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  • City/Stage/Globe: Performance and Space in Shakespeare’s London
  • Ric Knowles
City/Stage/Globe: Performance and Space in Shakespeare’s London. By D. J. Hopkins. Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory Series. New York: Routledge, 2007; pp. 250. $100.00 cloth.

D.J. Hopkins’s City/Stage/Globe traces the mutually constitutive nature of the three terms of its title through an evolutionary shift in the understanding of London’s urban space in what Hopkins calls the “postmedieval” period, roughly coinciding with the life of Shakespeare. The book uses an interdisciplinary methodology to examine the ways in which London as urban space underwent a reconceptualization as it moved from medieval town to early modern city, one that paved the way for its eventual physical reconstruction by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 2 September 1666.

The shift that Hopkins charts is from performance to representation, from a medieval understanding of pedestrian space to the increasing abstraction, visualization, and objectification of the early modern [End Page 492] city. The book’s theoretical frame draws on an intersection of performance studies, cultural geography, and cartographic theory, underscored by the new-historicist principle that any work is both culturally produced and culturally productive. But its major theoretical props are Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life and the work of Robert Weimann, especially Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice. Hopkins provides a corrective to de Certeau’s historicization and an extension of Weimann’s theorization of the relationships between text and performance (also drawing on the work of W. B. Worthen), and he does both through the close consideration of postmedieval maps, “map images” (views of London), itineraries, royal entries, plays, and masques, all carefully situated within the social and historical contexts from which they emerged and into which they intervened.

He begins with the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I, in which the monarch is perched, not, he argues, on a map of England as has frequently been assumed, but on the globe as world stage. He uses this image to introduce a convergence of mapping and performance that is at the methodological heart of his study and constitutes its major contribution. But in many ways, the real poles of his analysis are the royal entries into London of Elizabeth (in 1549) and James (in 1604). Both blend medieval and early modern understandings of urban space, but taken together, mark something of a sea change that transcends the personalities and politics of the individual monarchs. Hopkins contrasts Elizabeth’s role as a fully participating performer in her entry, making excursions into the platea—the contestable, nonrepresentational space of the public stage, as Weimann conceives it—with James’s reluctant participation, his performed boredom and withdrawal, his attempt to occupy a fixed locus of power, and his positioning of himself above the field of the represented rather than enacted city. Hopkins suggests in a footnote that the logical extension of this shift is Charles I’s cancellation of his royal entry altogether, “the first fully early modern approach to these matters” (196).

Hopkins extends his cartographic analysis of performance to two plays by Shakespeare, where his analysis circulates more closely around a sophisticated reading of locus and platea as representational and performative (or presentational) spaces. Citing a question from Coriolanus that embodies the tensions the book stages—“what is the city but the people?”—Hopkins documents Julius Caesar’s and Coriolanus’s representations of “‘the theatrical city’ as an institution in decline” (156). He makes much of the opening of Caesar as a staging of the foreclosure of platea by locus, the performed city (postmedieval London) by the represented one (pre-imperial Rome), when the commoners (of Rome, of London) are reprimanded by Marullus for their holiday idleness and “the transition from the lifeworld of the London playhouse to the abstract cityspace of Shakespeare’s representation” is enacted (165). The transition is completed by Coriolanus, who remains James-like in “his own private locus” and addresses the city in the abstract rather than either its people or the people in the audience (178).

Hopkins completes his analysis of dramatic London with a brief account of the Jacobean masque...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 492-494
Launched on MUSE
2009-11-15
Open Access
No
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