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Reviewed by:
  • Shakespeare and the Mediterranean
  • Hardin Aasand
Tom Clayton, Susan Brock, and Vincente Forés, eds. Shakespeare and the Mediterranean. The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association. World Congress, Valencia, 2001. Newark, DE and Cranbury, NJ: University of Delaware Press/AUP, 2004. 468 pp. index. append. illus. $69.50. ISBN: 0–874–13816–7.

This collection (drawn from the World Congress in Valencia in 2001), like the Mediterranean itself, traverses borders and boundaries that cross nationalities, [End Page 740] ethnicities, and religious identities, interweaving plays, methodologies, and emphases in a richly woven tapestry. While the essays are not all of the same quality or weight, they do offer an expansive coverage of Shakespearean drama and the Mediterranean dimensions of his plays.

The editors' choices of thematic categories are not always successful in reflecting the essays' contents, the divisions proving as tenuous as the sea itself. The first division includes a broad sweep of subject matter, containing essays that concern staging practices, acting styles, and John Gielgud. Michael Coveney's essay celebrates Gielgud's life in the theatre from his earliest Old Vic successes to the digitized Prospero's Books. The concluding essay of this section is also a study of performance: Adrian Poole traces the respective successes of Tommaso Salvini's Othello and Henry Irving's Hamlet, noting that the ethnic biases of an English audience predisposed them to praise the passionate Othello of Salvini and the cerebral "northern" Hamlet of Irving.

Three essays by John Allen, John Astington, and Franklin Hildy deal respectively with the Spanish corral stages in performances of Calderon; Giorgio Strehler's self-conscious adaptation of Elizabethan stage practices for his Italian production of the Henry IV plays; and a painstaking analysis of the Corral de Comedias at Almagro. David Lindley uses the betrothal masque in The Tempest as a vehicle for examining modern theatrical choices that transform an elite masque genre into a "mini opera." Trevor Nunn's recent cinematic production of Twelfth Night receives close scrutiny by Ann Jennalie Cook, who considers the cast, set, and extratheatrical devices. Stephen Orgel's essay, "Shakespeare's Tribe," is particularly fine. Concentrating on Shylock's cultural origins in Merchant of Venice, Orgel's essay suggests that Shylock's otherness as Jew and merchant are complicit with an economy dependent on and supportive of his existence for its own sustainability.

The second section is devoted to "textualities," and the theme of thematic and linguistic porousness can be found in many of the essays, a theme given concrete form in Alexander Leggatt's trenchant analysis of physical walls that restrain and protect in Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies. Similar themes of violated boundaries are considered in Michael Neill's consideration of the shifting line between service and slavery that frustrates Othello's ability to sustain his Venetian otherness in a stable place, a similar conclusion reached by Charles Marowitz's overtly political essay, in which Othello and Shylock — as well as Colin Powell as a fixture of the Bush administration — are considered as "outsiders" whose fates are constructed and informed by societal definition and expectations. Gary Taylor's essay on Measure for Measure is a fascinating account of the bifurcated geopolitical voices in its 1604 Shakespearean version and the Middleton revisions of 1621.

Linguistic boundaries are discussed by Penelope Freedman (the emotional power of "you/thou" usage between lovers) and Ros King (the soundscape of stress and meter in Shakespeare's verse). Assorted topics are dealt with in the remaining essays: Jesús Tronch-Pérez's essay on the role of a "memory man" (memorión) in generating an extremely accurate version of Lope de Vega's La dama boba; Yves [End Page 741] Peyré's study of Homeric myths and motifs in Shakespeare's drama; Swapan Chakravorty's focus on the forest of Arden as a site of exile susceptible to metaphorical translation. Robert Ellrodt compares Montaigne's and Shakespeare's presentation of the "unalterableness" of their "self-consistency" in their respective essays and drama.

Many of the essays in the "Contextualities" section have a geographical focus, an attention to a place replete with iconic meaning. Jonathan Bate, drawing on Othello, The Winter's Tale...


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Archived 2009
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