Shakespeare and the language of violence. - PhDData

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Shakespeare and the language of violence.

The thesis was published by Wightman, Juliet Heather, in September 2022, University of Stirling.


Focusing on a selection o f Shakespeare’s plays and narrative poems, I examine
the way in which violence is articulated in language and argue that language
not only figures acts o f violence but is also violent in itself. I begin by situating
my argument historically, exploring perceptions o f language and its effects in
Renaissance England, and demonstrate that there was a keen sense of the
materiality of language. Following on from this, I outline the theoretical
insights that inform my argument, highlighting the way in which Marx’s
assertion that the subject is socially constructed can be usefully considered in
conjunction with Lacan’s conception of the role of language in the
development o f the subject. I argue that because language precedes our entry
into it, it effects a violent circumscription o f the limits of the subject. I
examine the representations o f sexual violence in Titus Andronicus and The Tape
of Hucrece and identify the ways in which assumptions about gender difference
are encoded within language, producing a female subject position largely
shaped by patriarchal imperatives. In Chapter Four, I discuss executions as a
highly visible form of state violence during the period and suggest that as a
recurring spectacle, they contributed to the changing attitudes towards death.
Paying particular attention to the representations of death in / Henry IH, I
consider the way in which the production of history occurs at the level of
language and emerges out of violent contestation. The violence o f the bear-pit
provides the focus for Chapter Five, and I offer a reading of Coriolanus which
interrogates the significance of the metaphors o f bearbaiting found
throughout the play. I argue that the paradigm o f unremitting violence offered
by the sport addresses aspects o f an anxious subjectivity neglected by the
teleological form o f tragedy. Finally, I discuss domestic violence in relation to
A Yorkshire Tragedy, emphasising that the violent potentiality embodied within
linguistic structures is often the agent o f violence inflicted within the domestic

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