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Hospitality in Shakespeare: the case of The Merchant of Venice, Troilus and Cressida and Timon of Athens

Battell, Sophie 2017. Hospitality in Shakespeare: the case of The Merchant of Venice, Troilus and Cressida and Timon of Athens. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis analyses hospitality in three of Shakespeare’s plays: The Merchant of Venice (c.1596-7), Troilus and Cressida (c. 1601-2) and Timon of Athens (c. 1606-7). It draws on ideas from Derrida and other recent theorists to argue that Shakespeare treats hospitality as the site of urgent ethical inquiry. Far more than a mechanical part of the stage business that brings characters on and off the performance space and into contact with one another, hospitality is allied to the darker visions of these troubling plays. Hospitality is a means by which Shakespeare confronts ideas about death and mourning, betrayal, and the problem of time and transience, encouraging us to reconsider what it means to be truly welcoming. That the three plays studied are not traditionally linked is important. The intention is not to shape the plays into a new group, but rather to demonstrate that Shakespeare’s staging of hospitality is far-reaching in its openness. Again, while the thesis is informed by Derrida’s writings, its approach is through close readings of the texts. Throughout, the thesis is careful not to prioritise big moments of spectacle over more subtle explorations of the subject. Thus, the chapter on ‘The Merchant of Venice’ explores the sounds that fill the play and its concern with our senses. Other chapters similarly approach the plays not as exemplars of hospitality but as illuminating problems posed by the complex nature of what it means to be welcoming. The second chapter on ‘Troilus and Cressida’ explores the vulnerability of guests and hosts to one another on and off the battlefield, while the last chapter on ‘Timon of Athens’ argues that the emphasis Shakespeare places on death and mourning problematises the play’s gift economy and its representation of hospitality. Finally, the conclusion glances briefly ahead to ‘The Winter’s Tale’ (c. 1610-11) and the relationship between hospitality and forgiveness. But there are no easy answers to the problem of hospitality in the late plays either, since they, too, remain caught in the dilemma of what it means to be welcoming.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Additional Information: The book based on this thesis is available open access at the below link.
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Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 January 2018
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2023 10:53

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