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THE SUPERNATURAL AND THE REPRESENTATION OF JUSTICE IN SHAKESPEARE’S THEATRE

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Chapter Summary

After ages of successful collaboration, the supernatural seems to vanish from the Renaissance European stage – except from the English theatre. An essential part of Shakespeare’s theatre, the supernatural is also closely linked with power, ideology and the notions of justice and morality. Supernatural phenomena fall into two main categories, the marvellous and the fantastic, according to the audience’s response. Marvellous apparitions convey a sense of Christian or providential justice, like the manichaean and didactic ghosts in Richard III. On the other hand, the fantastic ghosts in Julius Caesar, Hamlet and Macbeth seem to herald a switch to human justice. This article explores Shakespeare’s representation of justice in two plays, Richard III and Measure for measure, which illustrate a move from divine to absolutist justice. With the progressive shift towards absolutism in government, Shakespeare’s supernatural stages the emerging political awareness of the period.

10.1163/9789004333925_008
/content/books/b9789004333925s008
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