Scrapping orthodox Shakespeareanism altogether, including the notion that Shakespeare's final purpose was to write "romances," this book researches the special object of fascination that captured Shakespeare's attention in the final phase of his creative life. The author approaches this new area of late-Shakespearean fascination by implementing a quite innovative exposition of the peculiarly complex role played by recovery in the last plays.
Recovery, as Shakespeare finally conceived it, is not the thing we usually understand by that word. On the contrary, it is an absolutely unique possibility (in the world as well as in drama) that Shakespeare managed to relate to an astonishing new turn in his attitude to his own imagination.
This complete turning of Shakespeare into and "against" Shakespeare is a radical and awesome move that has received little, if any, attention in criticism and critical theory. It is the condition of possibility for the ultimate coup de theatre of Shakespeare's career: the transmutation of recognition into mystical experience.
Unlike most surveys of Shakespeare's final period, this book does not passively assume that all the last plays form a group. By excluding The Tempest from the analysis of recognition and miracle in Shakespeare, the author argues that there is a crucial difference between the miracle-centered plays of Shakespeare (Pericles, The Winter's Tale, and Cymbeline) and magus-centered plays where the dramatist is still projecting dramatic intensity through the centralized subjectivity of a fatherly and quasi-divine presence.
The miracle plays are not based on presence, but on miracle. Dramatic excitement is not in the human but in the inhuman, not in the organic but in the inorganic: transcendence is shot from man into world, from the imagination into its objects.
Focusing this surprising reversal, H. W. Fawkner gives readings of the miracle plays that are so different from the established interpretations that the plays appear to emerge anew from their slumbers and misconceptions--to suddenly speak to us differently of things we have so far not permitted ourselves to even theorize, fantasize, or perceive.
Rejecting symbolic readings, the author insists that the translation of the experience of the miraculous into psychoanalysis or "myth" is as pointless as any other form of symbolic appropriation of the plays. Symbolic understandings of the miracle plays fail to dig into the roots of what is typical of miraculous experience. To understand Shakespeare's last plays, one must first grasp what a miracle is--not only in religion, culture, drama, and aesthetics, but in Shakespeare. Only through such a comprehension of the idiosyncrasy of miracle can there be any strong understanding of the role of those other (but now quite different) aspects of the last plays: jealousy, dumbness, language, plot, solidity, character, error, love, monstrosity, melancholy, solitude, beauty, immortality, and perfection.
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