This article proposes media ecology—a combination of media studies and performance studies with literary and cultural history—as a research perspective for Shakespeare studies. In contrast to a hermeneutics of renewal—as evinced in both New Historicism and what has been called presentism—media ecology combines a sense of historical alterity with an awareness of the continuing transformations of Shakespeare in changing media settings: from manuscripts and printed texts to theatrical performances, music, opera, cinema, and new media. As an example, the article focuses on the masque in The Tempest, which poses obvious difficulties for a hermeneutics of renewal and is often cut from performance. Productions and adaptations frequently extend the spectacular qualities of the masque to The Tempest as a whole and ignore the skepticism about theatrical illusion that is voiced by Prospero in the play. In the case of The Tempest, cultural productions ranging from theatrical performances to the closing ceremony of the London Olympics of 2012 are difficult to conceptualize in the framework of adaptation studies (which relies on the precedence of an original over its derivations). The article argues that media ecology can help scholars map out such connections and differences between performances and cultural phenomena relating to Shakespeare as cannot be fully grasped either in a historicist or presentist perspective.

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