Shakespeare and Carnival: After Bakhtin
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This collection of essays reassesses a range of Shakespeare's plays in relation to carnivalesque theory. The plays discussed include: "Henry IV"; "Romeo and Juliet"; "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; "The Merry Wives of Windsor"; "Hamlet"; "Measure For Measure"; "The Winter's Tale"; and "Henry VIII". Contributors re-historicize the carnivalesque in different ways, offering both a developed application, or critique of, Bakhtin's thought.
'There is no concept more productive in Shakespeare studies than Carnival, yet no one more controversial than Mikhail Bakhtin, the critic who taught Shakespeareans to apply it. Shakespeare and Carnival spans this contradiction by reading the plays both "After Bakhtin" and within ongoing debate about early modern violence. So the essays in this collection find Carnival patterns not only in surprising places - from the Capulets' tomb to the Cardinal's palace - but in startling cultural contexts. Here Jack Cade materialises as the actor Will Kemp; Falstaff arises as a grotesque Puritan; and Paulina emerges as a Shrovetide jester. This is a volume, then, that reminds us of Bakhtin's affinity to Carl Orff - in idealising the tub-thumping "volk" - but also his lasting relevance to Brueghel, Rabelais and Shakespeare. It will be an indispensable guide whether Shakespearean Carnival is studied for its revellers or its scapegoats.'
- Richard Wilson, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Lancaster University
play which deals with its enforced disappearance at the hands of a determined Prince Hal. And it is Prince Hal who throughout the two plays stresses mockingly the ‘grotesque’ nature of that which is to be made to disappear. When he ﬁnally becomes king, of course, he completes this distancing mockery by banishing the bearer of the ‘grotesque body’ from his presence altogether, on pain of death. He also publicly makes his own subjective independence from Falstaff the very condition for the rule of
notoriously constructs for Dora,21 with a metaphorical and offensive ‘lowness’ worthy of Falstaff himself.) Page and his wife share a resistance to aristocratic proﬂigacy trying to break into their ordered domesticity. Ultimately, this is providentially resolved in the case of Fenton. But Falstaff’s conﬂation of monetary and sexual desire is something else. It threatens the very possibility of domestic order. Mistress Page’s anger at his monstrous body, whether it is as external as she claims or
dull ass will not mend his pace with beating. And when you are ask’d this question next, say ‘A gravemaker’; the houses he makes lasts till doomsday. (5.1.37–59) The second gravedigger, earlier addressed as ‘my spade’, is now comforted that he need no longer ‘cudgel [his] brains’ to excavate an answer. As he encounters these fundamental questions, the answerless worker learns that his riddling and gravedigging replicate the labours of Adam. Bafﬂed at ﬁrst and then educated by playing, the clown
grotesque freedom granted the gravedigger by his intimate knowledge of death, Hamlet holds the skull and speaks to it, domesticating death differently than he did when he taunted the midnight ghost as an ‘old mole’ (1.5.162). Now a daylight grave opens to belch up its bones and a gravedigger now serves as Hamlet’s ludic guide to the underworld. The circularity and carnivalesque logic of the clown reiterates Hamlet’s words to refresh language and meaning in a very different fashion than did the
elements, such as the social criticism voiced, are allowed a certain power to resist this clariﬁcation. The essential question to address is suggestively formulated in Bakhtin’s development of the term ‘parodic stylization’. He points SAC-02 (13-35) 16 1/14/98 1:46 PM Page 16 Stephen Longstaffe out that in this kind of representation, ‘the intentions of the representing discourse are at odds with the intentions of the represented discourse’, the aim being ‘to destroy the represented