n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Jonson, Shakespeare and Early Modern Virgil, Margaret Tudeau-Clayton : book review

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



It is over ten years since this book was published, and another twelve since Clayton (as she was then) completed the dissertation on which it is based, so it may be a little unfair to judge it in today's context. The book is preoccupied with the concerns of the 1980s: anti-canonical grievance and the imperative to rescue Shakespeare from complicity in educational and social elitism. Tudeau-Clayton's thesis is that Shakespeare has been used by the imperial classes in recent times rather as Virgil was in early modern England. The theme has much potential, for we are all interested in the place of Shakespeare in the modern curriculum - for Tudeau-Clayton's part, she wishes that we were discussing alternatives to Shakespeare rather than "alternative Shakespeares" (9) - but the ideological crudeness of the book means that she does justice neither to the politics of early modern Virgilianism nor to the diversity of Shakespearean practice today. She is so determined to combat 'Shakespeare' the cultural icon with Shakespeare the author of that Ben Jonson necessarily plays the role of exclusive foil to the all-embracing bard.

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