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Shakespeare Inside

Amy Scott-Douglass

DOI: 10.5040/9781472555304

ISBN: 9781472555304

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Shakespeare Inside goes behind the scenes to reveal Shakespeare at work in the most decisive institutional context of our time - in prisons. Based upon the author's experience of watching prison yard rehearsals and performances, and interviewing inmates, program directors, and wardens, Shakespeare Inside is not an objective, dispassionate account of how Shakespeare is bastardized by repressive institutions but offers a record of fiercely personal experiences. We hear ex-offender Mike Smith detail how playing Desdemona was vital to his rehabilitation; we sit in the audience of women inmates as they respond to the all-male Shakespeare Behind Bars touring production of Julius Caesar; and we listen to a chorus of unnamed voices explain how rewriting Hamlet helps them to survive solitary confinement. Shakespeare Inside probes any assumptions we might have about Shakespeare's performative function and asks what - if anything - is the proper place of Shakespeare in today's society.

"This is a wonderfully honest book.  We really get to meet the inmates and see how Shakespeare has changed their lives. One cannot help being deeply moved by a prisoner who says, 'Shakespeare still lives even though he's dead. His spirit lives on. A lot of things that he wrote are happening in the world today.' The truth of this insight, and its special pertinence to those who are in prison, is borne out again and again in this totally absorbing and engagingly written book." David Bevington, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, University of Chicago, editor of Complete Works of Shakespeare

-Mention. Daily Telegraph/ April 8, 2007

[Scott-Douglass] craft(s) a deeply personal, and engrossing account of the ways in which 'secured Shakespeare programs' confront many of the same issues that trouble Shakespeare scholars... What makes these interviews lively to read, rather than a flat series of transcriptions is Amy's felt presence on the page.  I take the liberty of citing her by first name precisely because she conveys a persona throughout the study that invites familiarity... She manages to connect us even with those whose faces she cannot see in the most chilling isolated maximum-security cellblocks... Shakespeare Inside offers a compelling story that resists saccharine platitudes without curtailing empathy.' Scott L. Newstok, Rhodes College, USA, Review in The Upstart Crow, Summer 2007.

'[this book] is anecdotal rather than analytical, but the scenes she [Amy Scott-Douglass] describes are richly provocative...Prison, we discover, is one of the last bastions of unapologetic bardolatry.' Oliver Harris, TLS, December 2007.  

"Scott-Douglass's book is especially powerful because she captures these prisoners' lives in all of their complexity...Shakespeare provides beauty; catharsis; empathy for their victims; therapy." -Studies in English Literature

"The ambitious project of the Shakespeare NOW series is to bridge the gap between 'scholarly thinking and a public audience' and 'public audience and scholarly thinking'. Scholars are encouraged to write in a way accessible to a general readership and readers to rise to the challenge and not be afraid of new ideas and the adventure they offer. There are other bridges the series is ambitious to cross: 'formal, political or theoretical boundaries' - history and philosophy, theory, and performance." English Vol. 58, 2009

"[Shakespeare Now! is] an innovative new series... Series editors Simon Palfry and Ewan Fernie have rejected the notion of business as usual in order to pursue a distinctive strategy that aims to put "cutting-edge scholarship" in front of a broad audience. Shakespeare Now! with its insistent appeal to the contemporary- this is fresh Shakespeare for readers turned off by the prospect of dry-as-dust scholarship-aims to reach a general audience... One of the most winning aspects of the book [Shakespeare Inside] is its skillful presentation of testimony, largely drawn from interviews with the actor-prisoners. Scott-Douglass places herself squarely in the picture, acknowledging her own strong reactions to what she discovers in prison and reminding readers that her embodied presence provoked comments, just as her questions elicited confidences from the prisoners. In a compelling passage near the conclusion, Scott-Douglass describes in novelistic detail attending a parole hearing for one of the actors whose bid for freedom is denied... Shakespeare Inside offers firsthand reporting on contemporary Shakespeare that speaks to an enormous range of social and cultural issues and takes full advantage of the small format's immediacy. It is a thought-provoking account of the uses to which Shakespeare is being put outside the confines of the academy and the privileged performance venues that steadily attract a strange mixture of enthusiasts and the variously coerced... Shakespeare Inside is compelling journalism"

"Where is Shakespeare now? This question is the brief for a new series of short books from Continuum, an enterprising publisher trying to break down the border between academic literary criticism and books for the thoughtful general reader. Amy Scott-Douglass's book Shakespeare Inside based on observations and interviews, reveals how Shakespeare really can change lives." Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph Sunday Telegraph

"The author faced her fears, a decision, she says, that resulted in one of 'the most important and enlightening experiences of [her] adult life.' Based on observations and interviews, Shakespeare Inside: The Bard Behind Bars offers a voyeuristic peek inside the prison theatre program at Luther Luckett  Correctional Complex in La Grange, Kentucky...like an 'adventure story.'" - Text and Presentation Tidings