That Shakespeare in performance has come of critical age seems to be signalled by the volume dedicated to it in Cambridge University Press’s Companion series. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Stage edited by Stanley Wells and Sarah Stanton joins Companions to ‘Shakespeare’, ‘Shakespeare on Film’, ‘Shakespearian Comedy’, ‘Shakespeare’s History Plays’ and, forthcoming, ‘Shakespeare’s Tragedies’. The asymmetry of this taxonomic division may seem rather like Foucault’s report of the Chinese encyclopaedia’s distribution of the animal kingdom: the rationale offered in the volume is a response to ‘the increasing number of courses devoted to the history of Shakespeare in performance’ (p. xv). Something more explicit on the demands, opportunities and theory of this pedagogical shift might have been useful – a curious lack of reflection on methodological issues emerges as a dominant theme of writing on Shakespeare in performance – but the contributions map an elegant conspectus of approaches to the subject. The collection opens with ‘Shakespeare’s Plays on Renaissance Stages’, and then there are chapters on Restoration, Romantic, Victorian, neo-Elizabethan and twentieth-century production trends. A clutch of chapters consider non-English stage traditions, in North America, Asia and Africa, and there are chapters on political Shakespeare, on women, on touring, and on comic and tragic actors.
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