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Some dozen or sixteen lines

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.033  Friday, 23 January 2015


From:        Steve Roth < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 23, 2015 at 9:49:36 AM EST

Subject:    Some dozen or sixteen lines


Fellow SHAKSPERians:


I’ve had in my pocket for a decade or so some notions on which lines in the Gonzago mousetrap play are the “dozen or sixteen” that Hamlet composed. I’ve always thought it too speculative and old-fashioned to venture for scholarly publication, but I thought others might find it interesting or amusing, so I’m making bold to present it for your delectation in this less-formal forum. I’ll also take advantage of the “liberty” here to range somewhat more widely in my discussion than I might elsewhere. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


I’m digging through very old bones here, of course. You’ll find four and a half pages of small print on the subject in Furness’s Variorum Hamlet, here (citing, among other sources, more than thirty pages of discussion in a single issue of the Transactions of the Shakespeare Society). Only two suggestions emerge from all that: 


1. Lucianus’ six poisoning lines beginning “Thoughts black, hands apt...” 


2. The twenty-eight-odd lines of ponderous philosophical musing by the player-king beginning “Purpose is but the slave to memory,” or (Furness) “a dozen or sixteen lines from the middle of it” that “can be removed without affecting the action of the play.” Furness doesn’t specify which of those unnecessary, dull, and inapplicable lines Hamlet might have written (or why).  


I’m hoping my suggestions make more sense than those musings.


Below is the relevant section from Hamlet, this rendition from the Enfolded Hamlet at (Green {}s are Q2-only, red <>s are F1-only. Q1, here at UVic’s Internet Shakespeare Editions, offers a seriously adumbrated, rearranged, and predictably somewhat mangled version.)


I’ve underlined the passages I think Hamlet added—fourteen lines, or sixteen if you include the last underlined couplet.


2023     Enter King and <his>Queene.


2024   King. Full thirtie times hath Phebus cart gone round


2025     Neptunes salt wash, and Tellus {orb'd the} <Orbed> ground,


2026     And thirtie dosen Moones with borrowed sheene


2027     About the world haue times twelue thirties beene


2028     Since loue our harts, and Hymen did our hands


2029     Vnite comutuall in most sacred bands.


2030      {Quee} <Bap>. So many iourneyes may the Sunne and Moone


2031     Make vs againe count ore ere loue be doone,


2032     But woe is me, you are so sicke of late,


2033     So farre from cheere, and from {our former} <your forme> state,


2034     That I distrust you, yet though I distrust,


2035     Discomfort you my Lord it nothing must.


2035+1 {H2} {For women feare too much, euen as they loue,}


2036     {And} <For> womens feare and loue {hold} <holds> quantitie,


2037     <Oo6v> {Eyther none,} in neither ought, or in extremitie,


2038     Now what my {Lord} <loue> is proofe hath made you know,


2039     And as my loue is {ciz'd} <siz'd>, my feare is so,


2039+1 {Where loue is great, the litlest doubts are feare,}


2039+2 {Where little feares grow great, great loue growes there.}


2040      King. Faith I must leaue thee loue, and shortly to,


2041     My operant powers {their} <my> functions leaue to do,


2042     And thou shalt liue in this faire world behind,


2043     Honord, belou'd, and haply one as kind,


2044     For husband shalt thou{.} <------>


2045      {Quee} <Bap>.. O confound the rest,


2046     Such loue must needes be treason in my brest,


2047     In second husband let me be accurst,


2048     None wed the second, but who kild the first.                   {Ham. That's}


2049      <Ham. Wormwood, Wormwood.>


2050      <Bapt.> The instances that second marriage moue             {wormwood}


2051     Are base respects of thrift, but none of loue,


2052     A second time I kill my husband dead,


2053     When second husband kisses me in bed.


2054      King. I doe belieue {you thinke} <you. Think> what now you speake,


2055     But what we doe determine, oft we breake,


2056     Purpose is but the slaue to memorie,


2057     Of violent birth, but poore validitie,


2058     Which now {the} <like> fruite vnripe sticks on the tree,


2059     But fall vnshaken when they mellow bee.


2060     Most necessary tis that we forget


2061     To pay our selues what to our selues is debt,


2062     What to our selues in passion we propose,


2063     The passion ending, doth the purpose lose,


2064     The violence of {eyther,} <other> griefe, or ioy,


2065     Their owne {ennactures} <ennactors> with themselues destroy,


2066     Where ioy most reuels, griefe doth most lament,


2067     Greefe {ioy} <ioyes>, ioy griefes, on slender accedent,


2068     This world is not for aye, nor tis not strange,


2069     That euen our loues should with our fortunes change:


2070     For tis a question left vs yet to proue,


2071     Whether loue lead fortune, or els fortune loue.


2072     The great man downe, you marke his {fauourite} <fauourites> flyes,


2073     {H2v} The poore aduaunc'd, makes friends of enemies,


2074     And hetherto doth loue on fortune tend,


2075     For who not needes, shall neuer lacke a friend,


2076     And who in want a hollow friend doth try,


2077     Directly seasons him his enemy.


2078     But orderly to end where I begunne,


2079     Our wills and fates doe so contrary runne,


2080     That our deuises still are ouerthrowne,


2081     Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our owne,


2082     So thinke thou wilt no second husband wed,


2083     But die thy thoughts when thy first Lord is dead.


2084      {Quee} <Bap>.. Nor earth to {me giue} <giue me> foode, nor heauen light,


2085     Sport and repose lock from me day and night,


2085+1 {To desperation turne my trust and hope,}


2085+2 {And Anchors cheere in prison be my scope,}


2086     Each opposite that blancks the face of ioy,


2087     Meete what I would haue well, and it destroy,


2088     Both heere and hence pursue me lasting strife,                   {Ham. If she should}


2089     If once {I be} a widdow, euer I be {a} wife.                       {breake it now.}


2090      <Ham. If she should breake it now.>


2091-2  King. Tis deeply sworne, | sweet leaue me heere a while,


2093     My spirits grow dull, and faine I would beguile


2094     The tedious day with sleepe.


2095      Quee. Sleepe rock thy braine,                   <Sleepes>


2096     And neuer come mischance betweene vs twaine. {Exeunt.} <Exit>


2097      Ham. Madam, how like you this play?


2098      Quee. The Lady {doth protest} <protests> too much mee thinks.


2099      Ham. O but shee'le keepe her word.





Some thoughts: 


o The play reads perfectly well absent these lines.


o The king’s “Tis deeply sworne” half-line makes no sense if the if the preceding speech isn’t there. (Ditto Hamlet’s “If she should break it now” and “shee’le keep her word.”) So if Hamlet added that speech he must have also added that half-line. 


o The last underlined couplet may or may not be Hamlet’s addition. It works either way—fourteen or sixteen lines.


o The two (or three) additions are the very passages that Hamlet feels inclined to comment on.


o These interlineated speeches—not just a single added speech or section—are in keeping with what we know of Elizabethan script-doctoring, including the complex emendations apparent from our three versions of Hamlet. See, for just one example, the five passages added to the 1602 White/Pavier Q4 of The Spanish Tragedy. (Added in 1597? By Jonson? Shakespeare?). One addition comprises a whole scene (the “painter” scene), but others are interjections and (partial) replacements.


o Aside from the king’s half-line, all the additions are to the Queen’s speeches, including one wholly new speech (and the possible couplet). She’s already said “Such loue must needes be treason in my brest.” The additions just expand on that. (This makes “The lady doth protest too much me thinks” a pretty good punch line. She does go on...)


o The queen’s oath and the king’s “Tis deeply sworn” are amongst a plethora of vows, oaths, and swearing (and foreswearing) in Hamlet. See James Black on “Hamlet’s Vows,” here (PDF). Compare the queen’s “Nor earth to me giue foode, nor heauen light” (if she betray her oath) to Hamlet’s swearing on heaven and earth: “O all you host of heauen, ô earth.../...remember thee.../while memory holds a seate/thy commandement all alone shall liue,/Within the booke and volume of my braine.” And also Laertes’:  “Let this be so./.../Cry to be heard as twere from heauen to earth,/That I must call’t in question.” Swearing is a big deal in the play, and was a bigger deal than we can quite grasp in Elizabethan England. It would be a propos for Hamlet to pen these passages highlighting what, for Hamlet, are his mother’s broken vows to his father.


o In the context of the play played before the the king, the queen, and all the courtiers, just four months after King Hamlet’s death (Ophelia: “tis twice two months my Lord”), the additions are wildly inflammatory. “None wed the second, but who kild the first”? “A second time I kill my husband dead”? The implicit accusation—that Gertrude killed the king—is not thickly veiled. (cf Hamlet’s line in the closet scene: “almost as bad, good mother/As kill a king and marry with his brother.” Gertrude: “As kill a king?”)


o It’s certainly Hamlet’s intent to “catch the conscience of the king” with this play (it fails), with Shakespeare drawing on A Warning for Fair Women (Chamberlain’s Men, published 1599) and other contemporary accounts of “guilty creatures sitting at a play” confessing their guilt to a murder. But whether or not these proposed additions are Hamlet’s, the King/Queen interchange takes aim at one person and one person only: Gertrude. The queen is cast as foreswearing her repeated oaths to her noble and virtuous if rather dull and verbally plodding husband and king. (From the dumb show, the court audience watching this speech knows that she ends up marrying the murderer.)


o I will not be the first to point out the connection between the “Mousetrap” and Hamlet’s injunction to Gertrude in the closet scene (TLN 2559), that she not let Claudius “temp’t you againe to bed,/Pinch wanton on your cheeke, call you his Mouse...” Hamlet is (still) livid at his mother, and apparently really does think she might have killed his father. Her conscience is every bit as much a target of the mousetrap as Claudius’. 


No production that I’ve seen has depicted how thoroughly unpleasant this sixteen-year-old boy is in the mousetrap scene. He accuses his mother of murdering his father, and—nephew of the king—depicts the nephew of the king murdering the king (this murder was already in the play, needed no help from Hamlet except his “nephew” chorus)all right in front of the king and queen. And that’s before even considering his snide shots at elderly Polonius, or his nasty attacks on Ophelia for jilting him because he’s no longer heir to the throne. (He’s now instead a dangerous hereditary rival to the king and his toady and chief supporter, her father. It’s only one irony that Laertes, not Hamlet, leads a rebellion to overthrow Claudius and take the crown.)


We can certainly understand why Claudius is so furious, why he stops the play and calls for lights. It need have nothing to do with feelings of guilt. He’s pissed off. And with good reason.


I think this view puts unpleasant memories of contentious family Christmas dinners, with one family member or another stomping off in high dudgeon, in some perspective. 


One last note: Two of Hamlet’s interjections—“That’s wormwood” and “If she should break it now”—are printed in the right margin in Q2. (The facsimile pages from UVic’s Internet Shakespeare Editions are here and here.) They’re the only speeches printed that way in the whole quarto. All the other marginals are stage directions, printed in italic. I have no idea what to do with that (if anything), would welcome any thoughts.


Could Shakespeare have penned certain lines as having come from Hamlet’s quill? Sure. Did he? And could I have delved a yard below his deep plots to determine which they were? I’ll leave those questions for my gentle fellow SHAKSPERians.


From TLS: Shakespeare on Screen

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.032  Friday, 23 January 2015


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 22, 2015 at 9:18:44 PM EST

Subject:    From TLS: Shakespeare on Screen


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in the most recent TLS. I will provide excepts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -Hardy]



Shakespeare on screen 

By Emma Smith 



By Russell Jackson 

208pp. Oxford University Press. Paperback, £14.99. 

978 0 19 965946 3 


Russell Jackson has his own entry on the Internet Movie Database in the “miscellaneous crew” category: his work as text consultant on a slate of British Shakespeare films from Henry V (1989) to Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) gives him an insider view of the renaissance of that genre under the charismatic leadership of Kenneth Branagh. One conspicuous strength of his new book in the Oxford Shakespeare Topics series is his astute appreciation of something it has been easy for academics to denigrate or ignore: that particular kind of intelligent, populist costume drama that placed Much Ado About Nothing in a sunny Tuscan villa (Branagh, 1993), washed Viola up on a Cornish beach (Trevor Nunn, 1996), and depicted Desdemona’s elopement to the arms of her soldier lover by moonlit gondola (Oliver Parker, 1995). 


Jackson’s canon is inclusive and unpatronizing, traversing a century of cinema from early silents to Joss Whedon’s Much Ado (2012). He is not uncritical – wondering how the edgier gender politics of directors such as Sally Potter or Derek Jarman might have transformed a lacklustre As You Like It, for instance – nor does he patronize, writing persuasively about ungarlanded films such as Michael Hoffman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) or Stuart Burge’s Julius Caesar (1970). 


Jackson’s analysis avoids the mire of adaptation taxonomies that often clog up scholarship on Shakespeare on film. His decision to use the word “original” as “a convenient ­synonym for ‘the play this film starts from’”, like the “freer kinds of adaptation” he reserves for his final chapter, “Beyond Shakespeare”, is refreshingly untroubled. His method is broadly and illuminatingly comparative: placing the neutered 1936 Romeo and Juliet (George Cukor), alongside Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and then Baz Luhrmann (1996) traces an arc of representations of masculinity from bulging tights to ironic fancy dress. It also implies that the films are lineally related to their shared textual progenitor, rather than laterally to the cinematic products of, say, the same aesthetic mode, director, or period. If this organizational decision maps pragmatically onto general approaches to Shakespeare on film in the seminar room, it also necessarily prioritizes “Shakespeare” over “English-speaking cinema”. 


[ . . . ]


Jackson writes throughout with clarity, wit and elegance. The dozen or so stills from the films that are reproduced in the book are less dramatically visual than his own prose. Lady Macbeth’s “acidulous” tones amid the dodgy accents of Orson Welles’s Macbeth (1948), the eroticism of Laurence Olivier’s Richard III wooing Lady Anne (1955), the gothic setting of Jarman’s The Tempest (1980): these episodes receive crisply appreciative commentary. 


At the end of his book, however, this urbane confidence gives way to momentary anxiety: a section entitled “Please rewind” worries that not enough scholarly work has been referenced and that limitations on space may have distorted the topic. These doubts are understandable. Shakespeare and the English-Speaking Cinema does not have an argumentative through-line. It does not engage with the terminological and conceptual fretfulness that characterizes this field, nor is it in sustained conversation with criticism of the films or their “originals”. There is no attempt to make the category of “the English-speaking cinema” into anything much more than a practical self-denying ordinance. But Jackson knows what he is doing. His final injunction to his readers recalls Heminge and Condell: “watch the films again – and again”. This generous and intelligent book will certainly help them to do just that. 

From TLS: Shakespeare’s Playworlds

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.031  Friday, 23 January 2015


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 22, 2015 at 9:16:34 PM EST

Subject:    From TLS: Shakespeare’s Playworlds


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in the most recent TLS. I will provide excepts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -Hardy]


Shakespeare’s Playworlds 

By Goran Stanivukovic 



By Simon Palfrey

392pp. Cambridge University Press. £65 (US $99). 

978 1 107 05827 9 



By Simon Palfrey

Living ‘King Lear’ 

272pp. University of Chicago Press. £24.50 (US $35). 

978 0 226 15064 2 


Characters in King Lear, according to A. C. Bradley, “do not merely inspire in us emotions of unusual strength, but they also stir the intellect to wonder and speculation”. Bradley has often been criticized for treating Shakespeare’s characters as if they were real people, but he rightly reminds us that Shakespeare’s work encourages such intuitive reflections. It is no surprise, then, to see that Bradley is invoked in both Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds and Poor Tom: Living ‘­King Lear’, Simon Palfrey’s complementary exercises in wonder and speculation. 


A critic with a penchant for the unnoticed and the unspoken, Palfrey links small verbal units to the larger abstract worlds of philos­ophy and metaphysics, from Aristotle to Giorgio Agamben (the phrase “possible worlds” in the title of the first of these books echoes Agamben, who uses it in Potentialities), in order to conduct experiments in criticism. In both of these recent books, critical, creative and philosophical intimations emerge from Palfrey’s “super close-reading” of words as stagecraft tools and “embodiers of meaning”. “There is no detail unworthy of our attention”, he asserts in Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds, a statement that explains the existence of Poor Tom: a unique book in Shakespeare scholarship. The latter is devoted to a single detail in a single play, Edgar’s Bedlam disguise, taking to an extreme the interest in verbal units evinced by Palfrey in his earlier books, Late Shakespeare: A new world of words (1997) and Doing Shakespeare (2005), as well as Shakespeare in Parts (2007), co-written with Tiffany Stern. 


The intuitions of Poor Tom grow out of the systematic approach suggested by Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds, and both books employ Palfrey’s personal jargon of “playworld”, “playlife” and “formaction” – neologisms intended to address how language, stage tools and theatre practice produce meaning in Shakespeare’s work. The philosophical basis of playworld and playlife, for example, lies in Gottfried Leibniz’s notion of monads; for Palfrey, Shakespeare’s playworlds brim with these unrecorded, multitudinous “nodes of life”, which, when registered and written about, become “monadic apprehensions”. 


Shakespeare’s possible worlds thus become the possible worlds of a creative form of critical writing. The term “formaction”, meanwhile, is meant to encompass “the active forms of playworlds, their working parts and craft material . . . which do not so much mediate things in the world, as are vital with possible life: cues, scenes, metaphors, rhymes, parts, entrances, lines . . . exits . . . mime shows . . . a present audience”. These are the tools of theatre-making that shape dramatic action and help actors’ gestures shape playworlds, and they are virtually, in Palfrey’s view, alive in themselves: “Cue, . . . you can never escape your own space, your Cue-Space, perfect capsule of a word that can never sleep”. 


In Poor Tom, the disguised Edgar generates a playworld single-handedly as he leads his blinded father, the Earl of Gloucester, to the brink of a cliff at Dover, “the murmuring Surge” frothing deep below the father’s feet. In this celebrated scene, Shakespeare’s mind works in many directions at once: 


The temptation is death: perhaps as distribution of excess; perhaps as a commitment to feeling; perhaps as knowledge of the last frontier; perhaps as defeat; perhaps as a body that cannot contain all that bursts within; perhaps as a return to the predicative condition of being; or, perhaps, finally, as a release from, or release of, Tom. 


[ . . . ]


The longer and denser of the two books, Shakespeare’s Possible Worlds, is divided into three parts. “Entering Playworlds” sets the scholarly scene, comparing Shakespeare’s playworlds with those of his fellow playwrights Marlowe, Middleton, Marston and Webster; it also brings in non-dramatic correlatives in Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, and the non-dramatic writing of Sidney and Spenser. (Palfrey also claims that the concept of playworlds could be useful to those interested in questions of authorship; while Middleton’s and Marlowe’s playworlds are abundant, the unpredictability of possibilities in Shakespeare’s playworlds gives him a unique place among his contemporaries.) “Modelling Playworlds” considers Henry IV as the work of an anti-rhetorical Shakespeare who exposes the limits of rhetoric (perhaps not unlike Quentin Skinner’s Forensic Shakespeare; see the TLS, December 12, 2014). “Suffering Playworlds” shows how rhyme, repetition and modal verbs serve as the formactions of suffering and forgetting in The Winter’s Tale, as well as killing boredom in Much Ado About Nothing, repetition in Macbeth, rape in Pericles and death in Othello – themes, respectively, unnoticed, underexplored, well-known, over-examined. The book’s most impressive readings come here. In the scene of his wife’s dying, 


Othello has felt Desdemona as her life ebbs away. For all his wildness, Othello’s touch, as befits a professional soldier, is scrupulous as a surgeon’s. He is alert to the smallest fidget, and knows that life can hang upon a twig. He wants a gentle departure, which makes the job harder. And so I repeat: he feels his wife’s graduated exit. 


These two “flagrantly anachronistic” books treat Shakespeare criticism as a thought-experiment: “In Shakespeare’s playworlds uniquely – there is no guarantee that we all recognize even roughly the same reality; no guarantee that even if we all see the same thing (say, a drawn curtain) we will all agree about what it is, or about the life it signifies or secretes or denies”. It will be interesting to see what Simon Palfrey’s playworlds of creative criticism might signify for Shakespeare criticism. 

REED Post-Doctoral Fellowship Opportunity Posting

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.030  Friday, 23 January 2015


From:        Sally-Beth MacLean < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 22, 2015 at 8:17:35 PM EST

Subject:    REED Post-Doctoral Fellowship Opportunity Posting




The Records of Early English Drama (<>), an international humanities research project focusing on medieval and early modern performance studies that is based at the University of Toronto, invites applications for a post-doctoral digital humanities fellowship for up to two years. The successful candidate will participate in REED’s development of a dynamic collection of freely available digital resources for research and education. REED is a longstanding research and editorial project, with partnership for maintenance and sustainability of its digital resources at the University of Toronto Libraries. REED is overseen by an international Executive Board, with a Digital Advisory Committee guiding its digital initiatives.


The Digital Humanities Fellow will be expected to join the project on site at the University of Toronto and will work closely there with the general editor, editorial staff, developers, and research assistants. Members of the REED Digital Advisory Committee will also provide support and mentorship for the postdoctoral fellow, who will be key to the development of a new digital editing and publication environment for REED’s forthcoming collections.


The Digital Humanities Fellow will engage in the development of REED’s new digital production environment, including the editing and encoding of TEI XML documents, new strategies for glossing medieval and early modern records, and, in consultation with others on the editorial team, developing the terms for online indexing of REED collections to be linked with other databases.


The successful candidate will demonstrate skills and aptitudes in early modern research, textual studies, and scholarly editing in digital humanities contexts. Advanced competency in TEI-compliant XML (P5) and some XSLT 2.0 experience is required. Engagement in open source development, digital scholarship frameworks and open access scholarship is essential. In addition, he or she should possess strong organizational skills and the desire to learn and pursue research in an interdisciplinary, collaborative environment.


The successful applicant will be encouraged to pursue his or her own research while at U of T, while receiving training and career development opportunities through REED’s international network.


Salary for this position is competitive in the Canadian context.


Applicants must have completed their PhD within five years of the beginning of the fellowship. Applicants who will defend their thesis before 1 July 2015 are eligible, but a letter from their supervisor or Chair may be requested. Any award will be conditional on a successful defense. Applicants who received their PhD prior to 1 July 2010 are ineligible.


The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may further expand the range of ideas and perspectives.


All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.


Applications, comprising a brief cover letter, CV, and the names and contact information for three referees, may be sent electronically to the general editor, Sally-Beth MacLean, at < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >. Applications will be received and reviewed until the position is filled; the position can begin as early as April 2015. All applications received will be acknowledged.

Reconsidering Donne

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.029  Friday, 23 January 2015


From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 22, 2015 at 10:40:40 AM EST

Subject:    John Donne Sermons - 23-24 March 2015 - Reconsidering Donne




Lincoln College, Oxford


Registration and Accommodation

Registration (flat fee for the entire event, which includes coffee and tea) - £10.00


Single accommodation (available 22/23/24 March 2015) - £79.20 per night


Twin accommodation (available 22/23/24 March 2015) - £117.60 per night


Conference Dinner at Lincoln College, 23rd March 2015 - £27.80

Please visit the link below to book accommodation. Accommodation bookings will end on 31 January 2015.


To register, please first send an email with your name, title, affiliation, and dietary requirements, to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Payment is processed on the University of Oxford Conference Store, where you can select your package (one, two, or three nights, dinner).



Further updates about the conference will follow here. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write to us at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Conference 23-24 MARCH 2015


Information and Registration


The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne will achieve a complete reassessment of the sermons of John Donne (1572-1631), with a new critical edition of those sermons in 16 volumes, with introductions and explanatory notes for a new generation of readers. Donne is one of the most celebrated authors of the English Renaissance. Editorial work on Donne’s poetry has never slackened, and its popularity reaches well beyond academia.


However, his poetry represents only a small fraction of his writing, and in recent years his religion and his prose works have arguably been the focus of the most innovative research. Yet sermons from this period are rarely available in accessible editions, and in contrast to the poetry, Donne’s have suffered relative editorial neglect. The 160 extant sermons were edited by George R. Potter and Evelyn Simpson between 1953 and 1962, but no explanatory notes were provided, making the volumes difficult for students and even experts to use effectively. The current project addresses (1) how to facilitate a modern reader’s understanding of these sermons, by the provision of introductory materials and notes that identify references to the Bible, allusions to other works, and engagements with theological, social, and political debates; (2) how close modern readers can get to a sermon as it was originally preached; (3) whether this form, or the latest one produced in the author’s lifetime should be the basis of the text we read now; and (4) how such sermons should be arranged – by, for example, the date of their delivery or according to the location in which they were preached.


Oxford University Press has commissioned the 16-volume edition that will result from this AHRC-funded research project, under the General Editorship of Dr Peter McCullough and involving an international team of scholars. The team will concentrate chiefly on addressing and resolving research questions concerning the texts of the sermons, and is supported by a full-time research assistant, Dr Sebastiaan Verweij, whose primary task is to collate multiple copies of the sermons in print and manuscript in order for the editors to establish the most accurate texts possible. As well as providing the texts that will be introduced and annotated by the contributing editors, this work will result in a comprehensive Textual Companion to the edition, which will explain the ways in which Donne’s sermons have reached us, outline the principles on which the edition is based, and provide a template for further study and editions of other early modern sermons. The project will, therefore, provide an unmatched resource for those interested in Donne’s writings (students, teachers, scholars, and the wider public), but it will also be invaluable to students of the history of preaching, religion, the law, the court, politics, and textual transmission in the period. This project website, also funded by the AHRC, presents detailed outlines of the component parts of the edition, statements of our editorial principles, and much of the non-copyright primary research generated by our work.

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