Collaborations with the Past
Reshaping Shakespeare across Time and Media
"Like the artists studied here, we pick and choose our Shakespeares, and through that labor another story emerges. Frozen in time on the page or screen, some of those collaborations continue to speak, but denuded of their immediate moment and surroundings; we are left to supplement the traces. In recovering that past, the present takes on greater clarity and contrast. But the proof must be in the telling. A writer lifts a pen. Enter the multiple forces—political and economic, psychological, formal, and technical—that serendipitously transform imagination into memory. Let the collaborative play begin."—from the Introduction
Focusing on key writers, actors, theater directors, and filmmakers who have kept Shakespeare at the center of their endeavors over the past two hundred years, Collaborations with the Past illuminates not only the playwright's work but also the choices and responsibilities involved in re-creating culture, and the ingenuity and peril of the artistic process. By concentrating on rich yet problematic instances of Shakespeare's reanimation in such quintessentially modern forms as the novel and film, from Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth to Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, Diana E. Henderson sketches a complex history of the pleasures and difficulties that ensue when Shakespeare and modern artists collaborate.
Working with texts across the entire range of Shakespeare's career, Henderson demonstrates—through detailed analyses of novels including Jane Eyre and Mrs. Dalloway as well as filmed, televised, and staged performances—that art (even in the newest media) cannot avoid collaborating with the past. Only by studying that collaborative process can we comprehend Shakespeare and Anglo-American culture.