Shakespeare was keenly affected by the lives of the boys who played the parts of women in his plays. Evidence for his understanding and compassion is found in the speeches of those characters who cross-dress female to male. By a double negation of his gender, the boy actor is given an opportunity to speak for himself as well for the female character he is portraying. The examples are Julia as Sebastian in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Portia as Balthazar and Nerissa as both the young lawyer’s clerk and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, Viola as Cesario in Twelfth Night, Imogen as Fidele in Cymbeline, and especially Rosalind as Ganymede in As You Like It. I argue that what they were given to say by Shakespeare reveals the experience of being a boy, not only in early modern England or ancient Greece (where all parts were also played by males), but also in our time. I suggest the treatment of boys in the theatre is mirrored by the treatment of boys today. In those instances where doubled impersonation was written into Shakespeare’s plays, we have a unique opportunity to hear boys tell us about themselves. As with so much else that is timeless insight, the bard understood and articulated the experience of being a boy. Taken together, the utterances of his “boys” tell us how it is to be a boy.
In this autobiographical article, the celebrated Egyptian theatre critic, scholar and Shakespeare translator Mohamed Enani reflects on some of the challenges – and some of the unexpected felicities – of translating Shakespeare’s complete sonnets into Arabic.
James Everest and Clare Whitehead
Thirty-two years after its first publication, Alternative Shakespeares stands as a landmark within Shakespeare studies. In 1985, at the height of the ‘theory wars’, the essays in the collection took a confrontational position, seeking to challenge the conventional ways of approaching England’s national playwright. One early reader was a scholar with a considerable investment in the old ways of doing things: we recently discovered a heavily annotated copy of the book in the library of Harold Jenkins, the former general editor of the Arden Shakespeare. Harold Jenkins’s copy of Alternative Shakespeares encourages us to reconstruct the historical contours of an intellectual confrontation, but our discovery also prompts thoughts for the present. Over the last few years, we have been in touch with the surviving contributors to the volume. Thirty years on, how do they feel about their essays? Do they stand by what they produced or would they now look to do things differently?
What is at stake in reading, studying and staging Shakespeare in an age of ‘extremism’, and in a context where responses to extremism are at best misguided and at worst counterproductive? Incorporating analysis of policy documents, contributions from anthropology and discussions of literary texts, this article explores what Shakespeare will mean under the UK government’s Prevent agenda, and the effects such an agenda might have on how we engage with extraordinary renderings of Shakespeare on stage now, not least those created by Sulayman Al Bassam.
Portraits of an Economic Persona
Robert Bearman’s book Shakespeare’s Money (2016) can be considered the first economic biography of William Shakespeare; but it is also the latest specimen of an innovative trend in Shakespeare biography which has come to the fore over the last ten years or so. While the vein of cradle-to-grave biographies seems to be exhausted, new attention is being devoted to parts of Shakespeare’s life, with an attitude that has been seen as ‘microhistorical’ or ‘disintegrationist’. The article will discuss this new kind of sensitivity to biography in general and Shakespeare biography in particular. It starts out by addressing certain developments in the theory and practice of life writing during the second half of the twentieth century, which are today becoming ever more substantial; it then examines the progress of Shakespeare biographies and, in particular, how the issue of money has been tackled since Nicolas Rowe first dealt with it.
Teaching Shakespeare Performance to Israeli Medical Students
Israeli doctors enjoy the dubious reputation of being unfeeling, arrogant and altogether incapable of listening to patients’ concerns, to such an extent that the success of treatment can be seriously compromised, on both a scientific and human level. In an attempt to combat these shortcomings, Israel has followed other countries’ lead in incorporating exposure to the humanities as an integral part of the medical curriculum. I argue that Shakespeare’s theatre provides a unique platform for discussion of the ways in which we approach our own and our patients’ mental and physical pain. I address the particular challenges of teaching Shakespeare to multicultural Israeli medical students and the value of drawing on performances in Hebrew and Arabic as well as English. I employ performance theory and cultural studies to shed light on the insights to be gained by exposure to Shakespeare performance which can directly impact these future medical practitioners’ experience.
Alameddine’s Appropriation of Shakespeare’s Tragedies
In I, The Divine (2001) and An Unnecessary Woman (2013), Arab American novelist Rabih Alameddine borrows lines, characters, themes, motifs and tropes from Macbeth and King Lear to portray the horrendous experiences his protagonists undergo during and after Lebanon’s fifteenyear civil war. In An Unnecessary Woman, traumatic memories of the war leave Aaliya Saleh reclusive and isolated, sharing a building with three other women whom she dubs ‘the three witches’; in I, The Divine, Sarah Nour El-Din, the youngest of three daughters of a Lebanese-American couple, feels alienated and displaced and eventually chooses self-imposed exile. Alameddine frames Aaliya’s and Sarah’s stories within narratives of chaos, anarchy and sweeping violence reminiscent of Macbeth and Lear. Reading Alameddine’s novels as appropriations of Shakespeare’s tragedies valorizes the novelist’s contrapuntal vision and demonstrates how Arab writers in diaspora, writing in English for an international readership, strategically draw on Western canonical texts to represent the experiences of Arab characters.
Shakespeare and the Modern Monarchy
Prince Charles’s Stratford rendition of ‘To be or not to be’ on Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, together with his TV recital of Cranmer’s eulogy of Elizabeth I, as a 90th birthday present to his mother, crowned the old alliance between the Bard and British monarchy. For whereas critics read the plays as rehearsals for the execution of Charles I, the Prince’s theatre mania harks back to the royal restoration staged in comedies like All’s Well That Ends Well. And an entire genre of recent romances, such as Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III, confirms how, so long as Will ‘is by performance served’, Shakespeare remains the therapy to cure the king’s speech. But the success of Mike Barlett’s King Charles III also presents the Prince with Marx’s interpretation: ‘Sovereignty of the monarch or of the people: that is the question’.
Shakespeare, Bildung and the Jewish Youth Movement in Germany between Integration and Jewish Self-Identification
This article deals with Shakespeare’s reception among German Jewish youth in the early twentieth century. The Jewish youth movements played an appreciable role in Jewish education and culture. The various Jewish youth movements reflected the German Jewish society of the time. Despite the influence of the German youth movement, the young people developed their own German Jewish Bildung canon. Many young Jews in Germany perceived Bildung as an ideal tool for full assimilation. Bildung placed an emphasis on the Jewish youth as an individual, and so served as an ideal tool for full assimilation. My thesis is that by means of the youth movement, German Jewish youth could develop new interpretations of identity, through the creation of a European Bildung ideal, which includes an awareness of the significance of Shakespeare.
The Appropriation of Shakespeare in Fadia Faqir’s Willow Trees Don’t Weep
Hussein A. Alhawamdeh
This article analyses the Shakespearean appropriation in Fadia Faqir’s Willow Trees Don’t Weep (2014) to show how Faqir’s novel establishes a new Arab Jordanian feminist trope of the willow tree, metaphorically embodied in the female character of Najwa, who does not surrender to the atrocities of the masculine discourse. Faqir’s novel, appropriating a direct text from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and an allusion to Shakespeare’s Othello, does not praise the Bard but dismantles the Shakespearean dramatization of the submissive woman. In this article, I claim that Faqir’s Willow Trees warns against mimicking the Bard’s feminine models and offers a liberating space or a local ‘alternative wisdom and beauty’, in Ania Loomba’s expression, and a ‘challenge’, in Graham Holderness’s terminology, to Shakespeare. In Faqir’s novel, Shakespeare has been ‘Arabized’, in Ferial Ghazoul’s words, to revise and redefine new roles of the Arab Jordanian woman.