Framing Shakespeare: live theatre broadcast paratexts and Shakespearean value

Sharrock, Elizabeth Anne (2021). Framing Shakespeare: live theatre broadcast paratexts and Shakespearean value. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Since the National Theatre (NT) broadcast All’s Well that Ends Well (2009) live from the Olivier stage, criticism of Shakespearean performances in the live theatre broadcast medium has been growing. While attention has largely been focused on how the theatrical production is mediated and experienced by cinema audiences, the role of the framing materials that accompany the performance has been greatly overlooked. Over ten years on from NT Live’s All’s Well, the canon of Shakespearean live theatre broadcasts produced by RSC Live and NT Live is populated by a rich and diverse range of broadcast paratexts. These span from advertising slides that preface the live transmission of the broadcast, to pre-recorded short films and even post-performance credits. This thesis examines the role of broadcast paratexts in mediating Shakespearean performances broadcast by these two major theatrical institutions. Drawing from the paratextual function as outlined by structuralist Gérard Genette, this thesis proposes that broadcast paratexts perform significant transactions of meaning in relation to the Shakespearean performance and to broader ideas of Shakespeare’s cultural value.
Part I of the thesis consists of three chapters in which broadcast paratexts are explored and explained, convention by convention. Chapter One explores the abundance of pre-performance paratexts, detailing how these materials offer preliminary thresholds of interpretation for cinema audiences. Chapter Two demonstrates the role of interval paratexts in mediating an important juncture of the Shakespearean performance, challenging the assumption that the interval is an interpretively passive space, and Chapter Three rethinks the terminal paratexts of bows and credits. In Part II of the thesis, the functions established in these chapters are explored thematically, in case study chapters that focus on recurring narratives of Shakespearean value in the broadcast paratexts. Chapter Four scrutinises the ways in which the NT and RSC imbue the space and place of performance with Shakespearean meaning. Chapter Five analyses the role of high-profile performers as mediators of the Shakespearean work, while Chapter Six looks to the fringes of the Shakespeare canon to uncover how the playwright’s lesser-performed works are framed for cinema audiences. Chapter Seven examines arguments of Shakespeare’s contemporary relevance in broadcast paratexts. Across this study, I argue for the role of these materials in negotiating Shakespearean value as well as mediating the theatrical performance, situating these paratexts as the latest in a long history of attempts to reshape ideas of the playwright through the framing of his works.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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