Talking Back to Shakespeare

Front Cover
University of Delaware Press, 1994 - Drama - 215 pages
"This book is about the way in which Shakespeare's plays have inspired readers to "talk back" and about some of the forms such talking back can assume. It is also about the way different interpretive communities, including students, read their cultural, political, and moral assumptions into Shakespeare's plays, appropriating and transforming elements of plot, character, and verbal text while challenging what they see as the ideological premises of the plays. Texts that talk back to Shakespeare pose questions, offer alternatives, take liberties, and fill in gaps. Some of the transformations discussed in Talking Back to Shakespeare challenge deeply held assumptions such as, for instance, that Hamlet is a tragic hero and Shylock a stereotypical grasping usurer. Others invent prior or subsequent lives for Shakespeare's characters (women characters in particular) so as to account for their actions and imagine their lives more fully than Shakespeare chooses to do. Very few of these works have received much critical attention, and some are virtually unknown or forgotten." "Rather than a comprehensive study of Shakespeare transformations, Talking Back to Shakespeare is an innovative exploration of the kinship between the kind of talking back that occurs in the classroom and the kind to be found in texts produced by writers who "rewrite" some of Shakespeare's most frequently taught and performed plays. Such re-visions unsettle the cultural authority of the plays and expose the accumulated lore that surrounds them to probing, often irreverent scrutiny." "Much of the talking back comes from marginalized readers: women, like Lillie Wyman, author of Gertrude of Denmark: An Interpretive Romance, and other nineteenth-century women critics, or Jewish writers, like Arnold Wesker, whose play The Merchant transforms the relationship between Antonio and Shylock. Some talking back comes from an international collection of oppositional voices of the 1960s, including Charles Marowitz, Aime Cesaire, Eugene Ionesco, and Joseph Papp. Talking Back to Shakespeare ranges from popular books like the recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley to obscure, seldom-read ones like Percy MacKaye's ambitious four-play prequel, The Mystery of Hamlet, King of Denmark. What these published texts share with student journal entries and transformations is the assumption, familiar to postmodern readers, that Shakespeare's plays are essentially unstable, culturally determined constructs capable of acquiring new meanings and new forms. By bringing together these two kinds of "talking back," Rozett challenges the traditional separation between critical and pedagogical inquiry that has until recently dominated English studies."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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An Epilogue

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