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Title: Error in Shakespeare : Shakespeare in error
Author: Leonard, Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 5361 9106
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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Error is significant for Shakespeare because of its multiple, flexible meanings and its usefulness in his drama. In the early modern period it meant not only a ‘fault’ or ‘mistake’, but ‘wandering’. ‘Wandering’, through its conceptual relation with metaphor, plot and other devices, aligns error much more with the literary, which dilutes the negative connotations of mistake, and consequently error has the potential to become valuable rather than something to be corrected. Shakespeare’s drama constantly digresses and is full of complex characters who control and are controlled by error. Error is an ambiguous concept that enables language and action to become copious: figurative language becomes increasingly abstracted and wanders away from its point, or the number of errors a character encounters increases, as in The Comedy of Errors. The first chapter argues that error is problematically gendered, that women’s language is often represented as being in error despite being the defenders of the ‘mother tongue’, the guardians of the vernacular. The containment of women in this paradox is necessary for a sense of national identity, that women must pass on the unifying English. The second chapter argues that foreign language becomes English error on the early-modern stage. Shakespeare subverts this tendency, inviting in foreign language for the benefit of the play and, in the context of the history play, of the body politic. The third chapter argues that in The Comedy of Errors, textual indeterminacy and error increases the thematic error of the confusion of the twins. Error is not something to correct automatically without altering the meaning of the play. The fourth chapter argues that the setting of the wood and its wandering characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream licenses the error of figurative language that wanders away from straightforward speech. The fifth chapter argues that the expansive category of genre falls into error in Cymbeline. The genre turns irrevocably from romance to a satire of James VI and I’s vision of the union. What emerges from the analysis of these permutations of error is that, in Shakespeare’s hands, error is not just a literary device. Error is valuable linguistically, dramatically, politically and textually; in order to understand it, we must resist the ideology of standardisation that privileges what is ‘good’ and ‘correct’. Attending to Shakespearean error demonstrates the need to think beyond the paradigm of the right, and attend to the political implications of ‘wrongness’ and its creative literary employment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature