The Shakespeare Trade
Performances and Appropriations
"A wonderfully high-spirited and illuminating book. Looking at everything from Shakespeare souvenirs to the U.S. news media's reading of O.J. Simpson as Othello, Hodgdon trenchantly examines the myriad ways in which 'Shakespeare' is perpetually rewritten through the performances and practices by which his name and texts circulate in culture."—Jean E. Howard, Columbia University
"Hodgdon's work should be required reading for anyone concerned with Shakespeare's cultural capital at the end of the twentieth century."—South Atlantic Review
In 1623 Ben Jonson touted Shakespeare as the soul of his age; three centuries later, a newspaper advertisement used Shakespeare's reputation to market Budweiser, "The King of All Bottled Beers." Spanning the past hundred years, The Shakespeare Trade looks at how present-day representations of Shakespeare borrow from and negotiate with his cultural authority to shore up particular obsessions, preoccupations, and myths while making and remaking Anglo-American images of gender and subjectivity.
In these provocative case studies, Barbara Hodgdon examines not only how Shakespeare's plays are staged and restaged by readers and critics as well as by performers and directors but also how the Elizabethan age itself is recirculated and marketed.
Hodgdon's look at "The Taming of the Shrew" scans from silent films to the Shrew episode of the eighties television show Moonlighting, to the most recent Royal Shakespeare Company productions. Moving beyond Shakespeare's plays themselves, she considers how film and television have marketed Queen Elizabeth I's popular cultural memory and how Stratford's various museum spaces celebrate and exhibit an "authentic" Shakespeare side by side with the "Shakespeare kitsch": T-shirts, ties, thimbles, savings banks, and other mass market souvenirs. Styled as a "collector's history," The Shakespeare Trade offers an absorbing and timely account of the means through which Shakespeare's plays, the figure of Shakespeare, and Elizabethan England function in twentieth-century British and American cultures.
Barbara Hodgdon is Ellis and Nelle Levitt Professor of English at Duke University and author of The End Crowns All: Closure and Contradiction in Shakespeare's History.