Enter the Body

Joy McCullough (Blood Water Paint) pays homage to William Shakespeare, whom she admires for how he "took established stories and made them his own." McCullough, in turn, commendably retells the Bard's tragedies in fiercely feminist examinations of Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear and Titus Andronicus, built into an overarching plot that allows the plays' female characters to tell their own stories.

Enter the Body is divided into three parts. Part One begins in the trap room, a large open space beneath a theater's stage that acts as a "purgatory" for those who "die" onstage. Thirteen-year-old Juliet, 15-year-old Ophelia, 17-year-old Cordelia and 19-year-old Lavinia reside here, among others. Juliet tells the story of her forbidden love; Ophelia describes how she'd "been used/ and humiliated/ by these men"; Cordelia "made a sacrifice born out of love" only to be disowned by her father. One character whose story is not told but who is equally important is Titus Andronicus's Lavinia. Lavinia, with her tongue cut out and her hands cut off so she couldn't reveal the vile acts that had been done to her, represents the women who can't tell their stories, whether out of fear or death.

Part Two is written as dialogue in a play, with the women analyzing their stories and discussing Shakespeare's misogynistic choices. Juliet is fed up with the way things have always been done and challenges the women to tell their story as they would have liked it to play out. As a result, in Part Three, each woman shares her ideal version while the others provide astute and droll commentary. A poetic and entrancing tribute to the women of Shakespeare. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

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