This essay uses three productions to chart the progress of the integration of performers of African and Afro-Caribbean descent in professional British Shakespearean theatre. It argues that the three productions―from 1972, 1988 and 2012―each use cross-cultural casting in ways that illuminate the phases of inclusion for British performers of colour. Peter Coe’s 1972 The Black Macbeth was staged at a time when an implicit colour bar in Shakespeare was in place, but black performers were included in the production in ways that reinforced dominant racial stereotypes. Temba’s 1988 Romeo and Juliet used its Cuban setting to challenge stereotypes by presenting black actors in an environment that was meant to show them as “real human beings”. The RSC’s 2012 Julius Caesar was a black British staging of Shakespeare that allowed black actors to use their cultural heritages to claim Shakespeare, signalling the performers’ greater inclusion into British Shakespearean theatre.
This article picks up on a tendency of recent criticism to look to Shakespeare for insights into contemporary politics, and extends it backwards to the period of German history known as the “Vormärz”―the period between 1815 and 1848. It establishes parallels between that period and the current debates about Brexit, and shows how equivalent issues are reflected in the accounts of King John given by three leading German critics of the “Vormärz” period―which also successively demonstrate the deleterious rise of German nationalism. These issues include: the weaknesses, mistakes and crimes of the powerful, and their effect both on the nation directly afflicted with them, and on others; the issue of national sovereignty and its relationship to the fellowship of nations; the struggle against arguably alien ways of thinking; the dividing line between necessary compromise and rank betrayal; the dilemma of choice; and the poisoned chalice of democratic freedom. And the parallels they establish between Shakespeare, the “Vormärz” and us are as instructive as they are unsettling.
Taking as its cue the 2016 quatercentenaries of the deaths of both Shakespeare and Cervantes, the essay offers some insights into the “transversal connections” between both events as celebrated in Spain and the UK. The questions it raises and attempts to resolve are fourfold: (1) What are the reasons and also the benefits of yoking together two such apparently disparate authors, whose strongest link is, arguably, the fact they both passed away in 1616? (2) What work is being done to restore these writers to life, especially in schools where, for a variety of reasons, literature has lost its core-curricular status, and in general society where the classics seem to have less and less import? (3) What might Shakespeare or Cervantes be said to stand for in their respective cultures, both in terms of the genres they wrote in (it is often forgotten, for instance, that Cervantes was also a poet and a dramatist) and the extra-literary values they are said to transmit? (4) What is the role of the State in the safeguarding and promotion of the nation’s cultural heritage?
This article considers how Shakespeare’s King Lear has become a Brexit play across a range of discourses and media, from theatre productions and journalism to social media. With its themes of division and disbursement, of cliff edges and tragic self-immolation, Lear is the Shakespearean play that has been turned to as metaphor and analogy for the UK’s decision following the 23 June 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. Reading this presentist application of Shakespeare, the article attends to Shakespeare as itself a discourse through which cultural ideas, both real and imaginary, about Brexit and the EU are negotiated. It asks how can we might remap Lear in this present context―what other meanings and histories are to be derived from the play, especially in Lear’s exile and search for refuge, or in Cordelia’s departure for and return from France? Moving from a consideration of a Brexit Lear to an archipelagic and even European Lear, this article argues that Shakespeare is simultaneously a site of supranational connections and of a desire for values of empathy and refuge that reverberate with debates about migration in Europe.
The aim of the article is to examine and evaluate the social ethics aspects of the pamphlet Pro vindiciis contra tyrannos oratio by the scholar and rector of Prague University Jan Jesenský - Jessenius (1566-1621); first published in Frankfurt in 1614 and for the second time in Prague in 1620 during the Czech Estate Revolt. Therefore, the broader intellectual context of the time is introduced, specifically the conflict between two theories of ruling power correlating with that between the ruler and the Estates after the ideas of the Protestant reformation started to spread. The first theory supported the idea of a sovereign ruler whose authority would stand above the estates to be able to keep the kingdom under control. On the contrary, the so-called resistance theory strived to limit the monarch’s power and to justify a possible intervention against a malevolent ruler - the tyrant. I intend to show that Jessenius´ social ethics which refers to the latter resistance theory was of a premodern nature since its conception of State and its reign remained in a denominationally limited framework. Nevertheless; Jessenius’ polemics with the supporters of ruling sovereignty, which seem to be his original contribution, makes his writing a unique political work in Central Europe. Moreover, the second edition of Jessenius’ text (1620, Prague), which for a long time had disappeared from public view, can rightly be considered a remarkable projection of resistance theory toward actual political struggle at the very beginning of the Thirty Years War.
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The aim of this paper is to investigate the philosophical connotations of the trope of the dream in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño. What are the authors’ auctorial catalysts in connecting this trope to their key characters? How do these auctorial devices connect the plays to the needs of the contemporary reader, searching for solutions to the challenges of the 21st century modus vivendi?