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From woman’s film to global melodrama
Kinga Földváry

The chapter presents a brief overview of the various interpretations and definitions of melodrama, reflecting on the term’s associations with music, excessive emotions and the centrality of the female body, and arguing for a more complex understanding of the melodramatic mode, liberating it from the common criticism of triviality and stylistic excess. The examples range from a so-called woman’s film from the 1930s, which foregrounds the female sacrifice and thus centralises the moral teaching embedded within the Shakespearean text, through a British social melodrama from the post-war period, where the moral issues are interconnected with racial anxieties. Another melodramatic adaptation from the 1990s, set in the Midwestern farmlands, emphasises the genre’s associations with feminism, particularly ecofeminism. The last section of the chapter argues that the melodramatic features of the Bollywood film industry show many similarities with the Western iterations of melodrama, and, with the help of a British-Asian melodramatic adaptation, exemplifies the generic hybridity characterising this particular diasporic film market.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
A renaissance of vampires and zombies
Kinga Földváry

The chapter presents the most common arguments behind the recent revival of the subgenres of horror featuring undead characters, particularly vampires or zombies. It also looks at the historical development of the representation of the cinematic undead, pointing out the symptomatic changes that clearly set these post-millennial creatures apart from the classic variants. Focusing on several examples of vampire Shakespeare adaptations, the chapter comments on possible reasons why only a few specific source texts are predominantly adapted into horror films. It is also noted that the majority of the films examined within the chapter are comic adaptations, with one notable exception; some of them are low-budget, even amateur, productions, although the films with lower production qualities are no less creative in their appropriation of the Shakespearean dramatic texts. Most films within the group display clear self-reflexive features, and they are also characterised by melancholy or nostalgia for the past. The chapter also observes similarities between the way teen films and undead horror adaptations deal with the source text’s authority, emphasising the generational connections between the groups. Several critical connections among Shakespeare criticism, adaptation studies and the undead are also presented.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
Versions of the author in contemporary biopics
Kinga Földváry

The chapter discusses the best-known biographical films featuring William Shakespeare as a character, rather than as author of the source text. Like teenpics and undead horror films, the biopic is not a new genre, but its popularity underwent a spectacular revival during the 1990s. Another similarity between the three genres can be noticed in their tendency to undermine the Bard’s textual and cultural authority, and the way they employ fragmented quotations in anachronistic and ahistorical ways, in line with the postmodern era’s predilection for pastiche. All biopics discussed are based on scholarly interpretations of some aspects of Shakespeare’s life and oeuvre, from a Freudian understanding of authorial inspiration, through a theory of the syphilitic Shakespeare, to the Oxfordian theory of authorship. Most of these films can also be seen as generic hybrids, mixing the biopic’s conventions with elements of the romantic comedy, the thriller or television edutainment. At the same time, they also illustrate the genre’s tendency to be rooted in two historical eras, authenticating their narratives with historical references to the early modern era, including several literary authors from the age, while attracting the interests of millennial and post-millennial audiences with the use of contemporary visual or thematic elements.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
Western adaptations of Shakespeare
Kinga Földváry

The chapter analyses six Shakespeare adaptations that display elements of the western genre. The chronological arrangement of the films highlights the socio-historical context of their original production, from the optimistic post-war western’s belief in progress and reconstruction, through the psychologically inflected 1950s films’ anxieties about the moral dissolution within the family sphere, to a comic variant from the 1960s. From the late 1960s, a so-called spaghetti western exemplifies the formula’s renewed vitality in European filmmaking, and the chapter ends with a 1970s road movie displaying the influence of revisionist westerns. The analyses comment on the use of the western’s iconography and narrative formulas, and several core themes and concerns of the genre are also discussed, including the significance of the frontier in the American imagination, the Wild West’s paradoxical representations as garden or desert and the controversial interpretations of tradition versus progress. The analyses also highlight a number of subtle changes in the characteristic gender roles within the western, showing how the seemingly clichéd, often marginalised, female roles exemplify broader social concerns and trends.

in Cowboy Hamlets and zombie Romeos
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The joys of literature and the return of the dead
Nicholas Royle

This chapter offers a critical exploration of Cixous’s Dream I Tell You, alongside Jacques Derrida’s ‘Fichus’, in order to clarify an understanding of ‘dream’ in Cixous’s writings. Dream I Tell You is not a work of fiction, but rather a kind of twilight book of ‘limbo things’ – a seemingly haphazard collection of ‘innocent’ dream-transcriptions, accompanied by a densely poetic and suggestive critical foreword (‘Avertissements’). The chapter shifts from a discussion of Freud (described by Cixous as ‘the Shakespeare of the night’), to her conception of literature as the ‘daughter of Dream’, and finally to Shakespeare’s own work. Particular attention is given to the importance of Antony and Cleopatra (especially Cleopatra’s dream of Antony back from the dead) in Cixous’s writing and poetic thinking. This is illustrated through a reading of the early text ‘Sorties’ (1975) and more recent writings on the subject of ‘Los’, such as Abstracts and Brief Chronicles of the Time (2013) and the companion volume Death Shall Be Dethroned (2014). Dreams bring ‘joys the diurnal world never gives’, above all when they restore to us, alive again, loved ones who have died: the chapter foregrounds the strange and powerful effects of revenance and resurrection in Cixous’s work.

in Hélène Cixous
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Nicholas Royle

How does one finish a book about Hélène Cixous, a writer who is endlessly concerned with open ends, with what she calls ‘the book I don’t write’, and with the conviction that, quite apart from the living, ‘no dead person has ever said their last word’? ‘All wards’ is a neologistic formulation suggested by Cixous as a way of thinking about both writing and life. Exploration of the phrase leads to a discussion of ‘lingophobia’ (‘fear of language’ as well as ‘fear of the tongue’) and the ‘unidentifiable literary object’ (ULO), a term that, it is suggested, describes as well as any other the kind of texts she writes. At stake here is a distinction between realism and what Cixous calls ‘realistizing’. This chapter focuses on the concept of character (the subject of her remarkable early essay ‘The Character of “Character”’) and also explores the figure of the ULO in the context of Nicholas Royle’s An English Guide to Birdwatching and Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House, as well as Shakespeare.

in Hélène Cixous

This book writes a performance history of Antony and Cleopatra from 1606 to 2018. After considering the particular challenges Shakespeare’s script offers any actors, directors or designers who stage it, the book looks in detail at Antony and Cleopatra on the Jacobean stage and then at Dryden’s All for Love (the play that replaced Shakespeare’s from the Restoration to 1849). Fast-forwarding across a number of Victorian adaptations and early twentieth century English productions, it arrives at 1953, when, directed by Glen Byam Shaw at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre with Peggy Ashcroft as Cleopatra and Michael Redgrave as Antony, the play’s modern performance history begins. Thereafter, chapters offer in-depth analyses of fifteen productions by (among others) the Royal Shakespeare Company, Citizens’ Theatre Glasgow, Northern Broadsides, Berliner Ensemble and Toneelgroep Amsterdam in five countries and three languages. Combining close readings of theatre records – promptbooks, stage managers’ reports, costume bibles, reviews – with deep historical contextualisation, it sees how, and what, this play has meant each time it has brought its thoughts on power, race, masculinity, regime change, exoticism, love, dotage and delinquency into alignment with a new present. It ends seeing Shakespeare’s black Cleopatra restored to the English stage. Tragedy, comedy, history, farce: this book demonstrates that in performance Antony and Cleopatra is all four.

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Nicholas Royle

This chapter is an extended meditation on the beauty and polyphonic possibilities of the English word ‘away’, specifically in terms of how it enables a critical reading and appreciation of Cixous’s writing as escaping, in flight, going ‘away’, as text – but also as sound or music. This involves a detailed reading of Cixous’s ‘Writing Blind’ and Kafka’s ‘The Departure’, as well as extended discussion of how ‘away’ works in Shakespeare (especially Antony and Cleopatra), Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Stevens’s The Man with the Blue Guitar. A critical close reading of Paul de Man on Keats’s ode discloses a new emphasis on the haunting inscription of ‘away’ in the poem. This leads back to a further encounter with ‘dream in literature’, wherein the writings of Cixous, Shakespeare and Keats sound together in the figure of the nightingale.

in Hélène Cixous
Peter Hall, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, 1987
Carol Chillington Rutter

Casting Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins as his star couple, using an uncut text (taken not from any modern edition of Antony and Cleopatra but from the 1623 Folio), and referring to Harley Granville-Barker’s 1930 Prefaces to Shakespeare as his principal critical source, Peter Hall eschewed the orientalism of every production of the play on the English stage since 1953 to make this a very English Antony and Cleopatra, not least in his all-white casting, his near-religious attention to the text and his ‘iambic fundamentalist’ demands for the ‘correct’ speaking of the verse. Some reviewers heard the ‘true sound of Shakespeare’ in Hall’s large-scale production; others thought Hall’s ‘sumptuous nostalgia for the grand style’ lost something vital to Shakespeare – the rough, the raw, the immediate. All agreed that Dench and Hopkins gave performances of such ‘searing, wounded intimacy’ that they would ‘take you by the throat even played on a windy day on a Brighton pier’.

in Antony and Cleopatra
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The Citizens’ Theatre (Glasgow), 1972, and Northern Broadsides (Halifax), 1995
Carol Chillington Rutter

Taking a cue from Cleopatra’s nightmare vision of being taken captive to Rome where the ‘quick comedians’ will ‘stage’ her, some ‘squeaking … boy’ making a travesty of her ‘greatness’, this chapter looks first at the burlesque tradition from F. C. Burnand to the Carry On films of remaking Antony and Cleopatra as farce. Then it looks in detail at two straight but seriously unconventional British productions that reframed the play’s meaning by staging alternative interpretations to those currently on offer at the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Giles Havergal drew on the theatre’s history, location and popular appeal to make a radical adaptation of Shakespeare’s script that used only seven actors and cross-cast Jonathan Kent as Cleopatra in what reviewers called the ‘Zulu’ Antony and Cleopatra. In Halifax, Barrie Rutter continued his campaign to claim Shakespeare for the Northern voice, opening Northern Broadsides’ production with a burlesque scene played by a ‘squeaking’ Cleopatra that gave way to a serious staging in modern dress whose most celebrated quality was the electrifying delivery of Shakespeare’s writing.

in Antony and Cleopatra