Dependent Stages: Knowing in Shakespeare (NeMLA 2020)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
John F. Maune / NeMLA
contact email: 

A playwright has to build their story within their allotted two hours of stage traffic. We are taken on a guided ride from which we glimpse what the playwright chooses, forming our layers of knowledge through which we are manipulated. Often we are privy to the internal thoughts of a character which contrast with their public utterances: e.g., Rosalind/Ganymede, Angelo, or Richard III. Our prescient view makes Macduff's seemingly banal inquiry about his wife and children emotive fire. Our own knowing is challenged just by taking in a play as we know it is not real, yet we embrace the illusion. The pathos of Edgar assisting in his father's suicide is palpable, but when Gloucester "jumps" from a cliff we doubly know as not real, it is mind boggling that we can still experience free fall. What fools these mortals be. Some action takes place out of our view offstage and we learn via reported speech, or we hear of events that predate the action of the play itself. How many children had lady Macbeth? Though the question was tongue in cheek, withheld or hinted at information can be—often by design—intriguing. The playwright holds dominion over the play's makeup, but each audience member brings their own experiential baggage into the theater—into [the] play. For example, London audiences in Shakespeare's time would all know that England's resounding triumph in Agincourt would be, like many of the combatants, short-lived. Hal's moving Saint Crispin speech could be taken as wryly laughable with such foreshadowing. Indeed, all words are aired in context and refracted according to whoever hears them: interpretive agency.

This panel seeks to examine the ramifications of a wide range of channels, machinations, or milieus that played/plays on the creation, delivery, or perception of or within Shakespeare's plays. It will be part of NeMLA 2020, the 51st Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association which will be held March 5-8, 2020, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Please submit abstract proposals of no more than 250 words by September 30, 2019, using the NeMLA link: