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Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre History


This paper argues that Victorian Shakespeare burlesques reveal an alternate literary history: a movement away from private, novelistic consciousness toward collaborative performance. Many materialist scholars fault post-Romantic critics for casting Shakespeare as a psychological realist and reading his plays as if they were novels. The burlesque treatment of Hamlet’s soliloquies, however, suggests a contrary trajectory, challenging the equation of Shakespearean character with psychological reflection. Rather than inaugurating a tradition of interiority, Hamlet’s soliloquies generate social speech in works like Gilbert’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, inviting audience participation. The burlesque imperative also inflects novels like Dickens’s Great Expectations, turning the internal debate of the canonical literary self into the public dispute of populist entertainment.

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This article was published as: Pollack-Pelzner, Daniel. Shakespeare Burlesque and the Performing Self." ​Victorian Studies​, vol. 54, no. 3, 2012, pp. 401-09.

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