Page or Stage: Reading Shakespeare Comics as Performance
While previous scholarship concerning Shakespeare comics has considered their pedagogical function as teaching tools to make Shakespeare more accessible or their role in preserving Shakespeare’s place within the popular culture, this dissertation argues that there is much to be gained by looking at Shakespeare comics through the lens of performance studies. This dissertation considers Shakespeare comics as “players in ongoing relationships” and examines the behavior of the adaptors, illustrators, and readers of Shakespeare comics as analogous to that of actors and audience members. In doing so, it illustrates the various ways in which Shakespeare comics engage both creatively and critically with the playwright’s work. It presents the Manga Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet as an example of a Shakespeare comic which offers an extensive character study that challenges its audience to question conventional readings of the playwright’s protagonists. It then considers the Manga Shakespeare Twelfth Night as an example of a Shakespeare comic which incorporates the reader into the narrative in a way that uses the play as an entry point into a broader commentary upon the social structure which the reader inhabits. And finally, it presents the issue of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series entitled A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Kill Shakespeare series by Antony Del Col and Conor McCreery as examples of Shakespeare comics which speak to the place of the playwright and his dramatic works within the modern world and use the comic form to comment upon the exercise of adapting these works into new media. Through an examination of these works, this dissertation situates Shakespeare comics within four distinct but related traditions: the literary tradition to which Shakespeare belongs, the tradition of adaptation of Shakespeare’s dramatic works, the comics tradition, and the performance tradition.