Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance

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Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance asks a central theoretical question in the study of drama: What is the relationship between the dramatic text and the meanings of performance? W.B. Worthen argues that the text cannot govern the force of its performance. Instead, the text becomes significant only as embodied in the changing conventions of its performance. Worthen explores this understanding of dramatic performativity by interrogating several contemporary sites of Shakespeare production. The book includes detailed discussions of recent films and stage productions, and sets Shakespeare performance alongside other works of contemporary drama and theatre.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] fine book, one that is certain to provide new avenues of exploration in performance studies generally and in their particular application to the force that is Shakespeare." Regina M. Buccola, Roosevelt University, Sixteenth Century Journal

" exceptionally graceful illustration of how a theoretical engagement with new media and old can be accomplished, treating them not as discrete phenomena but as aspects of a shared historical situation. [T]he special contribution of this book is its demonstration that film,, hypertext, and touristic stage production are not linked together because they all do Shakespeare but because they are themselves linked in a historical process that, in this global age, has become more obvious yet also more complex than ever." John Osburn, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Theatre Journal

"The most important book in performance criticism this year." Studies in English Literature

"Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance makes a crucial intervention in the rapidly evolving and inter-related fields of Shakespeare on stage, page, and screen (filmic and computer). What is most astounding about this monograph is the dexterity and sophistication with which it brings into a dialogue performance theory and textual theory, disciplines that in the past have too often, regrettably, shared little more than a nodding acquaintance. This is a major piece of scholarship that will shape for some time to come our critical engagement with Shakespearean performance." Shakespeare Studies

"This is the most significant contribution to the combined fields of Shakespeare and performance studies since Worthen's own Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance."
Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England

"One of the many strengths of Worthen's book is its remarkable breadth. While the announced topic is Shakespeare in performance, the book ranges all over the world of theatre...The range of reference in performance theory is no less impressive. All this makes for a very readable book, thoughtful, challenging, entertaining. This book is quite a performance." Text and Presentation David Bevington, University of Chicago

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521008006
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/24/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

W. B. Worthen is Professor and Chair of the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Idea of the Actor: Drama and the Ethics of Performance (1984), Modern Drama and the Rhetoric of Theater (1992), Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance (Cambridge, 1997), and of a wide range of articles on drama and performance in major journals.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: dramatic performativity and the force of performance; 1. Performing history; 2. Globe performativity; 3. Shakespearean geographies; 4. Cyber-performance.

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