"Now 'mongst this flock of drunkards"

Drunk Shakespeare's Polytemporal Theater


  • Jennifer Holl Rhode Island College


Drunk Shakespeare is a current off-Broadway production that combines a performance of Macbeth with outrageous improvisation, frequent audience participation, and, as the show's title unapologetically promises, drunken revelry. Despite the production's playful irreverence, this essay argues that The Drunk Shakespeare Society's Macbeth adapts a consistent Shakespearean trope — specifically, the capacity of alcoholic consumption to alter temporal landscapes and loosen time restraints — into a shared theatrical experience. Building off recent work in both Shakespearean polytemporalities and immersive performance, this essay explores the means by which Drunk Shakespeare wields communal carousal as an immersive strategy that invites audiences not only to witness, but to inhabit the surreal, polychronic worlds of Macbeth. As I argue here, the convergence of time, drink, and theatrics that informs Drunk Shakespeare theatricalizes a consistent Shakespearean probe into the temporal release that drink affords. Thus, convivial consumption becomes not only a gimmick, but one of a number of immersive strategies that this production employs in order to create an experiential Macbeth, one in which audiences, in the manner of Lady Macbeth, may "feel now / The future in the instant" (1.5.65-66).

Author Biography

Jennifer Holl, Rhode Island College

Jennifer Holl received her Ph.D. from the City University of New York Graduate Center, and she is currently Assistant Professor of English at Rhode Island College. Her research interests include the early modern theater; film and adaptation; and Shakespeare and celebrity, fan, and performance studies. Her work has appeared in several journals and recent volumes, such as Who Hears in Shakespeare? (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2011), Shakespeare/Not Shakespeare (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and The Shakespeare User (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).