Educating an audience: Shakespeare in the Victorian periodicals

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Title: Educating an audience: Shakespeare in the Victorian periodicals
Authors: Prince, Kathryn
Date: 2005
Abstract: Based on extensive archival research, this thesis offers an entirely new perspective on popular Shakespeare reception by recuperating articles published in Victorian periodicals. Shakespeare had already reached the apex of British culture in the previous century, becoming the national poet of intellectuals and gentlemen, but during the Victorian era he was embraced by groups outside the corridors of power. If Shakespeare was sometimes employed as an instrument of enculturation, imposed on these groups, he was also used by them to resist this cultural hegemony. As a comprehensive record of how Shakespeare was represented to a wide variety of readers, the periodicals are invaluable. Research has already demonstrated the varied representations of Shakespeare available to the Victorians through performance, criticism, and creative works employing Shakespeare as a point of departure, as well as his prevalence in formal education and examinations. A missing element of this Victorian picture, the periodicals, has been virtually ignored by Shakespeare studies. Articles published in periodicals intended for well-defined readerships including the working classes (chapter one), children (two), women (three), and theatregoers (four and five) are records of alternative Shakespeares reshaped for particular demographic groups. As the pressure to sell copies was renewed with each issue, the periodicals were acutely responsive to the interests of their readers, and Shakespeare's prevalence in such diverse publications is powerful evidence of both the scope and the variety of his popular appeal. In the Girl's Own Paper, for instance, Portia became a vehicle for discussing women's rights, while some working-class periodicals borrowed from Coriolanus and Richard III to sharpen their readers' views on class relations, and the proponents of a national theatre transformed Shakespeare into the saviour of English drama. Measured in terms of utility, a favourite word among Victorian thinkers, Shakespeare became a valuable, contested commodity for Victorian readers and spectators. In turn, the Victorians prevented Shakespeare from fading into the forgotten past by continuing to discover new ways of making him relevant.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/29251
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-19669
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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