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.
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.
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.
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.
In his book The Structure of World History (2014) Kojin Karatani has argued that too little attention has been paid in Marxist historiography to the issue of ‘exchange’. In a number of Shakespearean texts ‘exchange’ and ‘reciprocity’ are of vital importance in sustaining social cohesion; in Romeo and Juliet, for example, radical disruptions of patterns of reciprocity and exchange expose an ambivalence that, in certain critical circumstances, inheres in language itself. The disruption that results from the perversion of these values is felt at every level of the social order, but particularly in the sphere of the ‘economic’, where money and trade become metaphors for the disturbance of the relation between language and action, word and object. This disruption is represented as a product of ‘nature’ but it also becomes a feature of a historically over-determined human psychology, and leads to a critical examination of different forms of government and social organization.
Raising and Laying the Ghost of Authority
One of the most impressive contributions to Shakespeare scholarship of recent years famously opens as follows: ‘I began with the desire to speak with the dead’. The author, Stephen Greenblatt, explains that the modern critic is in some ways like a shaman who calls up the spirits of the deceased. Greenblatt goes on to argue that such unmediated access to the past is, alas, impossible, as we are always bound by the preconceptions of our own era. Yet the longing for such ultimate authority remains. A similar desire to speak with the dead, translated into a fantasy, lies behind many texts which do allow us unmediated contact with dead writers, including Shakespeare. Such fantasies often take the form of Shakespeare’s ghost appearing on earth, or of mortals being granted an interview with his shade in Elysium. Before 1800, it is almost exclusively in the form of a ghost that Shakespeare is deployed as a literary character, in prologues, epilogues, plays, novels, and narrative poems. Nor are such apparitions confined to Britain alone: in broadly similar ways, from the late eighteenth century onwards, Shakespearean ghosts also appear on the European Continent. I will study this phenomenon from the perspective of authority: the authority invested in Shakespeare’s ghost itself; and hence, in the later author who ventriloquizes through that ghost, making Shakespeare the mouthpiece for her or his ideas and values; and the eventual loss of that authority in Britain, though not so much in Continental Europe.
This article proposes that Q1 Hamlet is best understood as an early Gothic tragedy. It connects Catherine Belsey’s work on Shakespeare’s indebtedness to ‘old wives’ tales’ and ‘winter’s tales’ about ghosts with Terri Bourus’s evidence of Q1’s connections to Stratford-upon-Avon, the 1580s, and the beginnings of Shakespeare’s London career. It conducts a systematic lexical investigation of Q1’s Scene 14 (not present in Q2 or F), showing that the scene’s language is indisputably Shakespearian. It connects the dramaturgy of Q1 to the dramaturgy of Titus Andronicus, particularly in terms of issues about the staging of violence, previously explored by Stanley Wells. It also shows that Titus and Q1 Hamlet share an unusual interest in the barbarity and vengefulness of Gothic Europe (including Denmark and Norway).
The continuous active presence within contemporary culture of a body of work such as Shakespeare's induces that form of amnesis encapsulated in Ben Jonson's phrase 'not for an age, but for all time': that the past may be eternally present. Rituals of commemoration, such as the annual 'Shakespeare's Birthday Celebrations' held in Stratford-upon-Avon, can operate to cultivate such obliviousness, as if the author were still alive and still piling on the years. A number of modern critical strategies in literary theory, historical analysis, textual editing, and creative appropriation have offered ways of generating anamnesis, jolting the reader into remembering that the past and the present are radically discontinuous. When Heminge and Condell introduced the First Folio, they explicitly connected the absence of the author, by death departed, with the posthumous reconstruction of his works. Their language mingles epitaph and preface, mourning and celebration. The plays, maimed, and deformed, dispersed like scattered body parts, are here restored and reanimated; but their completeness is haunted by the death of their author. The edited plays now stand in for the Shakespearean body, pieced together and made whole, cur'd, and perfect of their limbes. A living monument, a resurrection of the dead, a corpse re-membered. But what is the relationship between memory and the reality it remembers? In the garden of the church of St Mary the Virgin in Aldermanbury a memorial plaque, dedicated in 1896 to Heminge and Condell, states that the world owes to them 'all that it calls Shakespeare'; in other words, all that we have left. This monument ironically commemorates not Shakespeare, but Shakespeare's first editors; memorializes not the author, but the process via which the author's works are transmitted to the modern reader and playgoer. Shakespeare's grave in Holy Trinity Church may also be, metaphorically and even perhaps literally, an empty tomb. This paper examines the interactions of memory as recollection and memory as re-membering.
In Memory of Terry Hawkes (1932–2014)
Graham Holderness and Richard Wilson
This issue is devoted to the radical and innovative Shakespeare criticism that emerged in Britain in the 1980s; and to the memory of a hugely influential and much-loved leader in the field, Professor Terence Hawkes, who died in 2014.
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.