“Nothing is but what is not.” Performing constatives in Shakespeare’s drama


Abstract - Recent studies in historical pragmatics have focused on the performative language of Renaissance, drawing on J. L. Austin’s distinction between “constative” and “performative” utterances; the former refers to assertions that can be classified as true or false and the latter to the factual power of doing something rather than describing it. This model may prove particularly fruitful if applied to drama, and in particular to Shakespeare’s plays, for it provides a critical frame to examine to what extent language is involved in changes concerning the axiology of truth and falsehood. In this paper, I will focus on three case-situations taken from As you like it, Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew, in order to demonstrate how a certain rhetoric of mendacity derives from the exploration of an emergent new semiosis and is performed in Shakespeare’s plays through the confusion and inversion of the two pragmatic categories.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v17p71


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