the kind of work featured in Critical Survey 22, 2 (2010), Shakespeare and the Cultures of Commemoration, is analogous to travelling in time. Here Wells’s Time Traveller, scientist, engineer, and devotee of progress, returns to the past in search of Shakespeare, and finds in the Great Exhibition a Shakespeare surprisingly assimilated to the priorities of mechanical engineering and industrial design. Shuttling forward to 1951, he discovers similar evidence, including a steam locomotive named William Shakespeare. Inadvertently coming across the London Olympics in 2012 (by carelessly setting his GPS navigation system to ‘Stratford’), the Time Traveller encounters lines from The Tempest spoken by an impersonation of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In this story historical, critical and scholarly questions are explored imaginatively in fictional form. For a critical account of the same material, see Graham Holderness, ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, in Celebrating Shakespeare: Commemoration and Cultural Memory, edited by Clara Calvo and Coppelia Kahn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
The Complex Legacy of Political Shakespeare
This article was delivered in the plenary session of the Shakespeare Association of America's annual meeting in St Louis, April 2014, alongside papers from Ania Loomba and Jonathan Dollimore, also for the first time published in this volume. The purpose of the panel was to commemorate and celebrate two important critical texts whose anniversaries fell at that time: Jonathan Dollimore's Radical Tragedy, published in 1984, and Political Shakespeare (1985), edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, which went into its second edition in 1994. This article discusses the impact and influence of Political Shakespeare, to which I was a contributor.
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, The Invisible Gorilla (New York: Random House, 2009).
Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble, eds, Embodied Cognition and Shakespeare’s Theatre (London: Routledge, 2014).
Jacques Ranciere, trans. Gabriel Rockhill, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (London: Bloomsbury, 2004).
David Hillman, Shakespeare’s Entrails: Belief, Scepticism and the Interior of the Body (London: Palgrave, 2007).
This general issue of Critical Survey ranges from mediaeval to modern literature and drama.
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.
Did Shakespeare Read Chushingura?
The importation of Shakespeare into Japan in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, following the opening of Japan to the outside world effected by the Meiji empire, generated a culture clash between the antiquity of the plays themselves, and the identification of Shakespeare with modern English drama. Harue Tsutsumi's play Kanadehon Hamlet explores this conflict, dramatizing the difficulties encountered by a troupe of Japanese actors attempting to perform Hamlet, when their deeper loyalty is to the traditional Japanese revenge play Kanadehon Chushingura. Homing in on a crucial moment in the development of Japanese theatre and Japanese culture, Tsutsumi uses these cultural clashes to map out the possibilities of common ground, the emergence within Japan first of an informed and educated understanding of western drama, and subsequently the development of specifically Japanese appropriations of Shakespeare in which the two cultures can achieve a complex but dynamic engagement.