AbstractThis thesis brings the performativity of William Shakespeare’s plays into focus; in presenting an alternative approach to his works, I show how literary criticism can be reinvigorated. Dramatic works demonstrate that, in their theatrical world, everything is mutable, and capable of evolving and changing, negating stability or reliability. Why, then, should what I term monogeneric approaches (forms of analysis that allocate one genre to plays, adopting a priori ideas as opposed to recognising processes of dramatic construction) to criticism remain prevalent in Shakespearean scholarship? Performativity, as defined by Judith Butler, is a concept that focuses on the dynamic constitution of a subject, rather than on the end result alone (whether ‘female’ for gender, or, for example, ‘comedy’ for plays). In establishing an analogical relationship between the performativity of gender and the performance of dramatic works, I offer new, interpretive possibilities for dramatic works, moving away from monogeneric methods. Constructing a method of analysis based on performativity allows an approach that recognises and privileges dramatic dynamism and characterisation. The role of female characters is vital in Shakespeare’s works: we see defiant, submissive, calculating, principled and overwhelmingly multifaceted performances from these characters who, I argue, influence the courses that plays take. This thesis joins a conversation that began in 335BCE with Aristotle’s Poetics. In acknowledging and interrogating previous scholarship on genre in Shakespeare’s works, I trace monogeneric themes in analysis from Aristotle, through A.C. Bradley, through to later twentieth- and twenty-first-century critics. I challenge the practice of allocating genre based on plot features, including weddings and deaths; such actions are not conclusively representative of one genre alone. To enable this interrogation, I establish relationships between theories such as Nicolas Bourriaud’s work on artistic exchange; Jacques Derrida’s hypothesis on participation and belonging; and feminist research by scholars including Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. Performance analysis is a vital component of this thesis, alongside textual analysis. In a number of cases, multiple performances of a dramatic work are considered to illustrate the fascinating variety with which the text is translated from page to stage and the impact of different directorial decisions. I use the term ‘textual analysis’ to include the varying editions of Shakespeare’s plays, and to consider that every Complete Works publication is not, in fact, complete. The existence of quarto texts makes clear an important process of dramatic evolution, particularly when dramatic works and their allocated genres shift between quarto and Folio versions. Such textual instability highlights the difficulties inherent in applying singular identities to dynamic works. In locating performativity at the core of dramatic works and emphasising the key role of female characters, this thesis brings performance to the fore and presents an alternative ‘lens of interpretation’ for readers, watchers, teachers and scholars of Shakespeare.
CitationMackenzie, A. F. (2015). Troubling women troubling genre: Shakespeare's unruly characters. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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