Non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama on film and television
Bolding, Lisa Ward
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This study explores an area of adaptation studies that has only recently begun to interest scholars: non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama on film and television. Through its filmography of more than sixty items, this project addresses the misconception that few screen adaptations of non-Shakespearean Renaissance plays have ever been produced. The dissertation itself focuses on two particularly rich clusters of appropriations, situating them within their vastly different industrial contexts. Chapters Two and Three examine a group of early British television adaptations from the late thirties and forties that were broadcast live and not recorded. Chapter Two partially reconstructs the earliest of these programs, the 1938 "Duchess of Malfi" (produced by Royston Morley), from documents preserved in the BBC Written Archives Centre (WAC). Chapter Three analyzes the WAC's files for producer Stephen Harrison's "Doctor Faustus" (1947), "Edward II" (1947), and "The Duchess of Malfi" (1949), discussing both their salient narrative and stylistic features and their relationships to larger institutional issues within the BBC. The dissertation's second half shifts from early British television to film from the late nineties and early aughts, providing an alternative to the critical paradigm of the "contemporary Jacobean film" that has begun to shape scholarly response to films such as Edward II (Derek Jarman, 1991), Middleton's Changeling (Marcus Thompson, 1998), Hotel (Mike Figgis, 2001), and Revengers Tragedy (Alex Cox, 2002). While the model of contemporary Jacobean film asserts that directors self-reflexively position themselves as anti-Shakespeare and anti-Shakespeare-as-heritage, Chapters Four and Five argue that the Renaissance and its film adaptations are only one lens through which to view these films and their creators. Chapter Four demonstrates that the ways in which Jarman and Cox construct themselves as auteurs by invoking their Renaissance forbears is less stable than previously suggested, and Thompson and Figgis figure their authorship using the larger contexts of the film industry and its history. Finally, Chapter Five attempts to decenter the Renaissance and the late- nineties "Shakespeare industry" as Hotel's primary engagements by analyzing its deep roots in both the experimental and art cinema traditions.