Metadrama In Shakespeare

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‘Shakespeare’s plays reflect not life but art.’ Make use of this remark in writing an essay on Shakespeare’s use of Metadrama.

Shakespeare constantly plays with metadrama and the perception of his plays as theatre and not life with the complications inherent that in life we all play roles and perceive life in different ways. The play has recognition of its existence as theatre, which has relevance to a contemporary world that is increasingly aware of precisely how its values and practices are constructed and legitimised through perceptions of reality.
Critic Mark Currie posits that metadrama allows its readers a better understanding of the fundamental structures of narrative while providing an accurate model for understanding the contemporary experience of the world as a series of constructed systems. From this quote metadrama can be said to openly question how narrative assumptions and conventions transform and filter reality, trying to ultimately prove that no singular truths or meanings exist. In respect to the plays of Shakespeare, critic John Drakakis supports this notion arguing that Julius Caesar may be read as a kind of metadrama: by figuring Caesar, Brutus, Cassius and others as actors, self consciously fashioning Roman politics as competing theatrical performances the play enacts the representation of itself to ideology, and of ideology to subjectivity. Moreover if the subjects within the fiction of Julius Caesar are radically unstable by virtue of their representations then so is the theatre whose function is to stage this instability. This means that Julius Caesar fits within this essay’s definitions of Shakespeare’s work reflecting art not life, but also if we are to think of life in terms of people playing roles within their lives where ‘All the world’s a stage’ , and perceiving reality in a myriad different ways then theatre reflects life reflecting art - a complication that students of Shakespeare would expect the Bard to enjoy. Feste in Twelfth Night exemplifies this notion,
“Nothing that is so is so”
(Act IV scene i, line 8)
Shakespeare uses Feste to foreground the artificiality of the complex theater and language systems that the audience absorbs, saying, ‘Nothing that seems real is how you perceive it’. It is a metadramatic irony that Shakespeare uses the fool to do this. Wor...

... middle of paper ... artful language systems with the use of alliteration (‘r’ sounds) and puns (eyes, I) which is obviously artistic expression and unlike real life, foregrounding the theatrical systems to the audience and allowing them to enjoy the magical/unreal theme.
This essay has examined the various

Patricia Waugh also provides a comprehensive definition by describing metafiction as "fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality"


Scholes, Robert. "Metafiction." Metafiction. Ed. Mark Currie. New York: Longman, 1995

(Shakespeare’s Tragedies - ‘Fashion It Thus, Julius Caesar and the politics of representation’ John Drakakis, MacMillan Press London 1998)

(Jefferson. Ann. "Patricia Waugh, Metafiction The Theory and Practice of Self-conscious Fiction." Poetics Today. 7:3 (1986): 574-6.)

Hamlet, New Swan Shakespeare Advanced Series. Ed. Bernard Lott Longman Group Ltd 1970

The Complete Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford University Press 1987 Suffolk Ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor

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