Wednesday 4th March, 4.15 pm
Room 215, University of Westminster, Wells Street, London W1T
Gwylim Jones, University of Westminster
In the opening scene of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus says to Hippolyta: ‘I … won thy love, doing thee injuries, / But I will wed thee in another key’. The bride-to-be has no more lines in the scene. Similarly, Measure for Measure’s Isabella is bereft of words to respond to the Duke’s abrupt wooing in the play’s finale. These are just two of Shakespeare’s great suggestive silences – rich and ambiguous spaces for actors and directors to fill – and their presentation on the stage can characterise the production as a whole.
These moments, key to rehearsal rooms and theatre reviews, have received little attention from literary and performance scholars. When the silences are less obvious – Claudio’s in Measure is even more capacious than Isabella’s – the response is even slighter. This leaves many questions unanswered. How does the acknowledgement of silence affect our approach to the re-emerging emphasis on character? Or on Shakespeare’s engagement with rhetoric? How did Shakespeare’s treatment of silence develop over his career? This paper will examine some of the ways in which silence can be read in the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and will show how these writers develop and manipulate silences in order to represent authority and interiority.
The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
University of Westminster Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW. United Kingdom.