Time, Locality, and the Patterns of Life in Shakespearean Romance (Panel / In-Person)

Special Session
British and Anglophone / Drama, Theater, and Performance

Alfred Drake (California State University - Fullerton)
ajdr@****.com (Log-in to reveal)

Shakespeare’s romance plays are well known for a certain imaginative boldness in their constructions of place and time, and this quality seems intimately connected with the things many of us find most valuable about Shakespearean romance. This special session will focus on the settings and temporalities of the romance plays in connection with the broader arcs of human experience and insight those plays explore.

Shakespeare’s romance plays are in one sense about as far from realistic as plays can be. We may recall Thomas Love Peacock’s quip in "The Four Ages of Poetry" about the Elizabethan dramatists, a quip grounded in an affirmation that the golden age of modern poetry and drama sprang from the wilder or romantic dimensions of classical and medieval literature: Peacock wrote that the Elizabethan dramatists included time and place “merely because they could not do without them.” The witticism is fair, as far as it goes -- fair in regard to the most obvious irregularities in the dramas of Shakespeare and some of his contemporaries involving plot, location, and so forth.

Still, in a deeper sense, Shakespeare’s romance plays (and sections of certain plays that gesture towards the possibility of a romance ending, as in King Lear or Antony and Cleopatra) may well be among the most true-to-life productions he ever staged. What does it take to be true to the great patterns we may perceive in life, true to the arcs of failure and redemption most of us experience if we live long enough to learn from a past filled with suffering and regret, a past that resembles neither the simplicity of comic experience nor the relentless linearity of the tragic? In keeping with the 2022 PAMLA conference theme, “Geographies of the Fantastic and Quotidian,” we should approach this aspect of Shakespearean romance with special focus on the quality and value of the places and temporal constructs in the romance plays. Of main interest would be The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline, and The Two Noble Kinsmen.