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Title: Shakespeare's tragic spaces : the poetics of place and space in Shakespearean tragedy
Author: Mhabak, Wasfie
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2012
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Abstract:
This thesis examines the significance of 'place' and 'space' in seven of Shakespeare's tragedies - Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus - through two inter-related approaches: on the one hand, by exploring how 'space' implants what might be labelled a spatial anxiety in Shakespeare's protagonists, an anxiety that complicates a tragic hero's response to a play's physical and psychological distinctiveness, and, on the other, by reading the spatial structure of each tragedy on geographical, historical, and political levels. This thesis thus tackles 'place' /'space' as a prominent agent in influencing the construction of the Shakespearean tragic hero who comes to be, this thesis argues, spatially destined. The Shakespearean tragic protagonists' relationships with 'space' /'place' in the plays will be shown to serve as a threshold to a network of issues, from questions of interiority and sexuality, gender and nationalism, political power and cultural hegemony to those of the tragic hero's relationship with self and others. Rather than remaining merely a passive container of a play's events, 'space' for Shakespeare becomes an active agent within the tragedies, adding to the tragic discourse of any play in key ways. When the spatial framework in Othello, for instance, moves from the wide scale of the city of Venice to the narrower space of the island of Cyprus before finally ending in the confines of a single bedchamber, such a spatial arrangement enhances the suffocating mental realm of the hero in the constrictive snare of jealousy. Shakespeare, by having the scenes of Hamlet restricted to the chambers of the court in Elsinore, emphasises the claustrophobic realm of Hamlet's 'distracted globe'. The movement of the characters from one locale to another in ancient Britain similarly intensifies the menacing realm of King Lear and cements the tragic sense of human vanity in the play. Such is the spatial machinery of Shakespearean tragedy, in which spatial organisation is not accidental to the plot of the play, but rather generated by it. Space, indeed, proves to be, in each Shakespearean tragedy addressed in this thesis, the blueprint which marks the nature and the tempo of events, the tragic hero's inward struggle, and the overall tragic sense of the play. Romeo and Juliet is thus structured around a network of public places imbued with social feuding and of private spaces in which privacy is denied and invaded, rendering the lovers not just 'star-' but also 'space-crossed' figures. In these terms, King Lear becomes a tragedy in which dislocation is equated with the loss of personal and national identity and relocation paralleled with selfhood and national belonging. Hamlet comes to be a play of utter confinement, be it conceptually through Hamlet's mental 'nutshell' of 'bad dreams', or materially in the close quarters of the King's court. Shakespeare invests in Macbeth both a spatial liminality, between the realms of witchcraft and reality, and a psychic liminality in Macbeth's restless fear and eventual tyranny. Likewise, in Antony and Cleopatra, Antony's spatial identity wavers between Roman and the Egyptian sensibilities just as the play's scenes sweep us geographically from Rome to Egypt and back again. By contrast, two approaches to the concept of the 'city' prevail in Coriolanus - again, conceptual and material - as shown by the hero and the various classes represented in Shakespeare's Republican Rome: both contribute influentially to the political struggle in the play. In short, space in Shakespearean tragedy signals the topographical equivalence both of a character's inward struggles and of a play's more exterior conflicts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.569246  DOI: Not available
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