Discourse Pragmatics and the Character Effect in Shakespeare
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This study, contextualized within the critical debate on Shakespearean dramatic character, examines how the “character effect”— or the audience’s impression of a character’s ontological reality— is produced. Approaching character from the perspective of linguistic pragmatics, I contend that character effects are produced by the counterpoint between characters’ pragmatic use of language and the allegorical meanings that underpin characters’ utterances in a theatrical context. These allegorical meanings, which Shakespeare conveys through his characters to the audience, dialogically interact with characters’ textually or historically scripted roles and converge with their speech to create the impression that characters control language and have extra-textual lives of their own. I thus demonstrate that the interiority ascribed to character is a function of its anteriority. Following the introductory chapter, which lays out the critical history of Shakespearean character and a pragmatic methodology, each of the remaining chapters explores the particular speech habits of a complex and larger-than-life Shakespearean character who is also a self-conscious user of language. Chapter 2 examines how Falstaff’s conversational implicatures produce the character effect of his vitality. Chapter 3 looks at how Cleopatra’s performative use of report creates her sexual charisma. Chapter 4 focuses on how Henry V’s rhetorical argumentation works to create the effect of his moral ambivalence.