Dollimore, Jonathan (1985)
Radical Tragedy - Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries [Published Work].
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PART I: Literary criticism in the twentieth century has sometimes shown that Jacobean drama challenged religious orthodoxy. The aim of this thesis is to show that this challenge was bound up with other, equally subversive concerns: a critique of ideology and a struggle to demystify political and power relations. In the tragedy here described as radical, power is identified in its complex manifestations and relations, and in its equally complex ideological misrepresentations. This section concludes with a study of three plays which exemplify this radicalism: Marston's Antonio plays and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
PART II: The sceptical interrogation of providentialist belief finds expression in structuralist disjunction rather than teleological development, realist rather than idealist mimesis. These themes are explored in relation to twentieth century and then Renaissance literary theory, theological controversy in the Elizabethan and Jacobean period, and then through analyses of Dr. Faustus, Mustapha, Sejanus and The Revenger's Tragedy.
PART III. In undermining the purposive and teleologically integrated universe envisioned by providentialists, these playwrights necessarily subverted its corollary: the unitary human subject harmoniously positioned at the centre of the cosmic design. Hence the Jacobean anti-hero: malcontented, dispossessed, satirical and vengeful; at once the agent and victim of social corruption, condemning yet simultaneously contaminated by it; made up of inconsistencies and contradictions which, because they cannot be understood in terms of individuality alone, constantly pressure attention outwards to the conditions of the protagonist'ssocial existence. The Jacobean malcontent is a decentred subject, the bearer of a subjectivity which is not the antithesis of social process but its focus, in particular the focus of political, social and ideological contradictions. Plays analysed in this section are Bussy D'Ambois, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus and The White Devil.
PART IV. This section of the thesis makes explicit the materialist theory on which it draws---including that of Marx, Brecht, and Foucault---and seeks to contest the dominant tradition of idealism in literary erticism, especially its misrepresenation of subjectivity and social process in the early seventeenth century.
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Institution: University of London, Bedford College (United Kingdom).