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600Comparative Drama Drama makes an original and deeply thoughtful contribution by establishing a link between dramatic and political representation. CYNTHIA MARSHALL Rhodes College Richard Hillman. Self-Speaking in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama: Subjectivity, Discourse, and the Stage. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. Pp. ? + 300. $55.00 Several books published in the mid-eighties, notably Francis Barker 's The Tremulous Private Body: Essays in Subjection (1984) and Catherine Belsey's The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (1985), initiated what has become a vigorous debate within early modern English studies: the nature ofthe early modern subject , as the titles would indicate, and even its existence. Self-Speaking in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama represents Richard Hillman 's attempt to enter into this debate. His is an ambitious project. Hillman, employing a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective—which he wishes to reintroduce into a discussion dominated in the late eighties and early nineties by materialists and new historicists—wants to focus on recurrent mirror images in plays spanning from the medieval cycle plays through the 1620s—as well as depictions of readers and books— and explain within this imagistic frame the development of the soliloquy . Not surprisingly, given the terms of this debate and his Lacanian perspective, Hillman's focus is mostly on tragedies. After a lengthy introduction , he proceeds more or less historically and covers a number ofearly plays, including Everyman, in the first chapters. Chapter 2 takes up sixteenth-century treatises—Foxe's Acts and Monuments and The Mirror for Magistrates—as well as Gorboduc, Johan Johan, and, of course, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. Chapter 4 analyzes Kyd's Spanish Tragedy and other Elizabethan revenge tragedies, while chapter 5 focuses primarily on the tragedies by Middleton and Webster. Chapters 6 and 7 regard issues of genre, subjectivity in a comic and tragicomic mode, and gender. But this brief overview does not do the range of Hillman's study justice; each chapter invariably includes references or lengthier analyses of less well-known plays—Chapman's The Widow's Tears, for example—while returning several times to Hamlet. In fact, the major strength of the book lies in its range of subjects and Hillman's ability to see intertextual connections between them and a variety of other early modern works. Images of female suffering in medieval dramatizations of Mary and Mary Magdalen inform Chaucer's Criseyde and Henryson's Cresseid and, in a later chapter, become sources for Shakespeare. The importance of Prospero's books in The Tempest has resonances in Faustus and Montaigne's Essais, as others Reviews60 1 have noted, but Hillman adds to this list Ovid's Metamorphoses. Taking Stephen Greenblatt's influential essay "Fiction and Friction" as a starting point, Hillman constructs a fascinating reading oí Love's Labour's Lost which emphasizes the play's attention to hands and what the female characters might be doing with them. Returning to Hamlet and Montaigne to close the book, he situates the play between the Essais' chapter "Of the Affection of Fathers to their Children" and Marie de Gournay's Preface, written for the 1595 edition. However, Hillman's attentiveness to the intertextual connection is too frequently the reader's only reward for following a sometimes nearly impenetrable series of arguments. An example: commenting on Hieronimo's role as both author and actor in The Spanish Tragedy, particularly in the play's last play-within-the-play where the revenge is enacted , Hillman states: Such double signifying helps to unfold a more fundamental split in Hieronimo 's discourse—to the point where, to adapt Shoshona Feldman's application of speech-act theory, the gap between the sujet de I 'enunciation and the sujet de l 'énonce widens into the "breach in knowledge (the break in the constat ée)" from which "the act takes its performativepower" (96). According to Lacan's theory of speech in psychosis (that is, psychosis in speech), as summarized by Ragland-Sullivan, "A delusional psychotic discourse implicitly alludes to the Other (A) as a mechanical god of power and destruction" because "the existential subject of synchronic relations (Je) disappears. The primordial ego has substituted itself forye and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 600-602
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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