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By Elizabeth Klett (auth.)

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Additional info for Cross-Gender Shakespeare and English National Identity: Wearing the Codpiece

Sample text

Politically speaking, England is one of four nations that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But semantically, the distinction is far from clear. “English” and “British” are often used interchangeably to describe various populations. More insidiously, as Kumar (2003) has shown, England has often been made to stand in for the whole of Britain, providing “a constant reminder of . . England’s hegemony over the rest of the British Isles. . [The general rule is] to see all the major events and achievements of national life as English” (1–2).

The television film, originally broadcast on BBC-2 on March 22, 1997, begins with a close-up of Shaw’s face, eyes closed, lips murmuring in prayer as liturgical music plays. 3 The many voices of the critics, the actress, and the director, along with the different versions of the production itself, produce the many different bodies that make up Shaw’s performance. My reading of the production incorporates certain elements from the reviews and from Warner and Shaw’s stated intentions; yet my response departs from those quoted earlier in its insistence on the centrality of gender to the production.

This prologue captured the construction of kingship and masculinity at the same time, since the spectators got a look at the bandage-like wrappings and tunic that Shaw wore underneath her kingly trappings. Over these simple garments the attendant lords dressed her in the robe and crown, and handed her the scepter and orb. The audience was thus able to see the simultaneous transformation of Fiona Shaw into Richard and Richard into the King. Right from the beginning this production asked its audience members to speculate on how both masculine and kingly identity, like Shaw/ Richard’s clothes, must be put on; that is, they must be performed in order to exist.

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