Christina Dodd's The Greatest Lover in England

In Christina Dodd's The Greatest Lover in England, Rosencrantz, the girl disguised as a boy-actress, not only knows "Uncle Will" Shakespeare himself but is also present and performing in the first staging of Hamlet. She takes the role of Ophelia which echoes her own history as a young girl doubly orphaned, losing her father to plague and her foster-father to Queen Elizabeth's displeasure. Her performance of Ophelia coincides with her reunion with both foster-father and lover. When the foster father appears onstage over her corpse, his presence transforms the tragedy explicitly into comic union. As she lies on her funeral bier at the end of what we are assured is her best, in fact her only good performance as a boy-actress, Sir Danny, her foster father, unexpectedly shows up on stage: Dodd's disrupted staging of Hamlet acknowledges the romance novel's strategies with Shakespeare's tragedies. This novel explicitly transforms Hamlet in performance as the climax of a whole series of revisions of its narrative. The lost birthright, the mourning for fathers, and the fear of sexual betrayal from Hamlet are recycled through the female Rosencrantz who, typically for romance, resolves these conflicts by marrying the man whom her resurrection has deprived of land and fortune. Just as important the tragic plot and action are abandoned freely--even by "Uncle Will" himself.

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