Katharine Goodland
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From Prospero to Prospera
Transforming gender and magic on stage and screen
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This chapter explores our current moment in the history of The Tempest in performance, in which female actors have increasingly taken on the role of Prospero, transforming him into Prospera. Goodland challenges the prevailing view that this change is seamless, arguing that it reveals implicit bias against women in that they are largely viewed as mothers rather than as magi. She shows this by examining the tension between feminist scholarship and play reviews in three high-profile productions: Blair Brown’s 2003 stage portrayal at McCarter Theatre, Olympia Dukakis’s 2012 performance at Shakespeare & Company and Helen Mirren’s 2010 Prospera in the film by Julie Taymor. While Shakespeare’s play ultimately suggests that the difference between Prospero and Sycorax, between male and female forms of magic, is illusory, Goodland’s analysis shows that the replacement of a male body with a female body is not so seamless. Bodies matter. The biases of our twenty-first century culture are written in the laws that endeavour to control women’s bodies and in the reviews that construe their value to society under the category of a domesticated motherhood rather than as individuals who are leaders and scientists.

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