Hostname: page-component-f7d5f74f5-z2nk8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-10-05T03:47:32.798Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

On Being a Shakespearian Dramatist: An Approach to The Back of Beyond

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2009


The lack of constant speech is not contempt But silence measures those compelled to speak. What does not change is will to change, they say, Though changes do outrun the will's control. Each person has a story that rolls on Beyond the boundaries of the play in which they're placed, Unless they fall in love at last with limits And try to die into an old play's shape. Not even witches know what happens after, But once I met an actor, wild and broken, Who said, ‘The play is dead: long live the play’, with laughter, Then wept at faces he saw in the bracken.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 2000

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



1. Barker, Howard, Arguments for a Theatre (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 3rd edition, 1997), p. 153.Google Scholar

2. Cornforth, Andy & Rabey, David Ian, ‘Kissing Holes for the Bullets: Consciousness in Directing and Playing Barker's Uncle Vanya’, in Performing Arts International 1999, Vol. 1, Part 4, pp. 2545.Google Scholar

3. Barker, , Arguments for a Theatre, p. 154.Google Scholar

4. Holland, Peter, English Shakespeares (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 265.Google Scholar

5. Booth, Stephen, ‘King Lear’, ‘Macbeth’, Indefinition and Tragedy (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983), p. 6.Google Scholar

6. Ibid., p. 11.

7. Ibid., pp. 13, 15 and 22.

8. Unpublished 1983 essay by Ron Callan (now a lecturer at University College, Dublin), quoted with his permission.

9. In a letter of 24 January 2000, responding to a first draft of this paper, Eric Schneider comments: ‘It could also be argued that what makes Shakespeare's theatre so inspiringly artificial is his complete disregard for psychological conventions. Whether a character, say Edgar, feigns madness, or is indeed mad, makes little difference; it has no bearing on the actual perception of madness. What is witnessed, must be true. Which explains why Edgar so often reminds us that actually he is not mad’.

10. The town's actual name is Echternach, and it also commemorates displacement: its monastery testifies to the to efforts and Celtic influences of an expatriate monk from Lindisfarne.

11. Mangan, Michael, A Preface to Shakespeare's Traged-ies (London & New York: Longman, 1991), p. 177.Google Scholar

12. Ibid., p. 40.

13. See Barba, Eugenio, Beyond the Floating Islands (New York: PAJ Press, 1986), pp. 209–12.Google Scholar

14. Kennelly, Brendan, Journey into Joy: Selected Prose (Newcastle: Bloodaxe, 1994), p. 30.Google Scholar

15. Ibid., p. 36.

16. Ibid., p. 44. After writing The Back of Beyond, I learnt that my surname originally means ‘s/he who lives at or on the boundary’. This was detailed in a family history entitled The Boundary and Beyond, ed. Rabey, Graham Peter (Faken-ham: The Raby Family History Society, 1995)Google Scholar. I was encour-aged by both discoveries.

17. Schneider (see n. 9) comments: ‘Wrayburn is probably the character who is most difficult to situate in the play, but also the one to challenge most the company producing the play. She is central to the play, yet defies description and analysis. Perhaps a short evaluation of what she means to you and to the play may enlighten why she is the one to confront Echternacht and would bring this fascinating char-acter a little out of the shadows, if only to disappear into the dark again’. However, and perhaps significantly, I find myself unable to provide this, and think the task better left to another.

18. All quotations from Russell Dean are drawn from a letter to the author, July 2000, for which I am, as for his other contributions to the production, very grateful.

19. Winterson, Jeanette, Gut Symmetries (London: Granta, 1997), pp. 82–3.Google Scholar

20. This distinction is inspired by that of Rudkin, David, ‘Being an Artaudian Dramatist’, collected as part of the Conference Papers of Past Masters: Antonin Artaud Conference 8–10 November 1996 (Aberystwyth: Centre for Per-formance Research, 1996).Google Scholar

21. Jackson, Russell, in Shakespeare: An Illustrated Stage History, ed. Bate, Jonathan and Jackson, Russell (Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 230.Google Scholar