Scholars who write about silence in Shakespeare's plays emphasize that it is an important dramatic element, particularly with regard to characterization and thematic development. A character's muteness may signify the experience of an emotion that is beyond human understanding or articulation, imply that a character feels intimidated, or communicate defiance. Calling attention to its inherent ambiguity, critics frequently note that the way actors “perform” a dramatic silence will endow it with alternative meanings. Furthermore, the text of a Shakespearean play may itself be “silent” with respect to an action or episode—that is, not represent it directly but introduce it through the report of one or more characters, thus leaving its implications ambiguous or confusing. Many late-twentieth-century commentators allude to the way Shakespeare dealt with the conventional notion that women should be reticent or soft-spoken. Disputing the idea that there was such a fixed concept, Christina Luckyj (1993) argues that Shakespeare's plays mirror contradictory Renaissance views of women's silence, depicting it variously as a sign of independence, acquiescence, or expediency.
Whether women's silence reflects passivity or resistance is a central issue in several Shakespearean comedies. In particular, Isabella's silence at the end of Measure for Measure has elicited a great deal of critical attention. Charles R. Lyons (1989) reads the absence of her response to the Duke's announcement in Act V, scene i that he will marry her as an indication that she has been constrained to silence because her earlier eloquence represented a threat to male authority. Amy Lechter-Siegel (1992) also equates Isabella's final silence with containment, suggesting that the resolution of the play depicts the suppression of female challenges to patriarchal control. Philip C. McGuire (1985)—who coined the phrase “open silence” to describe one that may be interpreted in different ways, especially in theatrical performance—asserts that Measure for Measure provides Shakespeare's most intricate use of dramatic silence. During the play's final moments, he points out, Angelo, Barnardine, Claudio, Juliet, Mariana, and Isabella all become literally speechless. Jonathan Bate (1994) focuses on the silence and passivity of Hero in Much Ado about Nothing, remarking on the relative paucity of opportunities she has to speak for herself and the many occasions when other characters talk about her. He postulates that her provisional “death” may represent the ultimate silencing of women.
Among the critics who discuss the silence of women in Shakespeare's tragedies are Jill Levenson (1971), Harvey Rovine (1987), Christina Luckyj (1991), Cynthia Marshall (1991), and Mark Berge (1994). Rovine argues that whereas the muteness of female characters in Shakespeare's comedies usually signals acquiescence, in the tragedies it generally conveys “fear, despair, or confusion.” Levenson compares Cordelia's silence in the first scene of King Lear with her reticence in later scenes, but she also calls attention to Lear's increasing inarticulateness, suggesting that this underscores the play's concern with the limitations of language in communicating emotion. Like Levenson, Berge sees Cordelia's initial silence as evidence of her strength and constancy, though he proposes that her reticence in subsequent scenes indicates that dramatic events have led her to question the justice and benevolence of providential forces. Luckyj regards Volumnia's silence in Act V, scene v of Coriolanus as a similar token of despair, arguing that she fully understands her son will be killed because he yielded to her pleas and spared Rome. Perhaps the most extreme example of the silencing of women's voices in Shakespearean drama is Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, whose tongue is cut out by her rapists. Her mutilation, Marshall contends, is a manifestation of how men in the play punish women, whether they are powerful—as Tamora—or dependent—as Lavinia.
A number of late-twentieth-century commentators have focused on the silence of men in Shakespeare's plays. Harvey Rovine, for example, maintains that in the comedies, the silence of male characters in the final scenes may imply anger or bitterness about their alienation from society. In the tragedies and histories, he argues, it may be a means of controlling others or concealing treacherous thoughts. Rovine also calls attention to the frequent juxtaposition in Shakespeare's plays of verbose and reticent men, as does Michael Manheim (1977). Whereas Rovine contrasts Richard II's volubility and Bolingbroke's reserve, Manheim offers a close reading of the occasions when Henry VI's silence is the direct antithesis of his noblemen's blustering. Gayle Greene (1978) examines the apposition of verbal and nonverbal modes of expression in The Tempest, proposing that the play demonstrates the limitations of language in response to the experience of awe and wonder. Mark Berge evaluates the significance of the silencing of the Fool in King Lear—that is, his disappearance from the stage when the play is only at its midpoint.
Absence as a form of dramatic silence is the concern of several Shakespearean critics. Marjorie Garber (1984) analyzes offstage episodes in King Lear and The Winter's Tale, describing these as “unscenes.” She points out that this indirect mode of presenting highly significant events—known to the audience only by the reports of those who claim to have observed them—generates doubt and confusion. Mark Taylor (1989) evaluates two episodes in Much Ado about Nothing that are not represented on stage: Don Pedro's courtship of Hero and the chamber-window scene. Assessing various characters' accounts of these episodes, Taylor emphasizes their subjectivity and links what he regards as their hollowness to the “nothingness” at the heart of the play.
Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
SOURCE: Levenson, Jill. “What the Silence Said: Still Points in King Lear.” In Shakespeare 1971: Proceedings of the World Shakespeare Congress, Vancouver, August 1971, edited by Clifford Leech and J. M. R. Margeson, pp. 215-29. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972.
[In the following essay, originally delivered as a lecture in 1971, Levenson contends that silence in King Lear is integral to the play's structure, characterization, and thematic development.]
Only he who has attained to his own identity, can be silent, only when thinking has reached reality, will it come to a stop.1
At the end of Stravinsky's Les Noces, an extraordinary series of pauses punctuates the music. Creating and disappointing expectation almost simultaneously, the pauses compel the listener's attention, his energies, with at least as much force as the sounds. When the last vibration from the percussion blends completely with the stillness in which it began, we experience all the resonance of silence.
Silence in drama can create, disappoint, compel, and absorb as vigorously as the most eloquent musical pause. And this profound similarity exists because the dramatist and the composer share the power to create silence. The poet and the novelist must invoke or describe stillness; the painter and the sculptor can express it...
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SOURCE: Manheim, Michael. “Silence in the Henry VI Plays.” Theatre Journal 29, no. 1 (1977): 70-6.
[In the following essay, Manheim stresses Henry VI's humanity and compassion, characterizing him as a man of integrity who is shocked into silence by the treachery and brutality of England's fractious noblemen.]
Alwin Thaler nearly a half century ago introduced the idea that Shakespeare, the master of words, achieves some of his most effective and meaningful dramatic moments through the absence of words.1 Thaler of course discusses characters who have created problems for interpreters because of their refusal to speak, or to speak much, on subjects about which their responses clearly seem called for: for example, Macbeth's puzzling silence on the subject of his offspring, and Hermione's sixteen-year silence about the injustices done her (The Winter's Tale). But Thaler also examines specific scenes in which the overall effect clearly derives from a juxtaposition of silence with volubility. The dramatic values inherent in our first encounter with the hero's mother in Coriolanus are embodied in the contrast between that proud, garrulous matron and her nearly wordless daughter-in-law, who waits in terrified quiet for news of her husband's death in battle. The essential folly of Volumnia's marvelous rhetoric is implicit in Virgilia's silent response to it. Similar effects are...
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SOURCE: Jagendorf, Zvi. “‘Fingers on Your Lips, I Pray’: On Silence in Hamlet.” English 27 (1978): 121-28.
[In the following essay, Jagendorf evaluates the motif of silence in Hamlet, arguing that it permeates the dramatic action and underscores the play's representation of truth as subjective and therefore open to different interpretations. In particular, he discusses the dumb show, the Ghost's initial speechlessness, and the ambiguity of silent gestures.]
Hamlet is the most brilliantly articulate of Shakespeare's tragedies. The sheer flow of speech is overwhelming in its quantity and surprising in its variety. Hamlet and Polonius are both garrulous in different ways; whatever either says about holding their tongue or giving thoughts no tongue, they are both determined, even obsessive, speakers, labouring points into absurdity and giving no quarter to their audience. The richness and variety of the play's verbal style are brought into relief by the characters' awareness (especially Hamlet's) of the way they and others speak or write. Polonius comments (unfavourably) on Hamlet's elegance as a composer of love letters, and (favourably) on an unusual word in the Player's speech. Hamlet's sharp and critical ear for the rhetoric of others is evident in his advice to the Players, his duel of words with Laertes in Ophelia's grave and his parody and teasing of Osric.
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SOURCE: Greene, Gayle. “Excellent Dumb Discourse: Silence and Grace in Shakespeare's Tempest.” Studia Neophilologica 50 (1978): 193-205.
[In the following essay, Greene points out that although Prospero occasionally uses language to constrain or coerce, his special powers of healing are affected by silence, show, and music. Greene maintains that this accentuates Shakespeare's exploration of both the necessity and the limitations of speech.]
“Hush and be mute, or else our spell is marr'd.”
Critics have commented on the poetic thinness of The Tempest, and some have expressed surprise that the play has such great imaginative impact in spite of its paucity of poetic and rhetorical effect. The language is characteristic of Shakespeare's late plays, terse, spare, lacking the rhetorical embellishment and exuberance of his earlier style. It is relatively scarce in imagery, and what there is of it remains concrete and sensuous, rather than assuming the resonance of metaphor or symbol which is vitally integrated into imaginative conception. Hallett Smith, observing this thinness of texture, wonders “why this should be … critics find it difficult to account for the effect the play has upon them”.1
And indeed, there does seem an incongruity between language and power, for The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's most deeply moving plays; it has...
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SOURCE: Garber, Marjorie. “‘The Rest Is Silence’: Ineffability and the ‘Unscene’ in Shakespeare's Plays.” In Ineffability: Naming the Unnamable from Dante to Beckett, edited by Peter S. Hawkins and Anne Howland Schotter, pp. 35-50. New York: AMS Press, 1984.
[In the following essay, Garber surveys Shakespeare's onstage silences, his use of the indirect mode of representation—that is, characters' reports of events that occur offstage—and his adaptations of the conventional theme of inexpressibility. Garber asserts that Shakespeare understood that silence can be as effective as speech in communicating emotion.]
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent”
“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.” The paradox implicit in Keats's famous lines suggests the difficulties inherent in any approach to ineffability through the medium of language. The “unheard” melodies piped by figures on the Grecian urn are displaced and replaced by the melody of the poet who describes them. Although he calls the urn a “still unravished bride of quietness,” in a sense he himself becomes the ravisher, by putting into words his response to the silent urn, and using the imagined songs of the “happy melodist” as a catalyst for his own poetic invention. “Ditties of no tone,” rather...
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SOURCE: McGuire, Philip C. “The Final Silences of Measure for Measure.” In Speechless Dialect: Shakespeare's Open Silences, pp. 63-96. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
[In the following essay, McGuire describes the way five late-twentieth-century productions of Measure for Measure depicted the muteness of Angelo, Barnardine, Claudio, Juliet, Mariana, and Isabella in the play's final scene. By means of nonverbal gestures, blocking, and shifting the sequence of lines, McGuire observes, the directors of these productions explored the many possible interpretations and implications of these characters' silences.]
Measure for Measure provides the most challenging and complex example of Shakespeare's use of open silence. During the final moments of the play six characters fall silent. One of them is Angelo who, after being compelled to marry Mariana, speaks just once. With those words, the last he speaks, he asks for the imposition of a lasting silence: “I crave death more willingly than mercy; / 'Tis my deserving, and I do entreat it” (V.i.472-73). Barnardine, a convicted murderer who had earlier refused to be executed (IV.iii.33-61), is brought on immediately after Angelo says he craves death. The contrast between the two characters deepens when Barnardine silently accepts from the Duke the life-giving mercy that Angelo has just explicitly rejected. Claudio (like...
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SOURCE: Rovine, Harvey. “Women and Silence.” In Silence in Shakespeare: Drama, Power, and Gender, pp. 37-51. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1987.
[In the following essay, Rovine contrasts the silence of women in Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies. In the comedies, he contends, it generally conveys acquiescence, while in the tragedies it may be construed as despair, resignation, or confusion. Rovine maintains that in both genres women's silence underscores their social, political, and familial obligations.]
Traditionally, silence in a woman was considered a virtue and a quality much preferred over loquaciousness. The proverbial view of women may be one reason why Shakespeare often uses a silent female character in the portrayal of love, whether it is the silent dejection of an unrequited lover or the wife so angry with her husband that she will not speak with him. Conversely, a silent female character could also suggest loving devotion to a husband or father. Another possible reason for the frequent use of silent female characters may have been the unsteady voices of the boy actors. Yet when we think of characters such as Cleopatra, Beatrice or Lady Macbeth, we realize that female characters on the Shakespearean stage were not limited to expressing themselves by silence but could be as talkative as their male counterparts. Thus while tradition and practicality may play some part in accounting for...
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SOURCE: Rovine, Harvey. “Silence as Confrontation.” In Silence in Shakespeare: Drama, Power, and Gender, pp. 53-69. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1987.
[In the following essay, Rovine associates the silence of male characters in Shakespeare's comedies with their social alienation, and the silence of men in the tragedies and histories with a variety of motives—including antagonism, treachery, and a desire to influence or control the actions of others.]
Whereas the silence of women often implies a passive acceptance of circumstances or a faith that events will turn out for the best, the silence of men can be more purposeful. Men's silence can show loyalty, service, antagonism, confrontation or enmity. Perhaps the reason for the difference is that the women's world is largely confined to domestic relationships with usually strong men which often leads the female characters to a silence of acceptance. Men have a wider range of roles and their characters are not so strictly defined by domestic relationships. In fact, men often give precedence to social or political demands over their domestic obligations. For example, in 1 Henry IV Hotspur's wife, Kate, pleads with her husband to reveal the “heavy business” (II,3,63) that has disturbed the intimacy of their relationship. Hotspur, however, holds thoughts of the rebellion uppermost in his mind and evades Kate's questions until he leaves her...
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SOURCE: Lyons, Charles R. “Silent Women and Shrews: Eroticism and Convention in Epicoene and Measure for Measure.” Comparative Drama 23, no. 2 (summer 1989): 123-40.
[In the following essay, Lyons maintains that Isabella's transformation from volubility to silence is a reverse image of the metamorphosis of Ben Jonson's Epicoene from submissiveness to stridency. He contends that both Measure for Measure and Epicoene demonstrate the eroticism of female silence and the power women possess when they are objects of male desire.]
In Jonson's Epicoene, the silent “woman” attracts Morose through “her” reticence to speak; but once this couple undergo the false marriage ceremony, her silence metamorphoses into verbal pyrotechniques that rival those of Mistress Otter whose aggressive speech sets the measure of what a theatrical shrew should be. Jonson's play exploits the comic potential of the conventional shrew as this improvised female joins forces with the newly organized Collegiates, described by True-wit as women who “crie downe, or vp, what they like, or dislike in a braine, or a fashion, with most masculine, or rather hermaphroditicall authoritie” (I.i.78-80).1
In Measure for Measure, Isabella speaks freely, articulately, aggressively until the final moments of the comedy when the Duke declares his intention to marry...
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SOURCE: Taylor, Mark. “Presence and Absence in Much Ado about Nothing.” Centennial Review 33, no. 1 (winter 1989): 1-12.
[In the following essay, Taylor focuses on the inscrutability of characters' reports of events in Much Ado about Nothing that are not represented on stage. Emphasizing the subjectivity of these reports, he focuses on Don Pedro's offstage conversation with Hero in Act II, scene i and the chamber-window scene in which Margaret is mistaken for Hero.]
Who would not say, that glosses increase doubt and ignorance, since no booke is to be seene, whether divine or profane, commonly read of all men, whose interpretation dimmes or tarnisheth not the difficulty? The hundred commentary sends him to his succeeder, more thorny and more crabbed, than the first found him.
—Montaigne, “Of Experience” (trans. Florio)
It is difficult to read. The page is dark. Yet he knows what it is that he expects. The page is blank or a frame without a glass Or a glass that is empty when he looks.
—Wallace Stevens, “Phosphor Reading by his own Light”
What happens in Much Ado about Nothing, on the stage, when Don Pedro presents Hero to Claudio, the man in whose name Pedro claims to have wooed and won her? Hero's father Leonato blesses the match, and then Claudio offers a few...
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SOURCE: Luckyj, Christina. “Volumnia's Silence.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 31, no. 2 (spring 1991): 327-42.
[In the following essay, Luckyj asserts that Volumnia's speechlessness in Act V, scene v of Coriolanus represents not triumph but despair, for she understands that her son will die because he yielded to her supplication. The critic emphasizes the Roman matron's vulnerability as well as her vitality, describing various ways she has been represented in performance.]
Volumnia's last appearance in Shakespeare's Coriolanus is a brief and silent one. She has just pleaded successfully with her son to spare his native city from intended destruction; her plea, we know, must result in his death at the hands of the Volscians, whose cause he has betrayed. She passes wordlessly over the stage in the company of Virgilia and Valeria as a Roman senator hails her as “our patroness, the life of Rome” (V.v.1).1 Academic critics take the senator's word for it; they usually see her as “the one triumphant figure that survives the play, the savior of Rome,”2 and insist that she is not “given a moment of reflection or of recognition that [she has] caused Martius' death. … Coriolanus' new acknowledgement of the power of tenderness and family bonds does not change the grim world of the play; it does not even change Volumnia.”3 While some...
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SOURCE: Marshall, Cynthia. “‘I Can Interpret All Her Martyr'd Signs’: Titus Andronicus, Feminism, and the Limits of Interpretation.” In Sexuality and Politics in Renaissance Drama, edited by Carole Levin and Karen Robertson, pp. 193-209. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.
[In the following essay, Marshall claims that Titus Andronicus offers a profoundly misogynistic view of male-female relations through its presentation of women as estranged, alienated, and silenced.]
Titus Andronicus presents special problems for a feminist critic. We are familiar with patriarchal societies like the Rome of Titus Andronicus, composed of tier upon tier of brothers, who openly barter women in their political maneuvers. Likewise, the play's polarized images of female possibility—the vicious, sexually voracious Tamora, and the powerless, chaste Lavinia—offer a compelling, but no longer surprising, instance of the way a misogynistic vision constructs its own reality. Kathleen McLuskie signals the dilemma: “Feminism cannot simply take ‘the woman's part’ when that part has been so morally loaded and theatrically circumscribed” (102).1 Certainly Tamora, “the blot and enemy to our general name” (2.3.183),2 rebuffs any tentative identification; she seems uncannily to mock early feminist demands for “strong” female characters. Lavinia, however,...
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SOURCE: Lechter-Siegel, Amy. “Isabella's Silence: The Consolidation of Power in Measure for Measure.” In Reconsidering the Renaissance, edited by Mario A. Di Cesare, pp. 371-80. Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992.
[In the following essay, Lechter-Siegel traces Isabella's movement from articulate, rational speech to submissive silence, contending that the change in her discourse reflects the Duke's increasing control of social, political, and religious power in his realm. She compares the Duke's consolidation of power in Measure for Measure with the model of governance set forth by James I in his Basilikon Doron (1599).]
In act 1 of Measure for Measure, the novice Isabella first appears on stage in obedience before a religious authority of whom she requests a life of severe asceticism. In Isabella's first major speech, she makes closely reasoned pleas for the Christian principle of mercy. By contrast, in act 5 Isabella appears in supplication before a secular authority and first makes emotional and then poorly reasoned pleas for the secular principles of justice and equity. In the final scene, the novice, who had requested a cloistered life of chastity and severe simplicity, anticipates a public life of marriage and courtly opulence. A character who is first described to the audience as an eloquent and persuasive speaker is, in the final...
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SOURCE: Luckyj, Christina. “‘A Moving Rhetoricke’: Women's Silences and Renaissance Texts.” Renaissance Drama 24 (1993): 33-56.
[In the following essay, Luckyj relates Renaissance notions of female reticence as decorum or defiance to the silence of women in King Lear, Titus Andronicus, and Troilus and Cressida.. She contends that sixteenth-century conduct book writers' ambivalent views of feminine silence are reflected in Shakespeare's plays.]
It is therefore useless to trap women into giving an exact definition of what they mean. … They are already elsewhere than in this discursive machinery where you claim to take them by surprise. They have turned back within themselves, which does not mean the same thing as “within yourself.” They do not experience the same interiority that you do and which you mistakenly presume they share. “Within themselves” means in the privacy of this silent, multiple, diffuse tact.
—Luce Irigaray, “This Sex Which Is Not One”
In the final, terrible moments of King Lear, Lear crouches over the lifeless body of Cordelia, straining to catch a breath or a whisper. As those about him speak of apocalypse, Lear focuses on the small physical details that distinguish life from death. His anguish is made more evident by painful efforts to ward it off:...
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SOURCE: Berge, Mark. “‘My Poor Fool Is Hanged’: Cordelia, the Fool, Silence and Irresolution in King Lear.” In Reclamations of Shakespeare, edited by A. J. Hoenselaars, pp. 211-22. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.
[In the following essay, Berge links the disappearance of the Fool and Cordelia's final silence to Lear's failed search for self-knowledge. In the critic's judgment, although the king comes to understand his daughter's initial reticence as a strength rather than a fault, he never comprehends his own complicity in the tragic events.]
In the chaotic world of King Lear, resolution of character seems remote and veiled from an aged king bent on denying the unspoken truth. Dramatically speaking, his enemies fare conventionally better. Philip McGuire concludes that when the mortally wounded Edmund declares that “The wheel is come full circle”, his words serve as an explicit statement of dramatic fulfilment.1 Accordingly, Edmund, Goneril, and Regan move towards a dramatic consummation in which their deaths bond them in malevolence. However, Lear, Cordelia and the Fool seem divided, separated, and never allowed a mode of completion like their three counterparts. Lear's hopes of union with Cordelia are never realized, and are portrayed as unnatural: “We two alone”, as the king puts it, “will sing like birds i'th'cage” (5.3.9). Cordelia's final line, “Shall we not...
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SOURCE: Kermode, Frank. “Shakespeare's Silences.” In Surprised by Scenes: Essays in Honor of Professor Yasunari Takahashi, edited by Yasunari Takada, pp. 16-26. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1994.
[In the following essay, Kermode evaluates the conjunction of speech and silence in Shakespeare's plays, with special reference to the way in which speechlessness can be a form of eloquence.]
It does not do to neglect Shakespeare's access to proverbial wisdom, or to forget that it sometimes merges with his rhetorical resources. And there is an immense amount of proverbial lore concerning silence. It gives consent. It never did man harm. It is prudent and useful: nihil silentio utilius. According to the most consulted of all rhetorical treatises, the Ad Herennium (III. xii. 21), until about 1500 erroneously attributed to Cicero, it is better to be silent than to speak on any subject, unless you know all about that subject or are being compelled to speak. There is a relation between creative speech and silence: iconographically, the god Horus showed, by placing his finger to his lips, that he was the god of the creative word, but the same figure, without alteration, represented Harpocrates, the god of secrecy, enjoining silence. The injunction we remember from Ben Jonson—‘Language most shows a man; speak that I may see thee’—derives from Erasmus, the great humanist collector of ancient proverbial...
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SOURCE: Bate, Jonathan. “Dying to Live in Much Ado about Nothing.” In Surprised by Scenes: Essays in Honor of Professor Yasunari Takahashi, edited by Yasunari Takada, pp. 69-85. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1994.
[In the following essay, Bate focuses on Hero's passivity and her provisional dispatch to death—the ultimate silencing. Noting how frequently other characters speak of her or allude to her—thus demonstrating her centrality in the play—he compares Hero to sacrificial women in classical literature who die in order that their husbands may be transformed.]
King Charles I knew what he liked in Shakespeare's comedies. He inscribed in his copy of the Second Folio alternative titles for some of the plays. Thus he called Twelfth Night ‘Malvolio’ and Much Ado about Nothing ‘Benedick and Beatrice’. There was a precedent for this: the Lord Treasurer's account for 1613 refers to a performance of ‘Benedicte and Betteris’. The sub-plot has taken precedence over the main plot. Berlioz's opera of 1862 completed this movement: Béatrice et Bénédict makes the squabbling witty lovers into the main plot and simply uses Claudio and Hero as instruments in bringing them together.
Why has Much Ado about Nothing endured in the repertory? For Beatrice and Benedick, for Dogberry. There is a wonderful accessibility about these two plot elements: the wits who...
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Bock, Philip K. “‘I Think But Dare Not Speak’: Silence in Elizabethan Culture.” Journal of Anthropological Research 32 (1976): 285-94.
Categorizes different types of silence in Shakespeare's plays. Bock distinguishes between those which imply ambiguity, enhance characterization, express transient emotions, or underscore the nature of the relationships between dramatic characters.
Busia, Abena P. A. “Silencing Sycorax: On African Colonial Discourse and the Unvoiced Female.” Cultural Critique 14 (winter 1989-90): 81-104.
Briefly considers the implications of the physical absence of Sycorax from The Tempest—even though Prospero and Caliban repeatedly allude to her—within the context of a broader discussion of the control of Black women's voices and images in colonialist literature.
Deats, Sara Munson. “The Conspiracy of Silence in Shakespeare's Verona: Romeo and Juliet.” In Youth Suicide Prevention: Lessons from Literature, edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, pp. 71-91. New York: Plenum Press, 1989.
Describes the deaths of Romeo and Juliet in terms of modern adolescent psychology, emphasizing the lack of candid communication between the young couple and their biological parents as well as their surrogate ones: the Nurse and Friar...
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