Shakespeare and Brecht : a study of dialect structures in Shakespearean drama and their influence on Brecht's theatre and dramatic theory
This thesis explores aspects of Brecht's adaptations of Shakespeare's plots and rhetoric while focusing particularly on matters of structural influence. Both authors use metafictional references in their plays to foreground a stylised artificiality, thereby pointing to the interaction of social and literary semiotics. These 'alienating' strategies expose the construction and the limitations of ideologies presented in a play, demanding recognition of the dialectical processes thus engaged. The study of Brecht's theory and practice against the background of Shakespeare's drama produces new insight into Brecht's works; similarly, Shakespeare's plays viewed against the background of Brecht's theatre and dramatic theory provide new insight into Shakespeare's literary practice. Both authors are seen to operate within and against their societies' discursive limitations in ways which are best understood through the intertextual connections proposed here. A revaluation of Brecht's attitude to Shakespeare in the context of his criticism of the orthodox theatre foregrounds the influence of Shakespearean dramaturgy on Brecht's dramatic theory. The imaginative or aesthetic dialectic structures of Shakespearean drama, particularly in Richard II, Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra, are as important to Brecht's concept of a dialectical drama as the historical-material dialectic of Hegel and Marx. The development of Brecht's dialectic approach and Shakespeare's influence upon it are illustrated here with reference to Baal and The Life of Galileo. Man equals Man is used to link pre- and post-Marxist Brecht in order to explicate Brecht's sharpening of his already dialectical structure. Brecht's tendency polemically to privilege a Marxist discourse in order to criticise the status quo, as in his rewriting of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, undermines the flexible dialectic of Shakespearean drama; but by constructing his plays on a Shakespearean model which introduces the audience to an interrogative critical practice, Brecht undercuts the overt didacticism present in his plays.