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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
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Religion, folklore, Shakespeare
E.J. Clery and Robert Miles

Invisible World Disclos’d: or, An Universal History of Apparitions, &c. (1727; by Defoe himself), make clear a serious ‘theologico-propagandic’ purpose which is absent from the line of supernatural fiction beginning with The Castle of Otranto in 1764. And yet, as Coleman 0. Parsons (1956) has shown, apparition narratives provided a stepping-stone from a largely oral and popular culture of ghost

in Gothic documents
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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
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
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
Representing the supernatural in film adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Gayle Allan

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the most often-performed Shakespeare plays, and one of his most popular comedies. 1 It is also a favourite of film directors, with a number of adaptations made since its first known appearance on the silver screen in 1909. 2 The play's popularity is due in no small part to the supernatural elements in the play, and more particularly the supernatural beings that populate it – the

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Laurie Johnson

The supernatural world framing the action in A Midsummer Night's Dream is populated by figures derived from a range of pre-Shakespearean sources. 1 Yet the most elevated of these figures, Oberon and Titania, have long been thought by scholars to contain topical allusions to Elizabeth and her relationships with one or more courtiers. The play thus seems to be a locus for potentially competing fields of influence on the playwright: borrowing from the past while also writing directly to the

in Shakespeare and the supernatural