Impressive Shakespeare: sexual identity and impressing technologies in Shakespearean drama

Newman, Harry Rex (2012). Impressive Shakespeare: sexual identity and impressing technologies in Shakespearean drama. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis examines the relationship between the sexual formation of identity and three ‘impressing technologies’ (sealing, coining and printing) in Shakespearean drama. In a number of plays, Shakespeare uses the ‘language of impression’ to create metaphors that analogise sexual activities such as kissing, defloration and impregnation with acts of imprinting. In doing so, I argue, he establishes a rhetorical nexus that contributes to the construction of his characters’ sexual identities. Following a chapter on relevant historical contexts, each chapter close reads a single Shakespeare play, focusing on its language of impression. Chapter 2 considers the representation of wounds as impressions in Coriolanus and tracks the development of the protagonist’s identity as a hyper-masculine war machine that stamps and is stamped. Chapter 3 investigates the role of sealing imagery in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play which subverts the patriarchal figuration of women as impressionable wax to be transformed by the imprints of men. Chapter 4 analyses the recurring metaphor of counterfeit coining in Measure for Measure, a trope that associates figures of state with their sexually transgressive subjects. And chapter 5 addresses the analogy of procreation with printing in The Winter’s Tale, arguing that this aspect of the play’s rhetoric influenced the composition of the preliminaries to Shakespeare’s First Folio. The thesis concludes by comparing the plays and exploring what it is that makes Shakespeare ‘impressive’.

An expanded version of this thesis has been published under the title 'Impressive Shakespeare: Identity, Authority and the Imprint in Shakespearean Drama', available via Routledge :

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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