Shakespeare Jahrbuch 2016

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Shakespeare’s Heroes and Heroines

 “Considering the pleasure we gain from heroes and the tragic, we have to go beyond  empathizing with the hero Marcius in order to achieve an even richer pleasure”, Bertolt Brecht wrote in his commentary to his adaptation of Coriolanus (1951/52). His 1964 production at Berliner Ensemble offered a reinterpretation of the “Tragedy of Coriolanus” as the “Tragedy of Rome”. In the aftermath of the Second World War, heroes appeared obsolete, but current research suggests a new interest in heroism as Barbara Korte states in her survey of conceptualizations of the heroic in Shakespeare’s plays. The essays collected in this volume investigate the multilayered facets of this topic. Patrick Gray discusses Brutus in Julius Caesar as caught in-between the tensions of Stoicism and proto-Christian ideals. Focusing on the character of Celia in As You Like It, Elizabeth Mazzola is concerned with the agency of Shakespeare’s heroines. Andrew James Johnston analyzes concepts of heroic temporality in Shakespeare’s references to Robin Hood. Christopher Wilson’s essay focuses on the relationship between music and heroism – in Shakespeare’s Othello and the Verdi-Boito opera. Doris Kolesch asks “How to Play Othello” and sheds a critical light on the representation of black heroes on German stages against the backdrop of recent blackfacing debates. Richard Wilson reconstructs Shakespeare scholar Frances Yates’s search for a new mode of civil heroism, particularly in the wake of World War I. The last two contributions further illustrate how Shakespeare and his plays have been used to critique martial discourses of heroism: Paul Franssen discusses the construction of Shakespeare as peacemaker during the tercentenary festivities in 1916. Zeno Ackermann illuminates anti-heroic rhetoric in Troilus and Cressida and the topos of the play’s ‘modernity’ in the “century of war”.

Sabine Schülting