Shakespeare and the Problem of Adaptation  book cover
1st Edition

Shakespeare and the Problem of Adaptation

ISBN 9780415308687
Published December 23, 2008 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

'Kidnie's study presents original, sophisticated, and profoundly intelligent answers to important questions.' - Lukas Erne, University of Geneva

'This is a fine and productive book, one that will surely draw significant attention and commentary well beyond the precincts of Shakespeare studies.' - W.B. Worthen, Columbia University

Shakespeare’s plays continue to be circulated on a massive scale in a variety of guises – as editions, performances, and adaptations – and it is by means of such mediation that we come to know his drama. Shakespeare and the Problem of Adaptation addresses fundamental questions about this process of mediation, making use of the fraught category of adaptation to explore how we currently understand the Shakespearean work. To adapt implies there exists something to alter, but what constitutes the category of the ‘play’, and how does it relate to adaptation? How do ‘play’ and ‘adaptation’ relate to drama’s twin media, text and performance? What impact might answers to these questions have on current editorial, performance, and adaptation studies?

Margaret Jane Kidnie argues that ‘play’ and ‘adaptation’ are provisional categories - mutually dependent processes that evolve over time in accordance with the needs of users. This theoretical argument about the identity of works and the nature of text and performance is pursued in relation to diverse examples, including theatrical productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the BBC’s ShakespeaRe-Told, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and recent print editions of the complete works. These new readings build up a persuasive picture of the cultural and intellectual processes that determine how the authentically Shakespearean is distinguished from the fraudulent and adaptive.  Adaptation thus emerges as the conceptually necessary but culturally problematic category that results from partial or occasional failures to recognize a shifting work in its textual-theatrical instance.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Problem of Adaptation  1 – Surviving Performance: Shakespeare’s Contested Works  2 – Defining the Work through Production, or What Adaptation is Not  3 – Entangled in the Present: Shakespeare and the Politics of Production  4 – Adapting Media: ShakespeaRe-Told by the BBC  5 – Textual Origins

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Margaret Jane Kidnie is Associate Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She has edited early modern drama and prose, and has published widely on performance, adaptation, textual studies, and editorial practice. She is currently editing A Woman Killed with Kindness for the Arden Early Modern Drama series.


'Kidnie's study presents original, sophisticated and profoundly intelligent answers to important questions.  Its scope is ambitious and requires a set of skills which few Shakespearean scholars possess: unusually, Kidnie is as much at home in performance studies and in textual studies; she is keenly attuned to the practicalities of actual performances as well as to the theorization of performancel she is incisive on political issues relating to contemporary dramatic writings as on the questions of how media impact the production of Shakespeare.' - English Studies