Title

The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage: Gesture, Touch and the Spectacle of Dismemberment

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Winter 2016

Abstract

"Like previous notable contributions to early modern body studies, Karim-Cooper takes a historicist approach, culling the archives to uncover discourses about the hand in pamphlets, art manuals, anti-theatrical tracts, and conduct books, among other texts. These varied discussions of the hand, Karim-Cooper demonstrates, significantly informed its presentation on the early modern stage, and more specifically, in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. The hand in early modern England, she argues, “was viewed as a microcosm of the self and could indicate the moral character and physical health of the person to whom it was attached” . She notes that even today, “the hand is the instrument with which we engage with the physical world and it is the part of our body, apart from the face, with which we communicate most expressively and passionately”. For early moderns, the hand even served as a part that distinguishes the human from animal-kind. As such, “The hand is and always has been a symbol of our dignity as human, as civilized beings”. It is unsurprising then, that the hand has garnered attention in texts such as Jonathan Sawday’s The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture and David Hillman and Carla Mazzio’s collection The Body in Parts. Karim-Cooper productively builds upon these accounts by concentrating on the hand “as a sign of character and identity”. Whether “attached or amputated,” she contends, the hand on Shakespeare’s stage continuously communicated facets of the self, particularly “character and identity”

Comments

Excerpted from review

Journal Title

Comparative Drama

Volume

50

Issue

4

First Page

410

Last Page

413

Book Title

The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage: Gesture, Touch and the Spectacle of Dismemberment

Editor

Karim-Cooper, Farah, author

Publisher

Bloomsbury Academic

City

London, England

Series

Arden Shakespeare

ISBN

978-1474234269

DOI

10.1353/cdr.2016.0029

First Department

English

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