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By William Shakespeare, Liang Shiqiu

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Extra info for As You Like It (The Complete Shakespeare Translated by Liang Shiqiu, Book 10) (Bilingual Edition)

Example text

Certainly, even if we only look to that other great seventeenth- 26 La Thébaïde 27 century dramatist, Corneille, it becomes clear that his celebrated plays all have as their dramatic backdrop moments of political crisis, when one world order is waning and another, still inchoate order is attempting to emerge and to impose its sociopolitical parameters on a society resistant to change. It is this moment of conflict, between old values and customs that still exist in conjunction with newly emerging social/ economic/political structures, that Racine figured in his tragedies.

24 The state must ignore the convoluted ties of family. It desires itself sovereign, absolute, existing as it does as a “cosa mentale,” a play of power and domination (among men). It is a symbolic rather than a biological ideal. But this desire for the symbolic exists more as a virtual (political) principle than a fully attainable reality. It is this impossible longing for the absolute, for a sovereignty that eludes them, that the warring brothers seek, each in his own way. Their quest is constantly frustrated by the call of the maternal as feminine—Jocaste’s presence, her ceaseless beseeching, and her tears, the unavoidable reminders of the body, of the body’s seduction, that stand in the way of any possible political victory of the brothers.

56 Racine’s tragic theater, garbing the newly emerging, conflicted family of the seventeenth century in mythic dress, allows, through the imposition of myth on tragedy, for the theater to mediate the inchoate demands these new structures make on the individual subject who appears at their ambivalent interstice. The theater’s role is proleptically to represent changes in social formations that are still only immanent in society at large. It seems like more than a fortuitous coincidence that the theater should emerge in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as the privileged form of representation in a society undergoing such fundamental realignments of its most essential structures.

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