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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Uses of This World, The – Thinking Space in Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cary and Jonson
Andrew Hiscock
ISBN: 9780708318881 (0708318886)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Hydref 2004
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Fformat: Clawr Caled, 216x138 mm, 264 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Archebir yn ôl y galw Ein Pris: £45.00   
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Dadansoddiad manwl o'r modd y caiff gofod diwylliannol ei greu a'i gyflwyno yn nramâu Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cary a Jonson, mewn termau meddyliol, cymdeithasol a hanesyddol.

A detailed analysis of the way in which cultural space is constructed and represented in the plays of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cary and Jonson, in mental, social and historic terms.
Professor Hiscock has here expanded and extended work of his which has appeared in a number of academic publications over some years into this study of different concepts of space – geographical and cultural, conceptual, symbolic, imaginative and mythic – which are revealed in the writings of the early modern period and illustrated from works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Elizabeth Cary and Ben Jonson. As an academic publication, it is heavily supported by useful notes, bibliography and two Introductions which give both the modern theoretical influences (Lefebvre, Foucault, Harvey etc.) and 16th and 17th century writers who reveal attitudes available to the authors and their audience.

As the theatre, especially at the early, experimental period, necessarily makes temporary worlds out of familiar and unfamiliar materials, it is not surprising that it demonstrates not only many existing and conflicting viewpoints held at the time but also creates others, in a virtual world, which reflect on these. In the first chapter, on ‘Hamlet’, the fantasies of Troy rather take over the argument. In the following section on ‘The Jew of Malta’, Professor Hiscock seems to give little consideration to the playwright's situation in a crowded field of writers developing a new medium for a mass audience, and his audience's expectation. Barabas is the grandiloquent, amoral, ultimately overreaching character demanded after Tamburlaine, he is also the ultimate Jewish 'bogeyman' with whom Marlowe, by technique, humour and audience manipulation, tempts the audience to identify and then destroys. His nightmare world feeds the audience's love of the exotic but his Malta is, above all, a theatrical space where viewers can observe extreme, sensational evil in safety.

On ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ Professor Hiscock's argument really hits its stride. The tendency of Jacobean tragedy to 'endow the environment with psychological and cultural significance' linked with the ongoing preoccupation with 'mutability' is exemplified in the play. The fluidity of the play's setting is made possible by the mental flexibility Elizabethan theatres had engendered. 'They transformed already suspect physical venues . . . with a constantly changing spectacle of social and symbolic statement.' Here the two cultures of Rome and Egypt are both 'theatrically persuasive' and encourage the audience to 'ponder the possibility of alternative cultural orders'. He shows the power of propaganda on both sides to redefine and appropriate the other's space and legitimacy; how cultural space may be 'affirmed, converted, appropriated but never resolved.' The audience expecting a heroic or morally directive story of love and death receives an ambiguous lesson in 'transition and perishing'.

The fourth chapter features Cary's ‘Tragedie of Mariam’ (credited with being the first original published play by a woman). This closet drama concerns the family of Herod and is largely seen in terms of the permissive space allowed to or taken by the female characters in a briefly disrupted Patriarchal state and the myths of racial purity and inferiority used to bolster claims on land. The lack of a clear moral or dramatic message has puzzled critics, but here is seen to accentuate the magnitude of the cultural problems of early modern women to construct an autonomous public voice.

The last two chapters focus on Jonson's ‘Volpone’ and ‘The Alchemist’; both are concerned with life in a city: the 'frenetic, sinister world' of Venice and the plague-ridden, half-abandoned London in which con-men and crooks thrive like rats. Intrigue is the spring of both dramas. Volpone delights in his ability to manipulate plays on the English sense, personified and mocked in Would-be, of Venice as full of secrets, where anything is possible and nothing to be trusted. Jonson pushes this strangeness beyond ‘nature' with the lack of human sympathy in both Volpone and his bestial parasites. The spheres of performance and judgment extend as the central plotters are exposed and judged by the avocatori and their wider corruption by the real audience. Venice is a spectacle of alien riches and vices but in ‘The Alchemist’ they see what happens in 'a house in Blackfriars' in the gaps of time and space between normal business and rules. This erosion of domestic space, in which those who appear to serve are the absolute controllers not only of their victims but of reality itself, parodies the mercantile nature of London and challenges its audience, even as it seduces them; showing how deeply unstable is the environment they inhabit.

While, at first, I had some difficulty in coming to grips with Professor Hiscock's terminology and the initial application of his concepts of space, this work is both fascinating and illuminating in its investigation of the world of early modern drama. This is particularly so in his exploration of Jonson's intricate urban critiques which show there is ‘no escape from systems of exploitation’, and despite their wide-ranging imagination, confront his audience with 'humanity's irrevocably stunted appreciation of its cultural and moral environment'.

Caroline Clark

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
The Uses of this World
Thinking Space in the Drama of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cary and Jonson
Andrew Hiscock
pp x250 November 2004 Hardback
ISBN 0-7083-1888-6
The Uses of this World brings together a number of studies of early Modern drama ranging from Marlowe’s
The Jew of Malta at the beginning of the 1590s to Jonson’s most celebrated comedies at the end of the first decade of the seventeenth century. It offers a detailed analysis of extensively studied Renaissance plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Elizabeth Cary and Jonson, with particular emphasis upon the ways in which cultural space may be constructed in their dramatic worlds in mental, social and historical terms. The cultural spaces which these texts evoke so vividly are frequently shown to be regulated by power mechanisms of family, nation/community, gender, race, work, leisure, ownership, custom, privilege and faith. Andrew Hiscock argues that Renaissance drama interrogates such models of social organization and spatial boundaries, stressing that space is not a neutral, fixed or passive container, but emerges instead as a socially constructed process. 
As the study unfolds, the author considers how texts such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet and
Antony and Cleopatra, Cary’s Tragedie of Mariam, Jonson’s Volpone and
The Alchemist may be seen not only to engage with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century appreciations of cultural organization but also with vibrant areas of debate in contemporary literary theory and critical geography.
Andrew Hiscock is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, University of Wales, Bangor. He has published widely on early modern writing in academic journals. His first monograph,
Authority and Desire: Crises of Interpretation in Shakespeare and Racine, appeared in 1996 and he co-edited
Dangerous Diversity:The Changing Faces of Wales from the Renaissance to the Present Day (1998). He is at present co-editing a forthcoming collection,
Shakespeare and Early Modern Dramatists, and is working on a new study of discourses of memory in early modern literature.
Contents
Introduction [I]: Sounding Strange
Introduction [II] Thinking Space for Hamlet
1 ‘What’s Hecuba to Him . . .’: Diegetic Space and Myths of Belonging in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
2 Enclosing ‘Infinite Riches in a Little Room’: The Question of Cultural Marginality in Marlowe's
The Jew of Malta
3 ‘Here is my Space’: The Politics of Appropriation in Shakespeare's Antony and
Cleopatra’
4 ‘The Hateful Cuckoo’: Elizabeth Cary's Tragedie of Mariam, and the Collapse of Domestic Space
5 Urban Dystopia: The Colonising of Jonson's Venice in Volpone
6 ‘A Kind of Modern Happiness’: The Alchemist and the Exploitation of Provisional Space
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