Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance

Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance asks a central theoretical question in the study of drama: what is the relationship between the dramatic text and the meanings of performance? Developing the notion of ‘performativity’ explored by J. L. Austin, Judith Butler, and others, Worthen argues that the text cannot govern the force of its performance. Instead the text becomes significant only as embodied in the changing conventions of its performance. Worthen explores this understanding of dramatic performativity by interrogating several contemporary sites of Shakespeare production. He analyses how Shakespeare is recreated in historical performance, exemplified by the Globe Theatre on Bankside; by international and intercultural performance; by film; and by the appearance of Shakespeare on the Internet. The book includes detailed discussions of recent film and stage productions, and sets Shakespeare performance alongside other works of contemporary drama and theatre.

• A major new study in the field of Shakespeare performance, and dramatic performance more generally • Specific discussion of a range of contemporary performances and films • Resituates performance studies in relation to the history of print culture and dramatic writing generally


Introduction: dramatic performativity and the force of performance; 1. Performing history; 2. Globe performativity; 3. Shakespearean geographies; 4. Cyber-performance.


‘A handy introduction to Shakespeare in contemporary performance.’ Cahiers Elisabethains

\'Worthen\'s book is an erudite and truly illuminating study. It not only discusses the relevant research, but also makes its point by meticulously and brilliantly analysing performances from all over the world.\' Journal of Theatre Research International

\'… measured, wide-ranging, and generous …\'. The Drama Review

\'W. B. Worthen\'s book is a welcome addition to the rowing body of studies that deal with various aspects of Shakespearean \'performativity\' in the contemporary theatre … Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance is a lucid and often entertaining addition to his already impressive body of critical work. Modern Language Review