Self-reflexivity in the Mirror of Theater: Metatheater in Five English Renaissance Plays


[[abstract]]This study explores the theatrical self-reflexivity in five English Renaissance plays in terms of metatheatrical critical perspective advocated by Lionel Abel, James L. Calderwood, Richard Hornby, and Judd D. Hubert, to name just a few. Though overwhelmed by the mimetic mission, some English Renaissance dramatic works endeavor to struggle against this bondage, and turn to themselves instead. They display unflagging excavation and disclosure of the dramatic art itself. Their self-conscious exploration of the nature and function of dramatic art gives us a chance to reconsider the dramatic medium. The plays I discuss in detail are Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello and Hamlet, and The Revenger’s Tragedy. In addition, some relevant contemporary plays are brought in for further comparisons. This study organizes its discussion in each chapter in accordance with some of the most important metatheatrical topics: role-playing, playwright-character, inset play and audience perception. Chapter One begins with a summary of the Renaissance critical views toward dramatic art to set up the historical framework for the discussion. Next, a survey of the metatheatrical criticism beginning around the 1960s is given to supply a condensed overview of the critical effort in metatheater. The second chapter explores the significance of role-playing in Hamlet and The Revenger’s Tragedy. Hamlet and Vindice are especially prone to role-playing, adopting role after role to cheat others. By exposing the excessive disguises and calculating manipulation of these chameleon-like figures, dramatists make manifest the pretense of these characters, and lay bare the fiction of the theatrical illusion. By extension, the illusive nature or the theatricality of life is implied. Through these characters’ metatheatrical sensitivity, playwrights could bring forth the dialectics of drama and life, illusion and reality, seeming and being, acting and doing illustrated in the mechanism of role-playing. The third chapter portrays the type of playwright-characters who dramatize roles for themselves or for others, create mini-plays or inset playlets to deceive others, and improvise action or scenes with any available resources. They conduct their action like dramatists. Faustus and Othello are playwright-characters, who tend to cast themselves in different roles and endeavor to be the authors of their own fate. Mephostophilis and Iago, however, are somewhat different. They tend to manipulate their fellow characters with carefully wrought illusion. Chapter Four delves into the treasure of plays within. Like many other Renaissance plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet play up the subject of theater and theatrical performance in their dramatic action with the mounting of inset plays. These plays within supply a very good opportunity for us to consider the nature of dramatic art, including the impersonation of the actor, the moral function of drama, and the analogy of theatrum mundi. The fifth chapter deals with the dramatic mechanism of audience perception: engagement and detachment. Asides and soliloquies are two common devices that playwrights use to engage their audience. In contrast, some devices, including the use of dramatic imagery, plot repetition and role-playing, are applied to encourage detachment for the benefit of increasing reflection on the meaning of the play. Finally, the predominance of self-reflexivity and self-consciousness in the drama I have examined highlights its self-analysis. Metatheatrical drama is a mirror that keeps reflecting itself and defines itself as a medium where illusion, imagination, reality and truth may meet and interact. In addition, it is a mirror through which we, as audience or readers, can see our gaze upon the theater and our reflection upon the theater─the return of the gaze.[[abstract]]本研究探討後設戲劇所呈現的自我反身性,部份英國文藝復興劇作企圖擺脫模擬論的侷限,多方挖掘、不斷探究戲劇藝術本身的性質與可能,開展出戲劇研究的其他空間。本論文採用亞伯(Lionel Abel)、凱德武(James L. Calderwood)、侯恩比(Richard Hornby)與修伯(Judd D. Hubert)等學者所提出的後設劇場批評觀點來閱讀下列五部劇作:馬羅(Christopher Marlowe)的《浮士德》(Doctor Faustus)、莎士比亞(William Shakespeare)的《仲夏夜之夢》(A Midsummer Night’s Dream)、《奧賽羅》(Othello)及《哈姆雷》(Hamlet)與《復仇者悲劇》(The Revenger’s Tragedy) ;亦將旁及同時期其他劇作,以便對相關議題有更完整的討論。本論文以議題為導向,討論的主題包括角色扮演(role-playing)、劇作家似的劇中人物(playwright-character)、戲中戲(inset play)、觀眾反應(audience perception)。 第一章介紹文藝復興時期對戲劇的看法與理論,並簡要描述一九六0年以降後設劇場評論的主要論點。 第二章探討《哈姆雷》與《復仇者悲劇》兩部作品中戲劇人物的角色扮演。他們有如變色龍般,不斷轉換角色或偽裝以欺騙對手,劇作家更藉此揭示戲劇人物的假裝與戲劇的幻相。 第三章剖析劇作家似的劇中人物,如梅斐士多佛立(Mephostophilis)、伊亞哥(Iago)等人。他們如同劇作家般,不但為自己也為他人塑造角色、設計戲中戲欺騙敵人、甚至就地取材即興演出。 第四章討論戲中戲。《哈姆雷》與《仲夏夜之夢》將戲劇演出與劇場藝術融入劇情當中,深入探究戲劇的各個層面,諸如演員的演出、戲劇的道德功能、人生與戲的關係。 第五章則研究觀眾看戲的心理:既投入又疏離。劇作家有時利用旁白或獨白讓觀眾認同劇中人物;有時又運用一些後設手法使觀眾抽離戲劇幻相,進而思考戲劇意涵。 後設劇場不斷的自我反省,透過自我反射(self-reflexivity)的手法,自我分析,舉起一面鏡子映照自我,界定戲劇作為虛幻、想像、現實與真實可以彼此相遇或產生糾葛的空間。它同時也映照出觀眾/讀者對戲劇的凝視與自我反思的神態,呈現了戲劇的回視(return of the gaze)

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