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The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage

Farah Karim Cooper

DOI: 10.5040/9781474234306

ISBN: 9781474234276

This ground-breaking new book uncovers the way Shakespeare draws upon the available literature and visual representations of the hand to inform his drama.

Providing an analysis of gesture, touch, skill and dismemberment in a range of Shakespeare's works, it shows how the hand was perceived in Shakespeare's time as an indicator of human agency, emotion, social and personal identity. It demonstrates how the hand and its activities are described and embedded in Shakespeare's texts and about its role on the Shakespearean stage: as part of the actor's body, in the language as metaphor, and as a morbid stage-prop. Understanding the cultural signifiers that lie behind the early modern understanding of the hand and gesture, opens up new and sometimes disturbing ways of reading and seeing Shakespeare's plays.

'Farah Karim-Cooper's The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage: Gesture, Touch, and the Spectacle of Dismemberment combines its author's expert knowledge of early modern performance with new research on the cultural history of gesture to deliver a groundbreaking account of the emotional, psychological, and social work carried out by the hand on stage.' Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

'This book augments Arden's reputation for producing monographs which are not only accessible to the reader, but academically rigorous and centred around fascinating subjects ... [It] serves as a vital new contribution, offering a comprehensive survey of the hand in Shakespeare's day which will be of use to students and scholars interested in conceptions of the early modern body.' Early Theatre

'Farah Karim-Cooper crafts a study that is narrow in focus yet wide-ranging in breadth by casting attention upon the early modern hand … Across six chapters, Karim-Cooper reveals the capacious symbolic capacity of the hand in early modern culture and, attendantly, on the stage … even as Karim-Cooper undertakes a historicist approach, she also pulls in dramaturgy, analysis of art, a careful attention to material culture, and a keen eye toward performance practice in order to enhance her fascinating analysis of the early modern hand … Karim-Cooper makes an important, original contribution to early modern body studies whose breadth will appeal to a wide audience of Shakespearean and early modern scholars.' Comparative Drama

'Karim-Cooper skillfully locates the expressive hand in an emotional and theatrical context … Karim-Cooper gives well-deserved primacy to an oft-misunderstood and overlooked expression, a topic of interest not only to the scholars who seem to be her target audience, but also to educators, actors, and directors. Her insightful analysis of the hand demonstrates the close correspondence among the scientific, philosophic, and artistic fields … her command of period plays, oratory, and anatomical sources successfully brings interdisciplinary considerations of hand gestures to bear on the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and also on contemporary plays onstage and in film.' Theatre Topics

'[An] excellent handbook. Within the joy of the pun rests the richness of Karim-Cooper's achievement. her encyclopedic consideration of the hand and her specific attention to gesture as narration and to the complexities of touch do the work for those of us who will go on to play with the discoveries she offers ... The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage provides both the material for invention and further study and points us toward the potential of a hands-on approach to contemporary productions of the early modern works with a new understanding of gesture, touch, and the intimacy of palms.' Shakespeare Quarterly