Shakespeare Jahrbuch 2017

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“Shakespeare’s ‘Green Worlds’”

“Are not these woods / More free from perils than the envious court?”, Duke Senior asks at the beginning of the second act of As You Like It. But appearances are deceptive and the ‘Forest of Ardenne’ does not provide a pastoral utopia beyond violence and danger. Instead, Shakespeare’s “green worlds” turn out to be complex spaces, which lend themselves to negotiations of philosophical questions as well as social, political and economic conflicts. King Lear, whose epistemological and aesthetic implications are explored in Christopher Pye’s article, probably offers the most radical rupture with pastoral or biblical notions of the world as a garden. The contributions by Felix Sprang and Stefan Schneckenburger are concerned with Shakespeare’s flora. Referring, among others, to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Sprang traces early modern proto-taxonomical thought and its implications for human-plant analogies. Schneckenburger also deals with contemporary botanical knowledge and considers the symbolic meaning of plants in King Lear. The next two contributions discuss Shakespeare’s plays from the perspective of more recent critical theories (Ecocriticism, Actor-Network-Theory) and the debates on the anthropocene. Todd Andrew Borlik’s reading of 1 Henry IV explores the interconnections between climate change and the social, political and technological transformations of the late 16th century. Taking storms as an example, Ute Berns reflects on the implications of The Tempest for current challenges to established periodizations and ideas about nature. The Tempest is also at the centre of Jonathan Gil Harris’s concluding paper, which contrasts Shakespeare’s play with the epic Kristapurana, written in Goa by the English Jesuit Thomas Stephens. Harris focuses on the ordinary nut and suggests that it can help theorize what he calls the “the edible contact zone” in early modern cultural encounters.

Sabine Schülting