The Unmasking of Drama: Contested Representation in Shakespeare's Tragedies
In The Unmasking of Drama, Jonathan Baldo examines the remarkable representative power with which viewers invest Shakespearean theater, contending that struggles over representation constitute one of the greatest dramas within Shakespearean drama.
From Hamlet to Coriolanus and Timon of Athens, Shakespeare's tragedies constitute the most strenuous attempts within English Renaissance tragedy to unmask its representational practices and to penetrate its own ordering principles. Baldo evaluates the theater's economical means of representation, its heavy reliance on the authority of generalizing, and its assumption of a translatability between visual and verbal signs. He discovers that those modes of representation echo Renaissance assumptions about political representation, and as a result, Shakespearean drama's self-investigations bear powerful political implications.
This study reveals the flaws within the widespread assumption that Shakespeare's plays possess an almost limitless capacity to represent, to speak on behalf of subsequent generations and other cultures. Baldo shows that one of the great ironies of such a "universalist" Shakespeare is that Shakespearean drama itself challenges the Renaissance era's dominant ideas about representation: for instance, the assumption that a single body, a monarch, can represent an entire people. Paradoxically, to many, Shakespeare fulfills the very function that none of his monarchs can.
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The Rhetoric of Shakespearean
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