This book is a study of theatre and sovereignty that situates William Shakespeare's plays in the contraflow between two absolutisms of early modern England: the aesthetic and the political. It is a book about art and power on Shakespeare's stage, and argues that his plays are systematically engaged in untying freedom from royalty by dismantling sovereignty in all its forms. The book tracks the pre-Kantian nucleus of willed nonentity or interested disinterestedness in Shakespeare's own recorded words. The passive aggression of the creaturely voice that answers power back with the delinquent alterity of such a bad echo is found to be embodied in Shakespeare's dependent relations with his own Tudor overlords. In Julius Caesar, cries of 'peace, freedom, and liberty!' reverberate within the monumental irony of the Globe playhouse's imitation imperial design. The book views Hamlet as the great refusal of the absolutist system symbolized by certain triumphal facades. It considers King Lear as a staging of the challenge to speak freely by command which confronted the dramatist when the players were, after all, co-opted to proclaim the Stuart monarch's 'Free and Absolute' power. Shakespeare's obsession with doubleness arises in Macbeth from the play's barbaric circumstances. The book also argues that Antony and Cleopatra be viewed as an equivocation before the regime of absolutism, and a tactical surrender to the perspective technology focused on the sovereign only in order to subvert it.
… thus was I not constrained, but did
it On my freewill.
FreeWill is a book about art
and power on Shakespeare’s stage, and how the sovereignty of the
playwright is complicated by his service as a player.
these plays with such
a singular overview as that of the invisible author, FreeWill
proposes that Shakespeare remained in humble quest of a creaturely
sovereignty that may have eluded him, but that he always dreamed
would ‘give delight and hurt not’ [ Tempest,
3,1,131 ]. It certainly remains possible, as I concluded my book
Shakespeare in French Theory: King of Shadows , that the
,2,72–4 ]; but, as FreeWill has argued, it is
precisely the temporal caesura Achilles’ son offers the
Renaissance avenger that dethrones the autonomous subject, here luridly
associated with the hyperbolic authorship of the most classicizing of
Elizabethan writers, the rival poet vying for Herbert patronage, the
monstrous Marlowe, with his phallogocentric confidence that with the
performative ‘whiff and wind
‘fuckative – O’ and grades it at nought, like the
privy nothing ‘That’s a fair thought to lie between a
maid’s legs’ [ Hamlet, 3,2,107 ]. But the
‘nothing’ that will freeWill, and that gives him his
brass, is the omen of that big ‘O’ Mistress Quickly
promises, and that awaits him outside the school gates: his probable
future filling that glorious ‘wooden O’, the
Book rather to thy rustic candour than all the pomp of their
pride and solemn ignorance to boot’. 128 But whatever his identity, for the
writer of this second dedication there was only one way to freeWill
from those proud and pompous stool-sitters, which was for the reading
public to ‘Judge your sixpence-worth, your
shilling’s-worth, your five shillings-worth at a time, or higher
… But whatever you
The echoes of Rome appear to strike the author of Julius Caesar as both literal and figurative. In the circular world of Julius Caesar, as Theodor Adorno wrote of Richard Wagner's opera house at Bayreuth, 'every step forwards is a step back into the remote past'. Like Marat, William Shakespeare's revolutionaries intend to be authors of a 'lofty scene' that abstracts 'peace, freedom, and liberty' from the carnal matter of the dead sovereignty. In Julius Caesar Shakespeare's Roman triumph is said to reprise Elizabeth's Armada parade. The 'conscious classical parallel' with the empire structured Elizabeth's festivals because the regime projected its power as a Roman renovatio, and English poets 'thought of these shows as "triumphs"'. Of all the 'untimely matters' in Julius Caesar it is the installation of 'the public chair' or official 'pulpit' that introduces the greatest derangement of Shakespeare's playhouse yet attracts least comment.
Srigley suggests Hamlet was, in fact, revived at Greenwich in July 1606, when 'the King of Denmark would have watched a play in which the mirror was held up' to his inebriated and philandering court. William Shakespeare goes to conspicuous lengths in the Hamlet quartos to make Elsinore a vertiginous 'place of desperation'. Andrew Hadfield speaks for a current consensus when he deciphers Hamlet as 'a coded warning' of 'the problems that James might bring with him to England political instability. Far from being Shakespeare's own artistic manifesto, Hamlet's patronizing 'advice' to the players as their self-appointed Maecenas would have made for 'a disastrous failure in the Elizabethan commercial theatre'. On 23 January 2009 fresh evidence was published to confirm that Shakespeare's apprehension about the rottenness of Denmark had been acute. 'It is even suggested', one newspaper reported breathlessly, 'that Shakespeare used the alleged liaison as an inspiration for Hamlet'.
New Historicist critics liked to believe that in King Lear, William Shakespeare 'insists on the iconic nature of the monarch's body'. Stephen Booth observes, in King Lear the cliche that 'All the world's a stage' has suddenly become so fraught because the play as an event in the lives of its audience. Shakespeare's revulsion from his conflicted desire 'to please you every day' may have been triggered by the sheer number of days on which the King's Men were expected to perform for King James. In the year preceding the tragedy about 'the great stage of fools' the Revels Office listed eleven court appearances by His Majesty's players. Shakespeare devised at the instant of his greatest access to the royal palace should be his retelling of Cinderella. Charles Perrault, the architect who first recorded Cendrillon, had been Colbert's aide for historians 'suggesting and supervising cultural policies to glorify the king'.
The theorist of political theology considered that Shakespeare was committed to the myth of divine right, and in allusions like the one to touching for the 'King's Evil' as 'A most miraculous work in this good King. William Shakespeare's framing of the body of the monarch in the mirror of Macbeth has come to be viewed as one of the definitive statements of Baroque court art. In Portrait of the King Louis Marin described how the Eucharistic doctrine of sacral kingship came in France to be disastrously identified with his body natural. For a survivor of Hitler and Stalin, such as Kott, the 'double trouble' of Macbeth is the nightmare of the criminal state. The stirrer of 'double trouble' in Macbeth was obsessed by the doppelganger story of Cain and Abel, writes R.A. Foakes in his study Shakespeare and Violence, but with a sense of the arbitrariness of God's empowerment.