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The place of Shakespeare : performing King Lear and The tempest in an endangered world

By David W. Hartwig

Abstract

This thesis brings ecocriticism to Shakespearean performance through an examination of\ud adapted performance worlds. Studying cinematic and theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s\ud King Lear and The Tempest, it develops a strategy of ecopoetic analysis: a critical approach to\ud the creation of worlds in the process of adapting a play for performance. This work developed\ud out of my own environmentalism and experience in performing Shakespeare’s works. My goal\ud is to develop a critical strategy for examining performance that utilises the tools of ecological\ud criticism and furthers the fields of performance studies and ecocriticism.\ud Ecocriticism modifies the scientific analyses performed by ecologists for looking at\ud works of art. Beginning with the principal that everything is connected to everything else,\ud ecocritics focus on the interactions between elements of a work, the interactions between the\ud work and the world at large, and between the work and its audience. I examine the cultural\ud context of a work, other landmark works with which it engages intertextually, and the reactions\ud of original audience members, especially journalistic and academic reviewers, in order to\ud ascertain how an individual production adapts a Shakespearean play to a new environment.\ud I found in my analyses that Shakespeare’s works are particularly fertile ground for an\ud ecopoetic analysis. Directors, in their efforts to keep his work relevant to a modern audience,\ud frequently adapt and alter the worlds of Shakespeare’s plays in their productions. My ecopoetic\ud approach to these productions reveals the ways in which the performances engage their audience,\ud providing a better understanding of how to increase participatory spectatorship. I also found that\ud this approach reveals underlying engagements between individual productions and the culture\ud out of which they grew, and that the construction of performance environments is tied to cultural\ud conceptions of the natural world. Finally, I discovered that Shakespeare’s works are an\ud international language for performance, with adapters around the world experimenting with his\ud plays in order to further the effectiveness of theatrical and cinematic production. As such, they\ud are a logical place in which to formulate a new method of performance criticism, one which\ud engages the world of the performance, the context of the production, and the audience that\ud experiences the performance world.\ud This thesis confronts numerous difficulties, including the fact that ecocriticism does not\ud provide a critical apparatus as such, but is a politically-inspired way of viewing works. As such,\ud I develop a more rigourous method of analysis, applying the tools of ecological science\ud (interconnectedness, ecosystems, and adaptation), and the ethos of a modified phenomenology of\ud performance criticism, to the worlds of performances. The crucial confrontation in my work is\ud between nature and culture. I argue that the two are mutually constructing, and that performance\ud occupies a place in which the two meet and interact and is thus the ideal ecosystem in which to\ud investigate the interactions between culture and nature. Our world is endangered, the effects of\ud global climate change and pollution are potentially catastrophic for us all. The issues that we\ud face, the relationship between our human culture and our natural world, are dramatised in the\ud works that I examine. The ecopoetic model of analysis that I develop can be applied to a greater\ud variety of performance works, and this critical methodology is paramount for understanding the\ud world and our place within it

Topics: PN1993, PN2000, PR
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3909

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