Category: Seminar

List of abstracts

“Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair” – An Exploration of the Role of the witches in Macbeth as Agents who Expose Gender and Power Fault lines in Jacobean Society

On the surface, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth seems to be a rather simple play about regicide and usurpation which takes place under the influence of witchcraft and the encouragement of an ambitious wife. In the end, order is restored – Macbeth is defeated, Lady Macbeth dies in a fit of insanity and the witches disappear into thin air. However, much like several of his other works, this play by Shakespeare remains deceptive in its simplicity. One cannot simply read it as a story of displacement and replacement of power without understanding what kind of power is operating at this level. Therefore, it is essential for one to understand, that as the play is essentially dealing with the idea of kingship, the power structure that is displaced, only to be later restored is that of patriarchy.

Terry Eagleton famously said “the positive value of Macbeth lies with the three witches”. He went on to say that they “expose a reverence for hierarchical social order for what it is.” This statement seems to be particularly true when it is viewed from the historicity of the notion of witchcraft in the United Kingdom. Post 1300 and right through the reign of James I, witchcraft and sorcery were viewed as a threat of the monarchy, and by extension to patriarchy. It was seen as a female force that threatened to upturn the patriarchal structure of the world, and the notion of witchcraft was a method of upholding patriarchy by demonizing women. Thus, the witches as well as Lady Macbeth seem to overthrow patriarchal power, even if it is for a little while, thus exposing patriarchy it for what it really is.

This paper seeks to look at the witches, not as agents of evil, but subaltern characters that stand to expose the bloodshed and lust for power in the world of men in contrast to the sorority they seem to exist in. They also expose the fear of the female power that drove the prosecution witches and demonizing of women in that age. Thus, this paper seeks to show them performing the very specific function of societal exposition as opposed to simply existing as evil characters.

Toonika Guha is a third year student of Literature at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. A Kolkata girl, her interests lie in books, films and TV shows. She hopes that one day she can use her knowledge of Literature to create better narratives for Indian television shows. She may be contacted at g.toonika@gmail.com.

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Shakespearean Women: Challenging Traditional Gender Roles

This paper is going to discuss some female characters from Shakespeare’s oeuvre in terms of challenging traditional gender roles. In Shakespearean society, it was men who held exclusively the official posts of authority to direct the outcomes of events. So, it will be interesting to see how Shakespeare permits his female characters ranging from Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to Gertrude (Hamlet) to struggle within and against inflexible social expectations in an effort to make their own destiny.

In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia was forced to recognize and honour masculine authority in order to comply with traditional gender roles, which dictated that a woman should marry to either preserve or advance social ties and not to gratify her own romantic or sexual needs. She protests thoughtfully by saying: “But I beseech your grace that I may know the worst that may befall me in this case…”

With this statement, Hermia demonstrates respect for authority but articulates clearly that she is a woman who decide what she feels best for herself and is not going to offer her own right to make decisions to authority simply because it is a male-based authority

In Hamlet, the character of Gertrude, Queen of Denmark is considered to be the most privileged and presumably powerful of the women because of her royal position. Even for her it was difficult to achieve the kind of autonomy for which she yearns. Her own son, Hamlet, finds it despicable that his mother pursues his own uncle for a romantic relationship even after the death of her husband. But Gertrude turns out to be brave and bold woman who was strong enough to challenge social norms by rejecting them altogether. Therefore, to conclude, one can say that the aforementioned women characters managed to challenge the masculine social order.

Aprajita Mishra is currently pursuing her graduation in English from Bharati College, University of Delhi. She also holds a Diploma in Education (D.ED). Literature happened to her by chance, but now it has become an inseparable part of her life. She likes to explore fictional and non-fictional works, but detective stories excite her the most. She occasionally indulges in writing poetry. She enjoys whatever she does, be it reading, writing or working for a cause. Apart from academics, she has also associated with WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) for the sake of animal welfare. She may be contacted at aprajita_virgo26@yahoo.com.

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Love, sexuality and domestic relationships in Antony and Cleopatra

Love, sexuality and domestic relationships in the works of Shakespeare cannot be viewed in isolation. The private sphere is closely enmeshed with the political/public domain. This paper intends to look at, in detail, how the public and the private overlaps in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. It will also look at the implications of this association of the two domains with respect to the Oriental-Occident politics. Cleopatra is viewed as the archetypal woman: mysterious, fragile, cunning, childlike and unfathomable. She, the queen of Egypt, represents the entire oriental world and captures the perception of the west about the east. Where Antony is appreciated to put his carnal desires secondary to his public duty, Cleopatra is ambiguously looked at or even damned if she pursues her responsibilities as a queen. The double standards of the west are exposed when Cleopatra is even condemned to gratify her sexuality. The very obvious foil to Cleopatra is Octavia, the wife of Antony whose relationship with him is a political motivation. Octavia’s sexuality is undermined to emphasize Cleopatra’s deviant and excessive sexuality. Many critics view the character of Cleopatra as a woman of great potential individual strength. However, in this paper, I will also try to investigate the carnivalesque quality of the play where Cleopatra is only allowed to have some freedom in order to enforce her personality but in the end has to resign to the power structures.

Jasleen Arora is a post-graduate student of English Literature at Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. She may be contacted at jasleenarora1992@gmail.com.

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Shakespeare, Postcoloniality, Adaptation: The Case of Angoor (1982)

The rise of postcolonial theory in the 1970s in the wake of poststructuralist thought has not only led to a renewed evaluation of literatures in the postcolonial situation but also a critical analysis of canonical Western writers. Shakespeare has hardly been an exception to this phenomenon. Not only have numerous articles and books been written that seek to address his plays and poetry from a postcolonial perspective but there have also been several adaptations of the former, both for the screen and the stage. Often, these adaptations have emerged as critical commentaries on the situations that the play in question depicts and have also made subtle comments on the postcolonial context in which they themselves are received.

In the light of the above mentioned understanding of adapting a Shakespearean text in the postcolonial context for the cinema screen, several critics have worked on the adaptations of the playwright’s tragedies. The most recent examples include the critical attention that Vishal Bharadwaj’s films Maqbool (2003) and Omkara (2006), based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello respectively, have received. In a similar vein, this paper proposes to shift the (undivided) critical attention received by postcolonial adaptations of Shakespeare’s tragedies to the adaptations of the playwright’s comedies in the same context. In this regard, the paper aims at critically examining Gulzar’s Angoor (1982), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, as a postcolonial re-interpretation of the said play which not only engages with it in interesting ways but also shows a remarkable awareness of the context in which it is situated. Suitable comparisons with other earlier adaptations of the play such as Debu Sen’s Do Dooni Char (1968) will, hopefully, also reveal the proposed paper’s awareness of the history of the adaptations of The Comedy of Errors in India.

Chinmaya Lal Thakur is a graduate in English literature from the University of Delhi. He is interested in the politics English literature and culture in the nineteenth and twentieth century. He has also written and presented papers on the cultural politics of contemporary India. He may be contacted at tchinmayalal@gmail.com.

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Shakespeare: for the elite bhadroloks or for the proletariat in Bengal?

The advent of Shakespeare in Bengal is synonymous with the advent of modernism in Bengali theatre. In the post-independence era, Utpal Dutt became the most prominent champion of Shakespeare and in the context of a rising Left movement which eventually culminated in a Communist government in 1974, appropriated Shakespeare from the bourgeoisie playgoers entertainment to suit the interests of the proletariat: this paper would attempt to trace this transition brought about by Dutt by focussing on not just the appeal of Shakespeare’s plays among the ‘pit audience’ of the Elizabethan times (which can be the mofussil audience of Dutt’s Shakespearean plays), but also on Dutt’s critical manoeuvres to bridge the tension between the Brecht’s philosophy of theatre with the constitution of Shakespeare’s plays. Having analysed Dutt’s productions of Shakespearean plays through the 1970s and 80s, the paper would then go on to analyse some of the recent adaptations of Shakespeare in Bengali in the last decade which has seen several shifts in the motive behind staging his plays in the proscenium: funding from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and sky rocketing ticket prices for the plays. Thus, the shift again has been towards making Shakespeare available only to the privileged class. However, there have also been endeavours that produced Shakespeare in non-proscenium locations with no entry fee for the plays. Keeping the change in space in mind, is it fair to say that in the future, a Shakespeare for the proletariat requires a space away from proscenium stage in Bengali theatre? By analysing the tradition of staging Shakespearean plays in the post-independence era, especially those by Dutt, this paper would try and appropriate the place Shakespeare has in contemporary theatre practice, and is likely to have, in the upcoming years in the Bengali stage.

Souradeep Roy is currently pursuing his MA in English from the University of Delhi. His poems have appeared in several national and international magazines and his chapbook ‘Letters to Sneha’ is currently in the running for the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Competition, published by Casey Shay Press, Texas. Also a thespian, he has been involved in the Bengali group theatre movement for a decade under the tutelage of the late thespian Ramaprasad Banik. His research interests include diaspora studies, dalit literature and theatre studies. Currently away from theatre, he is trying to figure things out, away from home in Delhi. He may be contacted at s_immortal2000@yahoo.com.

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The Cult and culture influencing Shakespeare and Marlowe

Works of the two literary giants, Shakes and Mar, though different in their formal and technical composition, yet address the questions on humanity, religion, identity and knowledge that were raised as a pan-European phenomenon during the Renaissance. On the one hand, we have Marlowe of the Cambridge background, thorough with the Aristotelian concepts of theatre, ambitious and enterprising, a maverick of his kind. The technical symmetry of his plays alludes to the thorough classical education at Cambridge, and refer to an audience who belonged to his intellectual milieu. On the other hand, we have Shakespeare whose works, free of high scholastic rigidity, have appealed to all classes of people, then and now. Yet the unifying factors in both their works were the times in which they wrote. The contextual influence that Renaissance Humanism and its socio-political upheaval had on both the playwrights, join, in spite of their variance, them seamlessly when their works are viewed in an objective, analytical glance, exclusive of formal technicality.

This paper focusses upon the many cults, and different cultural aspects that shaped bot the playwrights and their plays, which have survived the obsolescence of time in four and a half centuries.

Anuj Gupta is a post-graduate student of Literature at Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. His areas of interest are epistemology, philosophy and politics. He may be contacted at savampyre1421@gmail.com.

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Anti-Semitism in Europe: A Study of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Marlowe’s Jew of Malta

Every civilization in the world history has survived by enduring and inflicting violence. There were differences in terms of language, accents, cultural practises and religion even in cultures in the same area. What ensued was intolerance and competition towards one another often resulting in obliteration of the older culture. Though Christianity has its roots in Judaism, there was so much hostility between these religions due to misinterpretation of Scriptures. Judaism was considered as a primitive faith which opposed Christianity. By fifteenth century, when Christianity held the reins of power the Jews became ostracised. Jews were the bankers of Europe which added to the general distaste. This is often reflected in popular art forms in early modern European literature.

Shylock and Barabas are the two Jews in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Marlowe’s Jew of Malta. Shylock is the antagonist of Merchant of Venice. Though Barabas is the eponymous hero of the play, Marlowe has constructed him not as a typical hero who is the most popular character of the play but as a complex anti-hero who justifies anti-Semitism at least on the surface. But both Marlowe and Shakespeare are classical writers whose works had more to them than understood by their contemporary audience. The Jewish characters were created in such a way that they get more scope of performance and they have more depth than the protagonists. They represent the outsiders, the ostracized unfortunate characters who became villainous due to their circumstances. This paper proposes to analyse anti-Semitism represented by Shakespeare and Marlowe, compare their techniques and ideology and how skilfully these geniuses have made the antagonists fare better than the protagonists. These works also hold the key to understand the racial and ethnic violence deep rooted in human minds and how great litterateurs like Shakespeare and Marlowe could radically break the system.

Anna George completed her graduation in English Language and Literature from Alphonsa College, Pala Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala. She secured first prize presenting a paper on Tracing the Archetypes of East and West by comparing the epics Iliad and Mahabharata at Panache 2014 All Kerala Literary Fest held at St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam in 2014. She also presented her paper on Trends in Popular Indian English Fiction at Zenith Literary Fest held at Assumption College, Kerala and won the second prize. Both her papers are available online on academia.edu. She has written and directed a short film in Malayalam. Currently, she is pursuing M.A. in English literature from St. Stephens College, University of Delhi. She may be contacted at annageorge188@gmail.com.

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Peripeteia and Anagnorisis: Othello and Faustus as tragic protagonists

In Western literature, tragedy occupies a very prominent position. It is considered as the most refined form of poetry by Aristotle. Aristotle’s Poetics was quite influential in Elizabethan period as many plays during that time conform to his precepts and received great appreciation from audiences.

Accordingly, in this paper, I would like to refer Aristotle’s notions of tragedy in Poetics to William Shakespeare’s Othello and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus to examine how both relate to the same. According to Aristotle, tragedy is an imitation of action which is serious. It rouses a feeling of pity and fear and has a well formed plot with logical events. As far as Elizabethan tragedy is concerned, the plot revolves around one main character of high social status whose own tragic flaw is responsible for her/his fall.

The concerned texts, Othello and Doctor Faustus, have many elements of an Aristotelian tragedy. As in an Aristotelian tragedy, both texts are serious and inspire pity and fear. In both texts, the tragic protagonist is of public importance who transgresses in some way or the other. Othello transgresses by succumbing to his racial insecurities; Faustus transgresses from his human status and acquires knowledge which is prohibited to humanity. While Othello loves Desdemona obsessively, Faustus has an intense desire for knowledge. In Othello, there is peripeteia, i.e. reversal of fate, for his actions change his situation from a seemingly secure to vulnerable, and in Doctor Faustus, there is anagnorisis, i.e. discovery, when he comprehends the web of fate that he has entangled himself in. Thus, their respective tragic flaws lead them to their destruction, and this paper will conclude by arguing that these characteristics establish both Othello and Doctor Faustus as Aristotelian tragic protagonists.

Rashmi Singh is currently pursuing BA (Honours) English from Bharati College, University of Delhi. She is interested in fictional novels and autobiographical novels. She may be contacted at rashmi.s268@gmail.com.

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Tragic Protagonists of Shakespeare and Marlowe

The paper is going to focus on the most remembered tragic protagonists of two great Elizabethan playwrights, namely William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and will differentiate their representation of tragedy and its protagonists from one another.

Both Shakespeare and Marlowe wrote the best tragedies of their times, focusing upon human actions and emotions. Elizabethan Tragedy in today’s time too is described as the type of tragedy that may be applied to Shakespeare’s writings. A tragic protagonist according to Elizabethan stage is defined as a man of noble structure. He is not an ordinary man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him. His own destruction is for a greater cause of principle.

Many critiques have observed over time that Elizabethan tragedy and hence the playwrights have borrowed many elements from Greek tragedies. However, adoption of Greek elements in the play is a point of difference between these two playwrights. Shakespeare not only adopted the elements but also left tragedies of classical times far behind while Marlowe’s tragic protagonists hardly possess the properties of Greek tragic heroes like Oedipus, Antigone and Orestes.

To enlist the tragic protagonists from Shakespeare’s plays one can recall, Othello, Hamlet, Antony, Macbeth, Romeo and so on where all of these suffer their demise as a consequence of some tragic flaws or in Aristotelian language ‘ Hamartia’. Marlowe too created exceptional tragic protagonists like Doctor Faustus, Barabus (Jew of Malta), Tamburlaine, the great and other protagonists of his seven great tragedies. Here protagonists instead of having Greek characteristics possess elements of ‘Renaissance Humanist’ and ‘Morality plays’.

Concluding this, both the playwrights were popular at their times but Shakespeare’s tragedies because of their certain qualities like that of soliloquies and representation of ‘female tragic heroes’ such as, Cleopatra and Juliet are appreciated more than that of Marlowe.

Meetali Asiwal is a student of BA (Hons.) English at Bharati College, University of Delhi. She is in second year and her areas of interest are creative writing, reading fiction and classical literature. She has participated in many debates and creative writing competitions in her school and college. Now she writes short stories and poetry frequently. Apart from literature she is also interested in music and dance; music, specially hip-hop and rock, is very close to her heart. She aspires to be a good short story and novel writer in her future. She may be contacted at www.meetaliasiwal.hs@gmail.com.
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