Performing 'madness' in major London and RSC productions of Hamlet, 1959-2019

Stewart, Rachel Emily (2020). Performing 'madness' in major London and RSC productions of Hamlet, 1959-2019. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis argues that trends in performances of ‘madness’ in RSC and major London productions of Hamlet between 1959 and 2019 were largely shaped by changes in the field of psychiatry and consequent developments in understandings of mental illness. The first chapter considers long-standing theatrical traditions of Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s ‘madness’ alongside the twentieth-century publications of major psychological and psychiatric theory and the beginnings of the process of deinstitutionalisation, discovering whether actors and directors were beginning to engage with the increased exposure to mental illness in society. Chapter Two explores dramatic changes in performances of ‘madness’ in Hamlet between 1983 and 2005. Over these years, most psychiatric hospitals in the United Kingdom closed and the system of Community Care developed. This chapter investigates whether the greater presence of people with mental illnesses in communities informed changes, directly and indirectly, in performances of ‘madness’ in Hamlet. Chapter Three takes patterns explored in the previous chapters up to 2019 and follows the development of a dialogue between the worlds of psychiatry and theatre. The thesis concludes with the question of how performance trends of Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s ‘madnesses’ may illuminate aspects of the ongoing social conversation around mental illness.

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: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry


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