Performing dreams in England and Spain, 1570-1670

Ponti, Emanuela (2010) Performing dreams in England and Spain, 1570-1670. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis investigates the performance of dreams and dreaming in a few early modern English and Spanish plays, namely William Shakespeare’s 'The Taming of the Shrew' and 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 'Life Is a Dream' and 'Sometimes Dreams Come True' and Aphra Behn’s 'The Young King'. Chapter 1 introduces the cultural milieus in which my case studies operate and validate my comparative approach by calling attention to the fact that both dramas attend to similar preoccupations regarding traditional rank and gender hierarchies. Furthermore, it provides an account of the dream theories in force at that time and underscores that dreams are seen as either negligible or very significant entities. Chapter 2 elucidates why I have chosen to study the dreams within the selected plays focusing on their phenomenal, generic and ideological attributes. Phenomenological analysis allows me to prove that the dreams I consider are deeply sensory occurrences that look and feel like reality and vividly expose disturbing (male) habits of power attainment and safeguarding. The plays at issue predictably terminate with the celebration of the (socio-political or religious) values of the patriarchy; nonetheless, I argue that the lifelike dreams have throughout cast doubt on the legitimacy of the beliefs that prevail on- and off-stage and, hence, cannot be simply set aside at the end of the performance. Chapter 3 considers 'The Taming of the Shrew' and 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' in order to: 1) show that in these two comedies powerful male figures exploit dreams to shape the visual/ideological perceptions of socially inferior characters; and, 2) verify that the simultaneously illusory and tangible quality of dream (and performance) is not easily dismiss-able as ‘airy nothing’. Chapter 4 and 5 respectively explore 'Life Is a Dream' and 'Sometimes Dreams Come True' and demonstrate that the dreams in question paradoxically endorse and query the philosophical and religious core of these two plays. In fact, life may be a dream, but in it the acquisition of political authority matters very much; Catholic dogma may be true, but it only comes to life via (supposedly insubstantial) dreams. By investigating 'The Young King', the last chapter of this thesis again proves the phenomenal and cultural weight dreams acquire on early modern stages: the dreams within this tragicomedy intensely reveal the artificiality of established gender positions and powerfully portray ‘natural’ male pre-eminence in an equivocal light.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Early modern English drama, early modern Spanish drama, dreams in literature and drama, dream theories, phenomenology, genre theory, comparative drama, Shakespearean comedy, Calderonian comedy and religious drama, Aphra Behn, tragicomedy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Scullion, Prof. Adrienne and Price, Dr. Victoria E.
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Miss Emanuela Ponti
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1737
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2010
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2013 07:50

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