Thinking About Shakespeare
Explores the challenges of maintaining bonds, living up to ideals, and fulfilling desire in Shakespeare's plays
In Thinking About Shakespeare, Kay Stockholder reveals the rich inner lives of some of Shakespeare's most enigmatic characters and the ways in which their emotions and actions shape and are shaped by the social and political world around them. In addressing all genres in the Shakespeare canon, the authors explore the possibility of people being constant to each other in many different kinds of relationships: those of lovers, kings and subjects, friends, and business partners. While some bonds are irrevocably broken, many are reaffirmed. In all cases, the authors offer insight into what drives Shakespeare's characters to do what they do, what draws them together or pulls them apart, and the extent to which bonds can ever be eternal. Ultimately, the most durable bond may be between the playwright and the audience, whereby the playwright pleases and the audience approves.
The book takes an in-depth look at a dozen of The Bard's best-loved works, including: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Romeo and Juliet; The Merchant of Venice; Richard II; Henry IV, Part I; Hamlet; Troilus and Cressida; Othello; Macbeth; King Lear; Antony and Cleopatra; and The Tempest. It also provides an epilogue titled: Prospero and Shakespeare.
- Written in a style accessible for all levels
- Discusses 12 plays, making it a comprehensive study of Shakespeare's work
- Covers every genre of The Bard's work, giving readers a full sense of Shakespeare's art/thought over the course of his oeuvre
- Provides a solid overall sense of each play and the major characters/plot lines in them
Providing new and sometimes unconventional and provocative ways to think about characters that have had a long critical heritage, Thinking About Shakespeare is an enlightening read that is perfect for scholars, and ideal for any level of student studying one of history's greatest storytellers.
KAY STOCKHOLDER, 1928-98, was born in Brooklyn. She studied English Literature receiving her BA from Hunter College (1950), an MA from Columbia University in New York (1952), and her PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle (1964) where she studied under Arnold Stein. After teaching for two years at the University of Ghana from 1964-66, she spent the next 30 years as a full-time Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada from the mid 60s through 1995. In 1991 she became active in the BC Civil Liberties Association of which she was elected president in 1995, stepping down a few months before her death. Throughout these years she pursued a passionate interest in psychoanalytic theory and the work of Shakespeare. Her book Dream Works, in which the protagonists of Shakespeare's plays are assumed to be 'analogous to the figures that we identify as ourselves when we awake from dreaming' was published by the University of Toronto Press in 1987.
Revision and updating of the work was undertaken by AMY SCOTT who completed her PhD at McGill University in 2010 under the supervision of Paul Yachnin. Her dissertation, 'Finding Faith between Infidelities: Historiography as Mourning in Shakespeare,' was awarded the McGill Arts Insights Dissertation Award in 2010 (given to the best dissertation in the Faculty of Arts). She is currently preparing a monograph based on her dissertation, whilst teaching at Algonquin College, Ottawa.
Thinking About Shakespeare
This book is about William Shakespeare. For some people, Shakespeare's name itself is enough to arouse anxiety. The name of the man who lived his life as a commercial playwright, theatrical promoter, and popular entertainer now seems to stand for a profound understanding of universal human truths, a language poeticized, shadowy, and obscure, and something called "greatness" (and sometimes something called "genius," which is worse). For many modems, Shakespeare is the ogre in the castle of highbrow Western culture.
This book, left completed by Kay Stockholder at her death, is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare because, while Kay loved the dramatist, she never idolized him, and she never feared him. You might say she lived with him for a lifetime, and of course there's nothing like long-term cohabitation to cure us of false idealizations and groundless fears. That's not to say that her familiarity with Shakespeare bred contempt. In all matters, Kay was a very affectionate person and a good friend to her intimates. I knew her well. She was keen to understand me in a deep way-she was a probing analyst of human frailty and complexity-but she also liked to see the good rather than the bad in those she held dear.
This book offers the fruits of a long love and penetrating study of Shakespeare's art. Along with its fearlessness, this book offers a series of detailed accounts of plays-from A Midsummer Night's Dream to Hamlet to The Tempest-within a broad understanding of Shakespeare as a particular person living in a particular social situation.
Kay also brings forward a bold theory about what is central to Shakespeare's dramatic art. By alternating between close-up analyses of imagery, language, character, source material, and dramatic and thematic structure on the one side and a wide-angle discussion of Shakespeare's life and work on the other, this book provides something like a whole picture of one of the most enduring figures in Western culture.
What exactly is the source of this book's overall understanding of Shakespeare? It's important to know that Kay was a psychoanalytic critic, a literary analyst who read Shakespeare's characters as embodiments of the patterns of feeling and behavior described by Freud and other psychoanalytic thinkers. Antony, the doomed Roman soldier and leader of Antony and Cleopatra, is caught between his fear of losing his individuality to an engulfing feminine or maternal principle (represented, of course, by Egypt's queen) or losing it to the hypermasculinity of Roman "civilization." The terrible irony is that, while Antony thinks of "Egypt" and "Rome" as external threats to his identity, which he must conquer on behalf of his own well-being, they are in fact integral to his selfhood. That means that when he at last defeats them, he also destroys himself.
This book develops psychoanalytic interpretations of Shakespeare's characters, from Bottom to Richard II to Hamlet to lago and Othello-each interpretation alert to the particular dramatic context of the individual character's story. But the book's understanding of the psychic, sexual, and emotional lives of Shakespeare's characters is not limited to the dynamics of family life or the internal structure of the personality. Rather, the book combines the psychological with the social, integrating and indeed demonstrating the inseparability of the internal world of the person and the life of the person in society.
Here it is helpful to know that Kay was always involved in politics, an involvement that culminated with her becoming president of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in the years from her retirement from full-time teaching up to her death. The integrated socio-psychological understanding of characters like Antony (who, after all, is destroyed by a socially specific honor system as well as by an infan