Introduction

Graham Holderness
2021 Critical Survey  
In Britain, from the nineteenth century onwards, the default 'setting' for Shakespeare's plays (by which I mean costume, mise-en-scène, and assumed historical and cultural context) has been medieval and early modern: the time of the plays' composition (late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries) or the time of their historical location (medieval Britain or Europe, ancient Greece or Rome, etc.). In this visual and physical context, Twelfth Night would normally be performed or imagined in
more » ... abethan or Jacobean, Macbeth and Hamlet in medieval, Julius Caesar in ancient Roman dress and settings. In the historical context of their original production, the plays were performed in contemporary dress with minimal mise-en-scène; through the Restoration and eighteenth century in fashionable modern dress and increasingly naturalistic settings. Today in Britain, Shakespeare can be performed in any style of costume, setting and cultural context, from the time of the plays' reference to the immediate contemporary present, and often in an eclectic blend of some or all. But strong forces of tradition and cultural memory tie the plays, in their visual and physical realisation as well as their language, to the medieval and early modern past. We see this attachment in film versions of the plays and of Shakespeare's life. We dress Shakespeare in the costumes of all the ages, but we know that he truly belongs, as in the various portraits, in doublet and ruff.
doi:10.3167/cs.2021.330101 fatcat:hvmzlanivfdrje2bbtm26emlp4