Out vile jelly: The consumption of violence in "King Lear" and "The Winter's Tale"

Evan Marie Stapleton, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

There is a distinct difference in the representation of violence and its aftermath in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. More so after 1603, bloody spectacles, brutal torture, and public theatrics are commonplace in daily life and entertainment; Jacobean life is comprised of a culture of violence. This paper examines the representation of violence and its aftermath in "King Lear" and "The Winter's Tale." As Shakespeare adapts plays for a Jacobean audience, the violence in the plays is decidedly more nuanced and psychological than in the Elizabethan plays, which tend to favor gore, spectacular images, and mostly physical damages. First, I examine the violent climate of social, political, and religious communities under James I. In a rather unconventional move, I utilize Performance Studies theory—and am inspired by the philosophy of The Theater of Cruelty and The Theater of the Oppressed—and suggest early modern public playhouses should be considered texts that are in conversation with many of James' policies. Finally, I turn to "King Lear" and "The Winter's Tale" as examples of Shakespeare's masterful representation of nuanced violence and its aftermath. Rather than performed plays offering an "escape" from daily life, I argue that plays such as "King Lear" and "The Winter's Tale" consciously incorporate the audience into the narrative in an uncanny manner that eradicates the possibility for "escapism." ^

Subject Area

English literature|Theater history

Recommended Citation

Stapleton, Evan Marie, "Out vile jelly: The consumption of violence in "King Lear" and "The Winter's Tale"" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10124915.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI10124915

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