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'Awake your faith': Word-Magic in Shakespeare's Late Plays

Banna, Rana; (2024) 'Awake your faith': Word-Magic in Shakespeare's Late Plays. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines how Shakespeare’s late plays – Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest – stage a semiotic problem that is only overcome by faith in their miraculous endings. Towards the end of his career – alert to the upsurge in scientific rationalism – Shakespeare shows a nostalgic yearning to recuperate magical thinking in his writing, to prove and preserve language’s enduring power despite this cultural shift, showing that words, if used expertly, could still magically perform meaning, embodying an optimistic semiotics. Each chapter of this thesis addresses one of Shakespeare’s four romances, identifying in each a distinctive aspect of early-modern magical practice which is first examined through period commentary, before then observing how it repairs the corrupted linguistic signification of the play to salvage a faithful, operative semiotics. Although these plays begin in a cynical, deceptive, harsh political landscape, plagued by a crisis of slippery, dysfunctional signification, Shakespeare recovers an innocent conception of language as a sentimental alternative that purposely grants a naïve faith in the efficacy of the linguistic sign. These late plays are most reliant upon moments of spectacular wonder in which the impossible appears possible, like the spectacle of Hermione’s statue, seemingly resurrected in The Winter’s Tale. Crucially, however, this magic is only effective once Paulina primes her audience: ‘It is requir’d | You do awake your faith’ (V.iii.94-5). This study reveals how Shakespeare’s romances are preoccupied by a seemingly outdated desire to capture the transcendent magic word, even as magical thinking recedes.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: 'Awake your faith': Word-Magic in Shakespeare's Late Plays
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2024. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10187611
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