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Journal Articles Concentric Year : 2022

Performing Restoration Shakespeare "Then" and "Now": A Case Study of Davenant's Macbeth

Claude Fretz


Focusing on a case study of William Davenant's Macbeth (c.1664), this article sets out to explore how and why Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare's plays succeeded in performance in their own time (especially in the 1660s and 1670s) and how they might be revived for audiences today. To achieve this, the article combines theater history and literary criticism with practice-based performance scholarship. Firstly, it draws on reviews and reports from the Restoration to examine how and why rewriting and adaptation were necessary to ensure the survival of Shakespeare's plays after the end of the English Civil War. In the same segment, the article also examines how the emphasis on musical and visual spectacle and the use of heavily revised playtexts were received by seventeenth-century playgoers. The article then uses observations and conclusions made during a rare professional production of Davenant's Macbeth at the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC (2018) to investigate how Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare can inform modern theater practice. The conflicts and obstacles that were encountered in this production, and the possibilities and solutions that were discovered, can offer lessons as well as strategies for performing Restoration Shakespeare both now and in the future. By considering the creative choices made during the Folger's production and investigating how these were received by reviewers and audiences, the article suggests a selective and adaptive approach to using Restoration Shakespeare in modern theater practice: namely, one that exploits the performance potential of the musical spectacle and of the new characters that were added by Restoration adapters but treats with caution the revisions of Shakespeare's plots and language.
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hprints-03624610 , version 1 (30-03-2022)



Claude Fretz. Performing Restoration Shakespeare "Then" and "Now": A Case Study of Davenant's Macbeth. Concentric, 2022, 48 (1), pp.27-56. ⟨10.6240/concentric.lit.202203_48(1).0002⟩. ⟨hprints-03624610⟩
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