The mask of the refuser

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Shakespeare’s refusers – those, in the plays, who are unable to offer their assent to socially-demanded customs and enjoyment – problematise the metaphor of depth and surface in discussions of selfhood. Moreover, their withdrawal from participation in communal values, usually at great cost to themselves, is sudden, unpremeditated, and irrevocable; this differentiates them from principled dissidents whose deeply-held personal convictions have led them to say no. Rather than indicating the nature of anything within, refusal happens to the individual from without, in much the same way that the compelling and overpowering subjectivity of ‘the Mask’ happens to its victims in the Jim Carrey film of the same title. Drawing upon Slavoj Zizek’s use of this example in discussing the symbolic and ‘the inhuman core of humanity’, the paper will discuss Shakespeare’s Joan la Pucelle and Marston’s Malevole as figures who trouble the notion of a ‘screen’ between inner self and outer world, and who threaten to collapse the ‘fantasy of reality’ played out upon this illusory surface.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2012
EventShakespeare Inside-Out: Depth, Surface, Meaning - Lancaster University
Duration: 24 Feb 2012 → …


ConferenceShakespeare Inside-Out: Depth, Surface, Meaning
Period24/02/12 → …
Internet address


  • Shakespeare
  • Marston
  • refusal
  • depth
  • surface
  • identity
  • selfhood
  • Zizek
  • ideology


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