Costuming Cleopatra : costume and the representation of race, gender, and identity in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- In this thesis the costumed body is examined through cultural and historical discourses of gender, identity and race. The primary focus is on representations of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra in staged productions of Antony and Cleopatra in the United Kingdom and Australia in the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the first decade of the twenty-first century. The figure of Cleopatra is an ideal vehicle for an examination of costume and its relationship to the ways in which stereotypical formations of feminine identity are formed within culture. Over time Cleopatra has become inexorably linked to spectacles of appearance and to displays of feminine power and sexuality, and as such can be considered to exist between the two domains of high and low culture. Analysis of the way in which Cleopatra has been represented will reveal how stylistic changes and shifts in interpretive approach have influenced the way in which performance costume has been presented and subsequently received by various audiences. Theatre is a medium through which cultural ideas and attitudes are explored, challenged, subverted and sustained. Costume, as one of the visual aspects of performance forms the nexus between the play script, the performer and the audience. There is no one theoretical perspective from which to analyse performance costume, necessitating the conflation of several different perspectives taken from the disciplines of theatre studies, semiotics, fashion theory and dress studies. The theoretical framework used in this thesis proposes that the meanings generated by the costumed body occur on three intersecting planes: costume as a representation of narrative or text, costume as pure spectacle and costume as a projection/reflection of various cultural discourses. The study builds upon two principles. Firstly, that appearance and dress function in complex ways to construct and represent emblematic socio-cultural identities, and secondly that this can be applied to a study of the way in which stage costume both absorbs and reflects broader cultural meanings. Other representational systems such as fashion, film, art and advertising are also incorporated as they form the palimpsest of meaning from which both designers and audiences draw in order to create meaning. This study establishes a theoretical framework with which to view the costumed body as a key element in the creation of meaning and narrative in the theatre and in a broader cultural context. This thesis presents a cultural history of the ways in which costume comes to absorb, inflect and reflect cultural discourses about race, gender and identity as told through representations of Cleopatra on the stage.
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