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Shakespeare and the supernatural explores the supernatural in Shakespearean drama, taking account of historical contexts and meanings together with contemporary approaches to these aspects in performance on stage, screen and in popular culture. Supernatural elements constitute a significant dimension of Shakespeare’s plays, contributing to their dramatic power and intrigue: ghosts haunt political spaces and psyches; witches foresee the future; fairies meddle with love; natural portents foreshadow events; and a magus conjures a tempest. Although written and performed for early modern audiences, for whom the supernatural was still part of the fabric of everyday life, the plays’ supernatural elements continue to enthral us and maintain their ability to raise questions in contemporary contexts. The collection considers a range of issues through the lens of five key themes: the supernatural and embodiment; haunted spaces; supernatural utterance and haunted texts; magic, music and gender; and present-day transformations. The volume presents an introduction to the field, covering terminology and the porous boundaries between ideas of nature, the preternatural and the supernatural, followed by twelve chapters from an international range of contemporary Shakespeare scholars whose work interrogates the five themes. They provide new insights into the central issues of how Shakespeare constructs the supernatural through language and how supernatural dimensions raise challenges of representation and meaning for critics and creators. Shakespeare and the supernatural will appeal to scholars, dramatists, teachers and students, providing valuable resources for readers interested in Shakespeare or the supernatural in drama, whether from literary, historical, film or performing arts perspectives.

Shakespeare’s challenges to performativity
Yan Brailowsky

Supernatural phenomena in Shakespeare's plays are frequently embodied: they take a physical shape onstage with characters such as the Weird Sisters in Macbeth or Ariel in The Tempest , or with apparitions and ghosts as in Richard III , Hamlet or Julius Caesar, or they appear through portentous signs which work like props, either through staging effects (thunder and lightning), or by oral reports, with talk of ‘horrid sights seen by the watch’ ( Julius Caesar, 2.2.16) such as those recounted by Calphurnia in my epigraph. Despite their uncertain origins, these

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Double Ariel in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest (2017)
Anchuli Felicia King

’. 3 The relatively recent accretion of this varied body of writing into the unified field of ‘puppet theory’ has a new challenge in considering how this ancient form, which for centuries has been harnessed for spectacles of the mythic, magic and supernatural, might exist in dialogue with contemporary digital technologies. In his chapter for the 2001 anthology Puppets, Masks and Performing Objects , Steve Tillis argues that the question of what constitutes ‘live’ puppetry has been largely overshadowed by technological

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
A challenge to the Festival
Florence March

monumental stone walls, like an invisible force which either magnifies or endangers the performance. Drawing on the complete corpus of Shakespearean productions in the Honour Court that staged supernatural manifestations between 1947 and 2016, this chapter proposes to explore the interactions between text, performance and venue. A locus of conflicts, whether they actualise the hero's inner turmoil or oppositions between characters, apparitions also embody the challenging confrontation between performance and venue, theatrical event and spectacular

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Philip Edwards

Council booklet it is implied that the whole apparatus of all-controlling Destiny is a farce, but it is only in my lecture of 1985, at Waterloo in Canada, that I tried to explain why. 1 That lecture concentrated on the supernatural structures of The Spanish Tragedy . I emphasised the distance in time between the busy unavailing efforts of the human characters in the sixteenth

in Doing Kyd
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Shakespeare and the supernatural
Victoria Bladen and Yan Brailowsky

Supernatural elements constitute a significant dimension of Shakespeare's plays: ghosts haunt political spaces and internal psyches; witches foresee the future and disturb the present; fairies meddle with love; natural portents and dreams foreshadow events; and a magus conjures a tempest from the elements. These aspects contribute to the dramatic power and intrigue of the plays, whether they are treated in performance with irony, comedic effect or unsettling gravity. Although Shakespeare's plays were written and performed for early modern

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
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Supernatural storms, equivocal earthquakes
Gwilym Jones

Witchcraft is in itself much more terrible in its theatrical effect than the most absurd dogmas of religion; that which is unknown, or created by supernatural intelligence, awakens fear and terror to the highest degree: in every religious system whatever, terror is carried only to a certain length

in Shakespeare’s storms
Supernatural generation and the limits of power in Shakespeare’s Richard III
Chelsea Phillips

The maternal body was a site for the intersection of the natural and supernatural worlds in early modern England. 1 In part this was because ‘maternal and midwiving bodies delivered both ordinary, earthly matter and a miracle deserving of reverence.’  2 It was also attributable in part to the mysteries surrounding the maternal body's biology. Ruled by nature, divine in pattern, the generative body was ‘a site of imagination and contest

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Divine destruction in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
Chloe Porter

in a context in which completion is conceptualised as transgression? To begin to answer these questions, this chapter will explore image-breaking in Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (first performed c. 1589), which presents an instance of onstage iconoclasm in the supernatural destruction of a demonic brazen head, a quasi-magical figure that had been

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
The afterlives of Ophelia in Japanese pop culture
Yukari Yoshihara

In Hamlet , Ophelia has nothing to do with the supernatural. She is not a witch, fairy or deity; nor does she return to life as a zombie or a ghost for revenge, in spite of the mistreatment and injustice she suffered in life. But in her afterlives in Japanese popular culture Ophelia has metamorphosed into a supernatural woman in various forms, such as a powerful sea goddess, a guardian of the tree of life and a grim reaper. This chapter explores these various afterlives, and contextualises Ophelia's metamorphosis from an innocent victim

in Shakespeare and the supernatural