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Flights of Fancy and the Dissolution of Shakespearean Space-Time in Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus

Kate Myers


While much attention has been paid to Angela Carter's intertextual appropriation of Shakespeare and her interrogation of the patriarchal ideology at work in his representations of familial strife, critics tend to focus on Carter's final novel, Wise Children. Shakespeare's influence on Carter's earlier novel, Nights at the Circus, has gone largely unremarked. Like Wise Children, Nights at the Circus builds a bricolage of Shakespearean allusions, but it more subtly reconsiders the ontological issues of legitimacy by returning to Shakespeare's interest in ambiguity, in deniability, in time, and in space. I argue that Nights at the Circus appropriates and shatters Shakespeare's disruptive methods concerning the materiality of time in The Winter's Tale and Hamlet. In so doing, Carter reverses time and dismembers space to criticise the masculine-made-legitimate at the expense of the feminine, which Shakespeare's temporal and spatial manipulations ultimately uphold.