Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"A Better Where to Find": Utopian Politics in Shakespeare's Plays
by Farrar, Ryan D., Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2014, 237; 3687677
Abstract (Summary)

Utopias often elicit visions of full-fledged societies that operate more successfully in contrast to a society of the present based on a principle of cognitive estrangement where the daily routines of a new civilization strike readers as strange and advantageous. While William Shakespeare's drama rarely portrays radical societies that speak directly to the fantastic nature of utopia, it does feature moments that draw attention to desires for social change, presenting glimmers of the utopian impulse throughout his work. In this dissertation, I use utopia as critical approach for analyzing Shakespeare's comedies, romances, and tragedies, specifically As You Like It, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth. While critics have approached the The Tempest as a utopian play, other works by Shakespeare do not receive much attention from this perspective. This dissertation addresses the lack of attention paid to other plays, illustrating the degree to which the health of the state as a theme featured prominently in his works. I argue that the desires expressed by characters in these plays capture the wishes and despairs of entire social ranks during the Elizabethan and Jacobean, connecting their wishes and fantasies to utopian and dystopian analysis. As You Like It and The Tempest feature utopic settings and address themes of colonialism and egalitarianism. Yet, rather than present locations of harmony, these plays explore the problems and contradictions that spring from the attempts to actualize a utopian climate. Characters in The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet possess radical aspirations, and they discover opportunities to transform their identities as it relates to their respective societies. However, these characters ultimately fail to rupture the ideologies of their societies. In my final chapter, I argue how dystopian themes arise from the depictions of tyranny and treachery in Hamlet and Macbeth. The transgressions of the Kings in both plays plague their kingdoms. Tackling Shakespeare from a utopian lens illustrates that rather than forming alternative, ideal societies, the concept can be understood as an ambiguous, unfinished dialectical process that strives for social betterment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vaught, Jennifer
Commitee: Bobo, Elizabeth, Goodwin, Jonathan
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Theater, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Drama, Dystopia, Ideology, Renaissance, Shakespeare, Utopia
Publication Number: 3687677
ISBN: 978-1-321-65549-0
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