A Subversive Reading of Ideological Discourse in the Rewriting of Shakespeare: King Lear and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead



Because William Shakespeare plays a significant part in English literature, many critics and authors have written on his life and works. However, in the postwar British theatre which was influenced by the student riots of May 1968, Shakespeare was introduced as a playwright who was not only influenced by the dominant ideologies of his time, but one who also reinforced and promoted them in his plays. Many modern dramatists rewrote Shakespeare’s major plays with the purpose of subverting their latent ideological discourse. Edward Bond in Lear (1971), through his subversive rewriting of King Lear, turns Lear from a dictator into an informed political dissident and Cordelia from an innocent woman into an autocratic governess. Tom Stoppard also rewrites Hamlet in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1967) by giving voice to the two minor characters from Shakespeare’s play. He marginalizes Hamlet and Claudius, the major courtiers, in order to illustrate Hamlet’s absurdity and ideology to the modern reader. Thus, by comparing the two modern critical rewritings of Shakespeare, an attempt is made to explore the reasons for the demythologization of Shakespeare.