front cover of Backwards & Forwards
Backwards & Forwards
A Technical Manual for Reading Plays
David Ball. Forewords by Michael Langham and Joseph Haj
Southern Illinois University Press, 1983

The best-selling script analysis book for thirty-five years

Considered an essential text since its publication thirty-five years ago, this guide for students and practitioners of both theater and literature complements, rather than contradicts or repeats, traditional methods of literary analysis of scripts.

Ball developed his method during his work as literary director at the Guthrie Theater, building his guide on the crafts playwrights of every period and style use to make their plays stageworthy. The text is full of tools for students and practitioners to use as they investigate plot, character, theme, exposition, imagery, conflict, theatricality, and the other crucial parts of the superstructure of a play. Also included are guides for discovering what the playwright considers a play’ s most important elements, thus permitting interpretation based on the foundation of the play rather than its details.

Using Shakespeare’s Hamlet as illustration, Ball assures a familiar base for clarifying script-reading techniques as well as exemplifying the kinds of misinterpretation readers can fall prey to by ignoring the craft of the playwright. Of immense utility to those who want to put plays on the stage (actors, directors, designers, production specialists) Backwards & Forwards is also a fine playwriting manual because the structures it describes are the primary tools of the playwright.


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The Bard in the Borderlands
An Anthology of Shakespeare Appropriations en La Frontera, Volume 1
Edited by Katherine Gillen, Adrianna M. Santos, and Kathryn Vomero Santos
Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2023
This volume features a wide range of plays that reimagine Shakespeare works from Borderlands perspectives.
For several decades, Chicanx and Indigenous theatermakers have been repurposing Shakespeare’s plays to reflect the histories and lived realities of the US–Mexico Borderlands and to create space to tell stories of and for La Frontera. Celebrating this rich tradition, The Bard in the Borderlands: An Anthology of Shakespeare Appropriations en La Frontera brings a wide range of Borderlands Shakespeare plays together for the first time in a multi-volume open-access scholarly edition. 

This anthology celebrates the dynamic, multilingual reworking of canon and place that defines Borderlands Shakespeare, and it situates these geographically and temporally diverse plays within the robust study of Shakespeare’s global afterlives. The editors offer a critical framework for understanding the artistic and political traditions that shape these plays and the place of Shakespeare within the multilayered colonial histories of the region. Borderlands Shakespeare plays, they contend, do not simply reproduce Shakespeare in new contexts but rather use his work in innovative ways to negotiate colonial power and to envision socially just futures.

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Blood Relations
Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice
Janet Adelman
University of Chicago Press, 2008
In Blood Relations, Janet Adelman confronts her resistance to The Merchant of Venice as both a critic and a Jew. With her distinctive psychological acumen, she argues that Shakespeare’s play frames the uneasy relationship between Christian and Jew specifically in familial terms in order to recapitulate the vexed familial relationship between Christianity and Judaism.

Adelman locates the promise—or threat—of Jewish conversion as a particular site of tension in the play. Drawing on a variety of cultural materials, she demonstrates that, despite the triumph of its Christians, The Merchant of Venice reflects Christian anxiety and guilt about its simultaneous dependence on and disavowal of Judaism. In this startling psycho-theological analysis, both the insistence that Shylock’s daughter Jessica remain racially bound to her father after her conversion and the depiction of Shylock as a bloody-minded monster are understood as antidotes to Christian uneasiness about a Judaism it can neither own nor disown.

In taking seriously the religious discourse of The Merchant of Venice, Adelman offers in Blood Relations an indispensable book on the play and on the fascinating question of Jews and Judaism in Renaissance England and beyond.

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Bold Conscience
Luther to Shakespeare to Milton
Joshua R. Held
University of Alabama Press, 2023
How the conscience in early modern England emerged as a fulcrum for public action
Bold Conscience chronicles the shifting conception of conscience in early modern England, as it evolved from a faculty of restraint—what Shakespeare labels “coward conscience”—to one of bold and forthright self-assertion. The concept of conscience played an important role in post-Reformation England, from clerical leaders to laymen, not least because of its central place in determining loyalties during the English Civil War and the regicide of King Charles I. Yet the most complex and lasting perspectives on conscience emerged from deliberately literary voices—William Shakespeare, John Donne, and John Milton.

Joshua Held argues that literary texts by these authors transform the idea of conscience as a private, shameful state to one of boldness fit for navigating both royal power and common dissent in the public realm. Held tracks the increasing political power of conscience from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Henry VIII to Donne’s court sermons and Milton’s Areopagitica, showing finally that in Paradise Lost, Milton roots boldness in the inner paradise of a pure, common conscience.

Applying a fine-grain analysis to literary England from about 1601 to 1667, this study also looks back to the 1520s, to Luther’s theological foundations of the concept, and forward to 1689, to Locke’s transformation of the idea alongside the term “consciousness.” Ultimately, Held’s study shows how conscience emerges at once as a bulwark against absolute sovereignty and as a stronghold of personal certainty.

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The Bottom Translation
Marlowe and Shakespeare and the Carnival Tradition
Jan Kott
Northwestern University Press, 1987
The Bottom Translation represents the first critical attempt at applying the ideas and methods of the great Russian critic, Mikhail Bakhtin, to the works of Shakespeare and other Elizabethans. Professor Kott uncovers the cultural and mythopoetic traditions underlying A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Dr. Faustus, and other plays. His method draws him to interpret these works in the light of the carnival and popular tradition as it was set forth by Bakhtin. The Bottom Translation breaks new ground in critical thinking and theatrical vision and is an invaluable source of new ideas and perspectives. Included in this volume is also an extraordinary essay on Kurosawa's "Ran" in which the Japanese filmmaker recreates King Lear.

front cover of Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays
Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays
Carol Thomas Neely
University of Illinois Press, 1993

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