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date: 24 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the history of the artistic criticism—via retelling—of Shakespearean tragedy, beginning with Dryden and continuing throughout the works of, among others, Edward Bond, Akira Kurosawa, and Jane Smiley. Given Shakespeare’s cultural authority, subjecting his work to revision risks derision or dismissal; the act of reworking self-consciously encounters resistance from a collective predisposed to view Shakespeare as sacrosanct. In “reworking” Shakespeare’s tragic narrative, then, artists from disparate cultures and eras, often operating in different modes, are forced to confront the contemporary and local nature of tragedy and the degree to which Shakespeare either influences or suppresses that nature. This struggle against the cultural absolute of Shakespeare reflects the struggle with the cosmic absolute within tragedy itself, rendering the reworking an attempt to undo the tragic dynamic created between the contemporary author and the legacy of Shakespeare.

Keywords: Tragedy, Revision, Reworking, Dryden, Bond, Kurosawa, Smiley, Ran, Lear, A Thousand Acres

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