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Shakespeare and equivocation: Language and the doom in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear

Christofides, Roger M. 2008. Shakespeare and equivocation: Language and the doom in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Equivocation is a condition of language that runs riot in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. Whether as ambiguity or dissimulation, equivocation propels the plots of these plays to their tragic finales. The Doom as depicted in pre-Reformation churches is invoked in the plays as a force that could end both equivocation and tragedy. However, Shakespeare withholds this divine intervention, allowing the tragedy to play out. Chapter One outlines the thesis, explains the methodological approach, and locates the thesis in relation to the major fields of Shakespeare studies. Chapter Two focuses on the equivocal position of father-and-not-father occupied by Claudius and the Ghost in Hamlet, and the memento mori imagery in the play that reminds the audience of the inevitability of death and Judgement. Chapter Three on Othello examines Iago's equivocal mode of address, a blend of equivocations and lies that aims to move Othello from a valued insider to a detested outsider in Venice. Chapter Four argues that linguistic and temporal equivocations are the condition of Macbeth, where the trace of the future invades the present and the trace of vice invades virtue. In both Othello and Macbeth, the protagonists, in their darkest moments, summon images of apocalyptic damnation. Chapter Five proposes that the language of King Lear deconstructs the opposition between Christianity and paganism, and interprets Cordelia as both Lear's poison and remedy. Furthermore, it analyses the moment when Lear enters the stage carrying Cordelia's dead body as an equivocal invocation of the Doom. The methodological approach to this thesis draws on Derrida's conception of language as differential and without access to any divine guarantees that could anchor meaning. The tragedies, then, can be understood in relation to language: they are denied the divine force that could fix, resolve, and stabilize them.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
ISBN: 9781303185274
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2018 23:39

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