An Interview With Margaret Clarke

5953 Words24 Pages
An Interview with Margaret Clarke (Helen M. Buss) This interview was conducted by CASP in February, 2004. | Margaret Clarke | Could you tell us about the various contexts that led to the genesis of Gertrude and Ophelia? When I wrote G and O in the mid 1980s I had already written a prize-winning novel ( The Cutting Season, 1984) and was in the middle of studying for my candidacy exams for a PhD in English. Writing the scenes of the play acted as a way to stay in touch with the part of me that liked writing as much as reading and gave me a break from my candidacy reading lists. The play writing also sent me back to Shakespeare's play to do the kind of close reading and theorization that a PhD is all about. I found it a satisfying combination of my two kinds of intellectual work: creative writing and critical writing. In later years I realized that the fact that I chose to write a Shakespearean based play (when I was studying 20th -century literature) may well have been an act of nostalgia for the earlier days of my graduate studies when I had intended to study Shakespeare as my special area. I had switched to a twentieth-century topic because of a dissatisfaction with the teaching and critical writing in the Shakespeare field which at that time was not friendly to feminism. Ironically, nowadays some of the most interesting work on gender is happening in the Early Modern specialties. How would you characterize the ways in which the figure of Ophelia now works as a cultural trope? How do you think your play has added to the discursive resonances around Ophelia? Ophelia is the stereotypical female victim. If you look closely at Shakespeare's play she is a girl neglected by all who should hold some responsibility for her: her father, her brother, her boyfriend and the court. I wanted to take that figure (as well as the other female stereotype of Gertrude the
Open Document