The adaptation of Shakespearean tragedy in twentieth-century English drama

O'Connor, Marion Frances


O'Connor, Marion Frances (1979) The adaptation of Shakespearean tragedy in twentieth-century English drama.

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Chapter I of this thesis surveys the extensive but obscure field of Shakespearean adaptations written in English in this century. Adaptations are categorised according to the various strategies by which adaptors have generated new dramatic texts out of Shakespearean ones, and changes in the popularity of these strategies are noted. Attempting both to account for these changes and also to explain the dearth of interpretative intelligence and theatrical imagination in most British adaptations until recent years,subsequent parts of the chapter situate them in a conjunction of popularised critical assumptions (increasingly mediated through Shakespearean production) with theatrical circumstances.

Subsequent chapters examine conceptual and technical problems particular to adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies. Centring discussion on adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, Chapter II looks first at, a pair of plays which attempted to realise abstract models of tragic action, then at a group of later plays which either abandoned tragedy for theatricality or produced pathos by non-verbal means, and finally at three very recent plays which, pursuing a Shakespearean tragic plot with some precision, either rejected or fumbled tragic action. The first part of Chapter III suggests that early twentieth-century adaptations of Hamlet were bound in by that character of Hamlet which A.C. Bradley constructed at the centre of Shakespeare's text, and contrasts them with French adaptations of Hamlet in the tradition of Jules Laforgue. Three groups of English-language adaptations since ca. 1939 adjust, eventually discard, the critical construction of the title figure of Shakespeare's play as an inevitably tragic and universally applicable image of human consciousness. One recent adaptation, addressing audience assumptions about the play Hamlet rather than Prince Hamlet, was more successful in displacing that image. Chapter IV explores the problems of dramatic language, both visual and verbal, which are discernible in adaptations of King Lear. It points to the double jeopardy of Shakespearean adaptors who understood tragedy as the representation of internal conflict and adhered to naturalistic conventions of speech and scene. It then analyses the exact alignment, in a recent adaptation which was not bound by either of these constrictions, of both languages with a thesis at the centre of the play. It argues that the adaptor's point was not taken because his languages were private ones and suggests that such skilled solipsism may be as near an approximation of Shakespearean tragic language as is possible in contemporary adaptations.

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Item TypeThesis (Doctoral)
TitleThe adaptation of Shakespearean tragedy in twentieth-century English drama
AuthorsO'Connor, Marion Frances
Uncontrolled KeywordsEnglish Literature; Theater; Language, Literature And Linguistics; Communication And The Arts; Adaptation; Century; Drama; English; Shakespeare, William; Shakespearean; Shakespeare, William; Tragedy; Twentieth


Deposited by () on 31-Jan-2017 in Royal Holloway Research Online.Last modified on 06-Feb-2017


Digitised in partnership with ProQuest, 2015-2016. Institution: University of London, Bedford College (United Kingdom).