Politics, Power and Spectacle in Shakespeare
City: New Delhi
Abstr. due: 15.10.2018
Dates: 07.03.18 — 08.03.18
Organizing comittee e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organizers: Shakespeare Society of India
Shakespeare’s plays were written hardly fifty years before the English Civil War. Tudor monarchs had somewhat consolidated the monarch’s power but the gentry and Parliament were becoming increasingly assertive. Social unrest and riots were common. Religious polarisation made Catholics appear like foreign agents and Puritans as potential radicals. As coloniser England faced problems in asserting its rule in Ireland. To maintain and legitimise its power the monarchy used not only force but also cultural and ideological means. Rulers were portrayed as ‘wedded to England,’ ‘Father to the Nation’ or hedged by the divine right of kings. Monarchs deployed pageantry, masques and spectacle on the one hand, and spies, surveillance and punishment on the other. The period was a peak time for conspiracies and charges of treason punished with executions and torture. Clearly the head that wore the crown felt much uneasiness. The Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre puts political issues literally centre-stage. Shakespeare’s history plays helped redefine the monarchy and nation; they created a sense of patriotism and nationhood and equally depicted disaffection and rebellion. Presenting kings on stage both affirmed and put into question their royal authority: are kings merely actors? Shakespeare’s tragedies analyse questions of kingship and power and the Roman plays explore the forces that determine the course of history and politics. Women often seem marginalised or disruptive in these plays. Are they more powerful in the comedies where the presence of dukes and rulers ensures that questions of power do not disappear? Suggestions for paper topics are as follows but are not confined to these alone:
• How is power gained and legitimised?
• Power, kingship and theatrical spectacle
• Power and masculinity; women and political power, agents or victims?
• Master and man: changing concepts of service and duty
• Shakespeare and political theories of the time, Machiavellian realpolitik, homilies, King James etc.
• Commons and rebels: social conditions as reflected in Shakespeare’s plays
• The political dimensions of the pastoral
• The politics in Shakespeare’s comedies and romances
• Personal relations and the pursuit of power
• The role of theatre in constructing the idea of a nation
• Shakespeare and political issues today
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