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Panel 4.

Space, Place, and Literary Cartography in Early Modern English Drama and Shakespeare

Drawing on Robert Tally’s concept of “literary cartography”, this panel focuses on the changing dynamics among space, place and mapping in early modern English drama. Numerous spaces coexist in plays written by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and other Renaissance authors, and whether they are placed in England, Spain, Italy or elsewhere, they create diverse mental landscapes of great symbolical and metaphorical power. By means of a “poetic geography” or “geography of difference”, the non-English margins of the European map represent a site of radical and potentially constructive/disruptive otherness. Venice, Spain or even the spatially puzzling Bohemian sea are interpreted as fluid boundaries, where traditional distinctions are renegotiated. In two of Shakespeare’s comedies – Twelfth Night and As You Like It – the topological and social enclaves allow the female protagonists to transgress gender roles, and describe their feelings in terms of spatial metaphors (i.e. interior/ limiting places of confinement/punishment versus exterior/limitless spaces of freedom/reward), validating their identities as lovers.


Pia Brînzeu

The 17th century Venice was an exciting place of wealth and pleasure, situated at the crossroads of the world. It was a racial, religious, and ethnic melting pot with diverse cultures, happy and unhappy people, insiders like Ben Jonson’s heroes in Volpone and outsiders like Othello and Shylock in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Although characters speak of the pleasant earth of Venice, its noble ships and elegant clothes, they also refer to parasites or sub-parasites, cunning whores and women who let the heaven see the pranks they do not show their husbands. Jonson’s Venetian “foul ravishers” and “libidinous swines”, whose honour is reduced to “a mere term invented to awe fools”, are always brought back to order by the strict laws of the city.

In their plays, both Shakespeare and Ben Jonson are aware of the imagological and metaphorical suggestions offered by Piazza San Marco, Canal Grande and Rialto, revealing important psychological details about the way human beings, whether Italian or English, relate to each other. Although both dramatists have probably never been to Venice and looked for the details in travel books or novels like Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller, one of Shakespeare’s characters, Holofernes, invites the public of Love Labours Lost to visit the city, speaking „as the traveller does of Venice: Venetia, Venetia,/ Chi non ti vede non ti pretia” (IV.2).


Monica Matei Chesnoiu

This essay draws on Jacobean geographic and historical narratives about the Spanish region of La Mancha, ranging from Louis Tourquet de Mayerne’s Generall Historie of Spaine (1612), Pierre Avity’s The Estates, Empires, and Principalities of the World (1615), Giovani Botero’s Relations (1608), or Peter Heylin’s Mikrokosmos (1625), to reconstruct early modern writers’ ability to respond to change in geographic knowledge and cartography, as well as politics. Performed in theatres featuring non-illusionistic scenery, Shakespeare’s plays establish location through movement, language, gesture, and costume. Spatial manipulation in Don Quijote opens the mind towards multifaceted inwardness. For these reasons, Shakespearean and Cervantean dramatic and narrative geographies of La Mancha are remarkably flexible. Shakespeare’s production of location in All’s Well That Ends Well—through the parodic and unstable configuration of an elusive La Mancha related to issues of honour and chivalry in the burlesque context of the battlefield—creates multi-layered spaces that coexist, challenge each other, and are in dialogue. Shakespeare and Cervantes construct imaginary worlds that generate their own disorder and cultivate mental landscapes that question interiority in relation to the external. Both Shakespeare and Cervantes invite playgoers/readers to look beyond scene and action to determine symbolic significance; geographic location can, thus, function metaphorically. I argue that Jacobean Hispanophilia acquires self-ironic and meta-theatrical tones in Shakespeare’s conflated meta-linguistic allusion to La Mancha in All’s Well That Ends Well, which shows the instability of early modern geographic and dramatic constructions of space.


Dana Percec

Shakespeare’s romance is famous for the spatial puzzles it offers, starting with the Bohemian sea coast, which critics tend to regard as an example of the fairytale-like dimension of the plot. At the same time, the extended pastoral mode sets the play in another idealized and fantasy-like paradigm. But its pastoralism has also been viewed as a reflection of a new geographic-economic awareness of the early modern men and women about the changing spaces of the countryside and the new realities of urban life. The presentation looks at the numerous spatial ambiguities of the play, which may be interpreted not as binary oppositions (between town and country, reality and idealization, court and pastoral life), but as fluid boundaries, where traditional distinctions are renegotiated. The result is an ambivalent synthesis of space, whether public or private, conventional or unconventional, geographically accurate or imaginary, an ambiguity which is deliberate and represents the culmination of Shakespeare’s experimentation with space and possibly a culmination of the early modern literary and artistic experimentation with the pastoral mode and its functions.


Andreea Şerban

Ina Habermann and Michelle Witen’s collection of essays on Shakespeare and Space, Theatrical Explorations of the Spatial Paradigm (2016) provided a useful classification of spaces in Shakespeare’s plays, dividing them into seven types: structural/topological space, involving the crossing of geographical boundaries; stage space/setting/locality; linguistic/poetic space; social/gendered space, where relationships are negotiated politically and culturally; early modern geographies; cultural spaces/contact zones, particularly in terms of the negotiation of cultural spaces and Shakespeare’s impact on other cultures; and finally, the material world/cultural imaginary. Further developing on topological and social spaces, Andreas Mahler discusses the concept of “enclave”, arguing that such a space enables characters to ‘step out’ of the social game, to obtain special licence, and to (radically) renegotiate social as well as gender roles in order to address wrongs and finally reinstate order.

This paper aims to investigate such topological and social enclaves in two of Shakespeare’s comedies – Twelfth Night and As You Like It – where the female protagonists not only cross court boundaries but also transgress gender roles, thus allowing for more intimate, genuine – albeit slightly romanticized – relations that can survive in the long run. Shakespeare’s play with the gendered perspective on love will be discussed in terms of the lovers’ use of spatial metaphors (i.e. interior/ limiting places of confinement/punishment versus exterior/limitless spaces of freedom/reward) to describe their feelings and to validate their identities as lovers.