Dympna C. Callaghan
This page reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.
"Shakespeare in Pieces" (Mellon, 2009–2010)
One of the overwhelming experiences of art in early modern England was of shattered objects, of artifacts broken and despoiled in the midst of the iconophobia unleashed by the Reformation. I argue that this historical circumstance is the engine of Shakespeare’s depiction of visual culture and of the strategies of theatrical and poetic representation deployed there.
Exploring the plethora of “bits and pieces” of the visual arts—drawings, paintings limning, waxes, marbles, miniatures, statues, engravings, stained glass, and so on—scattered throughout Shakespeare’s works, I ask why, especially when viewed in the context of his contemporaries, Shakespeare’s depictions of “Art with nature’s workmanship at strife” (Venus and Adonis) are almost invariably, torn, broken in small pieces, simply incomplete, or otherwise fragmented. My argument in this book is that Shakespeare’s representation of art objects does not so much flesh out the reality he depicts but rather draws attention to precisely the “strife” of artistic accomplishment. “Strife” in this period signals not only the ethical dilemmas of early modern creativity but also the significant technical struggles evident in the English arts. Among the damaged, the dispersed, or potentially impaired artifacts in the plays and poems, the power of images—scattered, splintered, broken, ripped, or just incomplete—reveals itself precisely in the energy of fragmentation. My book project will demonstrate how Shakespeare capitalized on the power of images to energize his explorations of emotion, identity, stagecraft, and religion.
Lecture, "Feminist Shakespeare: The Case of Romeo and Juliet" (Spring 1991)