Muted Daughters, Powerful Performance in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice
The presentation will explore questions of agency, embodiment, silence and performance, and disability, in two of William Shakespeare’s plays Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice. I will examine the ways in which directors and producers of contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, specifically the stage adaptation of Titus Andronicus by Lucy Bailey (2015) and the film adaptation by Julie Taymor (1999) and the stage adaptation of The Merchant of Venice by Polly Findlay (2015) and the film adaptation by Michael Radford (2004), alter the meaning of scenes for a modern audience, and help us to better understand the play texts themselves. In addition, these stage and film adaptations bring into question the wills and responsibilities of daughters during the early modern period in Europe that complicate meanings of power and identity. In The Merchant of Venice the audience is confronted with a father–daughter relationship between Shylock and Jessica, that places Jessica’s will and religion in question when she wishes to marry a Christian instead of a Jew, which during this period, meant legally converting to Christianity. This play tackles concerns about violence, will, agency, and silence that audiences also see in the father-daughter relationship of Titus and Lavinia in Titus Andronicus. Adaptations allow for a shift in emphasis and create meaning through action, not just words. For early modern audiences, and for us today, performance is fluid, contingent, and adaptive which allows for variances in interpretation. It is also important to acknowledge that feminist and queer theory assists many scholars and readers of Shakespeare in recognizing the patriarchal, heteronormative, and engendered assumptions across histories. Furthermore, feminist theory has illuminated the patriarchal structures that have silenced women. Thus, my presentation will also engage with early modern feminist scholars such as Melissa E. Sanchez, Christina Luckyj, Kathryn Schwarz, and Valerie Traub.
Kirsten Mendoza, Elizabeth Mackay, David Fine
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences
Institutional Learning Goals
"Muted Daughters, Powerful Performance in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice" (2023). Stander Symposium Projects. 2956.