Liminality in Shakespeare's As You Like It, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida
Vural Özbey, Kübra
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While the Elizabethan government exploited the theatre as a propagandist means, the Elizabethan stage was controlled by the regulations of patronage and censorship enacted on the playwrights in order to suppress oppositional voices. Yet the theatre’s power resided in its subversive nature so that the playwrights used it as a tool for criticism against the dominant ideologies and practices. In this period, acknowledging the rules of censorship and witnessing the punishment of his contemporaries, Shakespeare developed a cautious approach while problematising serious political issues such as factionalism, the succession crisis, rebellion and tyranny in his plays. In the analysis of Shakespeare’s various plays, Shakespearean scholars have widely recognised the playwright’s strategies to avoid punishment and censorship such as his use of other sources, distant settings and ambiguity. This dissertation aims to identify liminality as one of Shakespeare’s tools for criticism and contribute to such studies by discussing liminality in Shakespeare’s three plays in different genres, As You Like It (1599-1600), Hamlet (1599-1601) and Troilus and Cressida (1603). Written during the liminal time of the late Elizabethan period in an atmosphere of transition from one monarch to another, all of the three plays dominantly reveal an aspect of liminality, namely liminal place, character/action and time respectively, through which Shakespeare is observed to critically comment on the problematic politics of the late Elizabethan rule. While Shakespeare judges Elizabeth I’s failure in controlling her court and country, he exploits the different dynamics of liminality to implicitly voice his critical remarks, enabling him to avoid punishment. Therefore, Chapter I analyses the setting of As You Like It, the Forest of Arden, as a liminal place and contemplates on the liminal setting in relation to Shakespeare’s political criticism about Elizabeth’s methods of punishment of her opponents, such as banishment and exile. Then, Chapter II on Hamlet examines the liminal character Hamlet and his liminal actions through which Shakespeare’s critical approach to the issues of the succession crisis, tyranny and rebellion taking place during the late Elizabethan period is discussed. Next, Chapter III reconsiders the period of the Trojan War, syphilis time and the emphasis on the present time in Troilus and Cressida as liminal time and examines how Shakespeare uses this kind of liminality to censure the mechanics of factionalism and express his disillusionment with the period of transition during the late Elizabethan era in England. While the dissertation sets out to fill the gap between the analysis of Shakespeare’s strategies and the studies on liminality in his plays, it eventually provides an insight into the playwright’s political agenda and displays his scope of artistic creativity to avoid censorship and punishment.