Call for Papers

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0157  Wednesday, 14 March 2018


From:        Matt Nickerson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 12, 2018

Subject:    Call for Papers


The Wooden O Symposium is a cross-disciplinary conference exploring Medieval through Early Modern Studies, through the text and performance of Shakespeare’s plays. Scholars from all disciplines are encouraged to submit papers that offer insights and new ideas springing from the era of William Shakespeare. His plays are replete with the language, thoughts and arts of the Renaissance and Western culture, and represent an inexhaustible source for creative ideas and research.


The symposium is hosted by Southern Utah University and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Scholars attending the conference will have the unique opportunity of immersing themselves in research, text, and performance in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the western United States.


For further information, call 435-865-8333.



The Wooden O Symposium invites panel and paper proposals on any topic related to the text and performance of Shakespeare’s plays. The conference seeks papers/panels that investigate our 2018 theme: Shakespeare and the Other. Topics could range from marginalized characters, underdogs, and outliers, to inclusivity or diversity in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We welcome unique interpretations of this theme. This year’s symposium encourages papers and panels that speak to the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 summer season: The Merchant of Venice, Henry VI, Part 1, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Othello. Abstracts for consideration for the Wooden O sessions and individual presentations should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The deadline for proposals is May 1, 2018. Session chairs and individual presenters will be informed of acceptance no later than May 15. Please include 250-word abstracts or session proposals (including individual abstracts) and the following information:


•    name of presenter(s)

•    participant category (faculty, graduate student, undergraduate, or

     independent scholar)

•    college/university affiliation

•    mailing address

•    email address

•    audio/visual requirements and any other special requests.


Submit the abstract or proposal via post or e-mail to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wooden O Symposium

c/o Utah Shakespeare Festival

351 W. Center St. 

Cedar City, UT 84720

Telephone: 435-865-8333

Fax: 435-865-8003 



Announcement – Islandology

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0155  Friday, 9 March 2018


From:        Shakespeare at Rhodes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Thursday, March 8, 2018

Subject:    Announcement – Islandology 


Please join us for free public events sponsored by the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment.


MARCH 15, 2018


ISLANDOLOGY: Geography, Rhetoric, Politics 

(7pm, Blount Auditorium; 6:30pm reception)


MacArthur Fellow Marc Shell will discuss his recent book Islandology, from literary islands to contemporary environmental catastrophes. 


MARCH 16, 2018


Seminar discussion of Hamlet.

(3pm, English Commons, Palmer 312)


A preview of Islandology from Chapter 16 — Humanities Tennessee’s online literary journal:


Floating Prison or Tropical Paradise?


In Islandology, Marc Shell explores the dynamic history of lands surrounded by water



If the title of Marc Shell’s 2014 book, Islandology, sounds like a Kenny Chesney album, its subtitle—“Geography, Rhetoric, Politics”—immediately sets the record straight. The islands Shell studies are less likely to be tropical playgrounds than Scandinavian ice-lands where tribes wage internecine battles for fishing sovereignty.


An endowed professor of comparative literature at Harvard, Shell brings an extraordinarily broad and diverse scholarly background to bear on every topic he explores. The books he wrote during the 1970s and ’80s, which earned him a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, combine literary theory with economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology to provide fresh insights into socially vexed questions. In The End of Kinship, for example, Shell argues that literary commentary “can offer unique access” to the thorniest subjects, including incest.


Shell believes that literature reveals profound truths through intuition, as an extension of experience. In Islandology, he uses Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the key to unlocking the lessons that are hidden in the ways nations describe their homelands and borders.


Prince Hamlet feels isolated on Elsinore, detached from his college friends in Wittenberg and separated from the scenes of his father’s triumphs. In his isolation, he calls Denmark a “prison.” To his uncle Claudius, the new king, Denmark is a connected and powerful state that can readily extend its military might to other nations. Shell draws attention to the parallels with England, an island monarchy sitting on the crown of Europe—his crafty way of framing the central issue of Britain’s foreign policy from Shakespeare’s age to the era of Brexit.


For Shell, there are significant political ramifications to the way we conceptualize islands. The transition of ancient Athens from part of the mainland to an island city-state—a change accomplished by earthworks—was crucial to establishing Athenian political self-consciousness. “Whatever one calls a particular island,” Shell writes, “often becomes a linguistic ‘password’ used to identify you as a member of one cultural group as against another.”


Though less personal than Shell’s books on stuttering and polio, Islandology allows readers access to the roving quality of his thinking. His primary mode of operation is the tangent, following strands of thought and drawing upon an endless trove of learning until suddenly the whole picture snaps into focus. A discussion of “island cities,” such as his own native Montreal, leads him to the lighthouse on the Greek island Pharos, the Rialto of Venice, an Iranian film set in the Persian Gulf, seventeenth-century Dutch travel writing, and Korean ice-breaking ships. The pattern he finds: these islands continually struggle between an instinct to isolate from the world’s unrest and a desire for economic expansion. The tension never abates.


For all his erudition, Shell treats popular entertainment, especially movies, with the same critical scrutiny he gives to ancient philosophy. He uses islandology as a way of generating new interpretations of films as various as Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage and Laurel and Hardy’s Atoll K, noting how both use islands as microcosms for perennial conflicts.


The value of Shell’s work lies in its capacity to alter our perspectives. In Islandology, he takes the simplest questions of definition—What is an island?—and demonstrates that how we answer that question reveals who we are.


Rhodes College Department of English

2000 N Parkway, Memphis, TN  38112



Announcement - Collectio Musicorum

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0154  Wednesday, 7 March 2018


From:        Gene Murrow - GEMS <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Monday, March 5, 2018

Subject:    Announcement - Collectio Musicorum


Collectio Musicorum


The Dream of the Rood


New York-based early music ensemble Collectio Musicorum, in conjunction with The American Theatre of Actors, presents a dramatic version of one of the earliest poems in the English language, ”The Dream of the Rood,” interspersed with music from the Middle Ages.


Dates & Times:          Wed-Sat, March 21-24 at 8 pm

                                    Sunday, March 25 at 2 pm

                                    Wed-Sat, March 28-31 at 8 pm

                                    Sunday, April 1 at 2 pm


Location:       The American Theatre of Actors

                        314 West 54th Street

                        New York, NY 10019


Cross Street:  Between 8th and 9th Avenues


Subway/Bus: C/E trains to 50th Street station

     A/C/B/D/1 trains to Columbus Circle/59th Street station

     N/Q/R/W trains to 57th Street station

     M20, M104, M11, M12, M31, M57, X12, X42 buses


Tickets:          Tickets: $15

     Reserve tickets by calling 212-581-3044

     Details online at

                        Tickets are also available from the Theater Development  

                        Fund at




One stormy night in the 8th century, a solitary monk had a terrifying dream. He saw the crucifixion of Jesus firsthand and then the cross itself began to talk to him. Based on this vision, he composed a lengthy poem, now called “The Dream of the Rood,” one of the earliest pieces of poetry in English to survive, and one of the most amazing.


New York-based early music ensemble Collectio Musicorum, in conjunction with The American Theatre of Actors, presents a dramatic version of the poem, interspersed with music from the Middle Ages. It will be performed on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM from March 21-24 and March 28-31, and on Sundays March 25 and April 1 at 2 PM at The American Theatre of Actors, 314 West 54th Street. Tickets are $25 and may be reserved by calling 212 581 3044.


The production is directed by Jeff S. Dailey, Collectio Musicorum’s artistic director. Noted as a musicologist and theatre historian, Dr. Dailey is also a specialist in Anglo-Saxon poetry—with many publications on teaching Old English literature—and he has newly translated the ancient poem. He has also chosen a wide variety of early music to intersperse into the production, ranging from ancient Sarum chant to devotional songs from medieval England. Sarum chant—now virtually extinct—was the stylistically unique type of plainsong used in English churches until the Reformation.


The performers are Kaden Caldwell, Ryan Desaulniers, Benjamin Marcus, Galen Molk, Remy Muloway, Dan Wuerdeman, and David Yurch. They portray a group of monks singing and reciting the poem while acting out its deepest meanings. Dealing with the eternal issue of good versus evil, this medieval masterpiece is brought to life in time for Easter.


This production is in the running for an Innovative Theatre Award in the area of Performance Art. Details about these awards may be found here:


About the ensemble:


Collectio Musicorum, Inc. (“Collection of Music”) presents concerts of music you will not hear elsewhere. Founded in 2013 by musicologist Jeff S. Dailey, Collectio Musicorum is devoted to giving the best possible performances of music from the earliest of times. Collectio Musicorum is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 corporation.


Music Director Jeff Dailey studied musicology and theatre history at NYU, where he received his PhD in 2002. He is an active instrumentalist, musicologist, conductor, and stage director. His publications include studies of medieval and Renaissance music and theatre, Eugene O’Neill, Beowulf, Donizetti, and Gilbert and Sullivan. He has been president of the Greater New York Chapter of the American Musicological Society since 2008.


For further information or to set up an interview:


Call 718-745-4794 or Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 




CFP: Shakespeare and the Animal World

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0152  Friday, 2 March 2018



From:        Yan Brailowsky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Friday, March 2, 2018

Subject:     Call for Papers

Call for papers: Shakespeare and the Animal World


Call for papers for the 2019 French Shakespeare Society Conference

Paris, Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe, 10-12 January 2019


CFP online:

In the title of a book published in 1973, Terence Hawkes spoke of “Shakespeare’s talking animals.” Language and communication are not, by far the only features which, for the playwright, served to differentiate men from animals. As the son of a Stratford glover, who, in his young days, must have attended the slaughter and suffering of beasts while being made an apprentice in the treatment of their skins, Shakespeare developed a personal sensibility and a particular attention to animals.

Animals occupy a prominent place in the canon, both by their presence on stage (one may here think of Crab, Lance’s dog in The Two Gentlemen of Veronaor the bear in The Winter’s Tale) and in the reminiscence of the medieval world of heraldry and of the bestiaries, of hunting and sacrificial rites. In the historiae animalium of Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, Conrad Gesner or Edward Topsell, but also in the contemporary emblem books, Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights found many examples for his animal imagery as well as for various proverbs and ironical fables. Ovid’s Metamorphoses were another important source for the ass Bottom, the wolf Shylock, Orsino comparing himself to Acteon, Macbeth’s currish murderers, Lear’s “pelican daughters” as well as Caliban, the fish-man of The Tempest. Desdemona and Othello, according to Iago, “are making the beast with two backs” and their “unnatural” love threatens Venice with a whole generation of monsters. But through its masks and many disguises, theatre encourages such metamorphoses, for laughs, but also in order to frighten the spectators or to give them food for thought, as in the case of De Flores’s dog face (in Middleton’s The Changeling) or the animal-coded names of the characters in Ben Jonson’s Volpone.

Is man “the paragon of animals” as Hamlet says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in a fit of bitter irony? Beyond feelings of real compassion for the suffering, sentient beast which serve to illustrate melancholy or taedium vitae, animals are presented as possible models for man. In Henry V, the archbishop of Canterbury claims that honey-bees “teach / The act of order to a peopled kingdom,” while, for Cleopatra, the beauty and bounty of Antony is encapsulated in the image of the dolphin showing “his back above / The element.”

The word “beast,” which has 75 occurrences in the canon, differs from the word “animal” (only 8 occurrences) which etymologically refers to the breath of life (anima) responsible for motion. This raises the issue of taming and domestication, and thus that of the opposition between socialised and savage creatures. In The Taming of the Shrew, the Lord, who returns from a hunting party, takes loving care of his dogs while feeling nauseated by the sight of the drunken beggar Christopher Sly: “O monstrous beast, how like a swine he lies!” Shakespeare proves attentive to the singularity and diversity of individuals more than to the species or category to which they are supposed to belong, so that his animal kingdom leads to a dizzying multiplication of appellations as well as to great linguistic virtuosity. This world, for him, illustrates the idea of hierarchy and symbolises law and order as much as such subversive ends as Hamlet’s referring to the worm, “the only emperor for diet,” which, through the fish which it serves to catch, allows the beggar to eat of the flesh of the king.

The very same animals that are presented onstage as scenic objects or instruments at the service of living performances are also at the origin of the production of tools and objects of daily life. The drum, for instance, over which skins of goats, lambs, cows, fishes or reptiles had been stretched since early antiquity, retained in its emblems the characteristics of the animal used for its manufacturing. Contrary to this warlike instrument, the lute materialises the celestial power of harmony which elevates the soul and takes it closer to God. But with its strings made with animal guts and its tortoise-shaped sound-box, the instrument also connoted suspicious animal qualities, poles apart from the supernatural virtues attached to it.

This conference invites a vast range and variety of proposals on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The following list, which by no means claims to be exhaustive, may serve to suggest possible topics and fields of investigation:

  • The role of animal heraldry;
  • The tradition of the fable and its subversion;
  • The hunt, its rites, vocabulary and imagery;
  • Domestication and savagery; domestic animals and wild beasts;
  • The function of metamorphosis; animals in the world of imagination, of the dream or of the unconscious; hybrids and fantastic beasts; esoteric lore and its chimeras;
  • Animal images of madness, possession and witchcraft;
  • The animal kingdom as related to climate and the environment;
  • The animalisation of man (and woman) and the humanisation of the animal;
  • Puns, terminology, insults, lexical and linguistic combinations in the field of the animal kingdom;
  • Meat consumption, slaughter and butchery; cruelty against vs. love of and pity for animals;
  • Animals in sports, games and festivities; animal imagery in popular riots, carnivals and the world upside down;
  • Animals as providing models or counter-models for social and political organisation; the animal kingdom as a mirror of law and order vs. the animal kingdom as image of chaos;
  • Classifications, inventories and hierarchies: from the king of animals to pest, from nobility to the ignoble, from the admirable to the frightening or the revolting;
  • Animality, bestiality, sexuality;
  • Objects related to the animal world: pelts, furs, objects made out of horn, fetishes, weapons, musical instruments;
  • Animals and music;
  • Animals on stage and on screen.

Scientific committee

Rebecca Bach (University of Alabama at Birmingham), Yan Brailowsky (Université Paris-Nanterre, Société Française Shakespeare), Charlotte Coffin (Université Paris-Est Créteil), Sarah Hatchuel (Université Le Havre Normandie, Société Française Shakespeare), François Laroque (Université Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle), Karen L. Raber (University of Mississippi), Chantal Schütz (École Polytechnique, Société Française Shakespeare), Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Société Française Shakespeare).


Submission procedure

 Please send your proposals to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 10 May 2018, with a title, an abstract (between 500 and 800 words) and a brief biographical notice. A few words in the abstract should explain in what way(s) your paper intends to address the topic of the conference.

Call for Submissions: Auditory Worlds: Hearing on Shakespearean Stages

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0152  Friday, 2 March 2018


From:        Walter Cannon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 5, 2018 at 2:15:12 PM EST

Subject:    Call for Submissions: Auditory Worlds: Hearing on Shakespearean Stages


Call for Submissions: Auditory Worlds: Hearing on Shakespearean Stages

As a follow-up to our 2012 volume, Who Hears in Shakespeare? Auditory Worlds on Stage and Screen (FDU Press), Laury Magnus and Walter Cannon are designing a volume that will explore the theatrical intelligibility of Shakespeare’s multifaceted soundscapes on original stages as well as post-Restoration to modern stages.


We introduced Who Hears in Shakespeare? by giving an overview of the rich dimensions of “Shakespeare’s Auditory Worlds,” discussing both the explicit and the implicit, subtle, and often ambiguous byways of hearing; we examined the ways in which Shakespeare’s characters listen to and hear each other, as well as how their hearing, overhearing, eavesdropping, and whispering “creates a rich meta-theatrical soundscape” designed both to acknowledge and develop a sophisticated awareness of the audience as part of the production.


In the proposed volume, we and our contributors will expand on prior topics of mishearing and “hearing in disguise” and introduce new materials concerning the multifaceted relationships between sound and sight; in addition, contributors’ essays will examine special listening situations created not just by dialogue and blocking, but by the use of dialects and other languages (Kate's French or Glendower’s Welsh, for example), as well as by music and other non-dialogic sounds. The topics for which we would welcome submissions are as follows:


I    Hearing and Seeing/ Hearing Versus Seeing on Shakespeare’s Stages and in later staging incarnations

II   Hearing Gone Awry: Mishearing and Not Hearing

III   Hearing in Hiding (Disguise, Overhearing, Eavesdropping: Further Meditations)

IV  Shakespeare’s Soundings and Music: Trumpet blasts, clocks, bells cries, fanfares, drums, songs and dances.

If you would be interested in any of these topics, please let us know in a “reply to all” and give us a working title and an abstract of about two pages describing what you would like to do by March 1. We would like to have a good sense of the individual essays selected for inclusion by April 30 and will let writers know by that date.  The deadline for completed chapter submissions is July 31.



If you have any questions, please contact us.


Walter Cannon

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Laury Magnus


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



A Couple of Announcements

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0151  Wednesday, 28 February 2018


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

Date:         Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Subject:    A Couple of Announcements


Dear Subscribers:


Ron Severdia finally discovered the issue I was having mounting Mark Alcamo’s essay “Henry V: A Genius (Ironic) Hoax?.” The announcement of it that I tried to post last week will follow in today’s Newsletter. Comments are welcome directly to Mark or to the list.


Professor Stephanie Chamberlain of Southeast Missouri State University and SHAKSPER’s Associate Editor is AMAZING. She is a very fast learner and has no difficulties with the intricacies of Joomla or my OCD. 


I will be on retreat at the end of March, so we have decided to let Stephanie take the helm for preparing Newsletters for a while so that I can assist if any questions were to come up. Beginning tomorrow, Stephanie will be your editor. Let us welcome her to this daunting task.






The Passing of Homer "Murph" Swander

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0147  Tuesday, 27 February 2018


From:        Scott Jackson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 27, 2018 at 10:45:38 AM EST

Subject:    The Passing of Homer "Murph" Swander


Dear Friends:


For those who may not be aware, Homer “Murph” Swander, professor emeritus at the University of California at Santa Barbara and founder of A Center for Theatre Education and Research (ACTER)/Actors From The London Stage (AFTLS) passed away on February 15th at the age of 96.


His impact on the way Shakespeare is taught in university classrooms across the country (and indeed the world) is inestimable.  His impact looms large over generations of students and his passing is mourned throughout the realms of academia and performance. Our hearts are with his family today and all days. 


His obituary is now online and can be viewed at:


To follow is a tribute to Murph written by his former student Tim Duggan, associate professor of Secondary Education at Northeastern Illinois University, for the Shakespeare Association of America.  Coincidentally, AFTLS will be performing The Taming of the Shrew for the SAA at the annual meeting in Los Angeles in just a few short weeks, a performance we hope will honor his memory and pay homage to his enduring legacy.






- --------- 


Homer “Murph” Swander, 1921-2018



The world lost a titan in Shakespeare teaching and scholarship when Homer “Murph” Swander died on February 15 at the age of 96. According to his daughter, Susan, he died peacefully and without pain. His wife, Laura, died just over a year ago at the age of 93. They were married for 73 years. 


Swander received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and spent his long teaching career at the University of California at Santa Barbara. While he leaves behind thousands of former students who benefited from his teaching, his reputation as a revolutionary thinker in Shakespeare pedagogy spread far beyond the campus of UCSB. For decades, he organized and led educational tours to London to attend productions and visit with the actors and directors whose work he admired. His collaborations with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, most notably Sir Patrick Stewart, led to the formation of the Association for Creative Theatre, Education, and Research (ACTER) in 1975. The group, which brings professional actors to college campuses for week-long residencies, continues today as Actors 


f rom the London Stage (AFTLS), housed at the University of Notre Dame. British actor David Rintoul, writing in Mary Zenet Maher’s collection, Modern Hamlets and their Soliloquys (University of Iowa Press, 2003), claimed that ACTER “has had the immediate and salutory effect of drawing closer together the research and teaching of Shakespeare at all instructional levels in the English-speaking world.” In 2015, the Shakespeare Guild in London honored Professor Swander and ACTER/AFTLS for their 40-year history of “extraordinary contributions to our understanding and presentation of classics by Shakespeare and other dramatists.”


One of the great privileges of my life was to be Murph’s student in two classes at UCSB in the early 1980’s. On the first day of class, he walked in, held up a small paperback version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and said something to the effect of, “This is not a play. This is a script. Inside this script are many plays, and your job is to find one that makes sense.” The key, he told us, was not just to read Shakespeare, but to “do” Shakespeare—to get inside the shoes of actors and directors. He gathered us into scene groups and set us to the task of mining the script for clues, or “signals” as he called them, that we could translate into performance. He prodded us to generate as many options as possible in rehearsal, and then to consider how those choices affected the story our scenes would tell. The term culminated in performances of the scenes and discussions of what each group had presented.


Murph was far ahead of the curve when it came to what is now called “student-centered” instruction. Attending his class was never like sitting in a typical lecture. As our groups worked on our feet, encountering textual problems through movement, voice, and gesture, he would watch, occasionally gathering us to observe one group as he pointed them toward some seemingly insignificant detail. We learned that for actors of Shakespeare, there are no insignificant details. We also wrote for him, but the papers weren’t typical thematic analyses built around some literary device or element. We would essay to defend performance choices we made based on the signals in the script, explaining how those choices illuminated the text for us. His approach transformed my thinking about Shakespeare, about reading, and about myself. 


Despite his devotion to using theatrical methods in literature classes, Murph was not an actor; he was a scholar. Like many in his generation, he considered the original texts as the ultimate authority, encouraging students to examine quarto or folio facsimiles of the scripts and to be skeptical of editorial incursions in published versions. He dismissed bracketed stage directions as unnecessary and often inaccurate. “These people are editors, not actors,” he would say. In that sense, he was also an activist. He maintained an uncompromising bardolatry that may seem quaint today, but he never lost his passion for the work or his conviction that the text mattered. When I visited him and Laura at their home two years ago, I found Murph sitting in his living room chair, surrounded by his manuscripts. At 94, he was still furthering his ideas, with hundreds of typewritten pages and notes written in longhand. He leaves behind an unpublished body of work that I hope will see the light of day, for posterity. 


I don’t know of anyone who did more than Murph to bridge the sometimes disparate worlds of the theatre and the academy. His academic descendants extend across continents, disciplines, and multiple generations. Many in the Shakespeare community knew him much better than I, as colleagues and as friends. I knew him as a professor who impacted my life and exerted a deep influence on my teaching. May flights of angels sing him to his rest. 


--Tim Duggan



Scott Jackson

Mary Irene Ryan Family Executive Director

Shakespeare at Notre Dame

230 DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Notre Dame, IN 46556





New Paper for Comment: Henry V: A Genius (Ironic) Hoax?

As a service to its members, SHAKSPER makes selected papers for which the author would like comments available for a short time on the SHAKSPER server.


The following paper is currently available:     pdf Henry V: A Genius (Ironic) Hoax? (511 KB) folder   (Click on title to the left to download a pdf copy.)


Henry V: A Genius (Ironic) Hoax?

By Mark E. Alcamo <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>


None of Shakespeare’s plays is so persistently and thoroughly misunderstood as Henry V, and one is tempted to think that there is no play which is more important to understand . . . Shakespeare can scarcely have intended that force of preconception should, hundreds of years after his death, still be preventing the careful, the learned, and the sympathetic from seeing what he so definitely put down. The play is ironic: that is, I venture to think, a fact susceptible to detailed proof. - Gerald Gould (1919)


Although Henry V does not typically make a short list of Shakespeare masterpieces, the critical history of the play is one of the most interesting in the canon, and although it is generally not considered a problem play, it is “by far the most controversial of the histories.” The controversy centers on discerning Shakespeare’s intent for the play: is it to present King Henry V as an exemplar, a mirror for other monarchs to emulate, and to glorify his incredibly improbable victory at Agincourt, or is Shakespeare taking his audience in with that outward appearance while his perspective of the action is actually ironic, and is revealed in the subtle but pervasive undermining and subverting of that celebratory view. The dispute is generally acknowledged to have been started by William Hazlitt (1817), the first critic to attempt noticing a chink in the armor of King Henry V, and although Hazlitt’s essay often switches between comments pertinent to the historical King Henry V versus the play’s King, he does label the play character “a very amiable monster,” which is at odds with him being referred to in the play as “the mirror of all Christian kings” (2.0.6). During the next hundred years of commentary there arose a few more disparaging comments about the King and the war presented by Shakespeare, including from William Watkiss Lloyd and W.B.Yeats,5 but for those who see something beyond a gung-ho war lay in Henry V, the next definitive milestone in the play’s criticism was from Gerald Gould in the essay quoted above, where he unequivocally states “the play is ironic.” His position was that although the play appears to be celebratory of King Henry and his Agincourt victory, it is actually “a satire on monarchical government, on imperialism, on the baser kinds of ‘patriotism’, and on war.” And although commentators by no means jumped onboard Gould’s bandwagon, from this point on a review of the criticism on the play will clearly show a noticeable concern with the protagonist King Henry, his actions and his character, and with the war, from the cause and effect of it, to how it is presented. For almost three hundred years the play had been almost beyond reproach seen as a patriotic panegyric to a heroic king and his impossible victory at Agincourt—George Bernard Shaw even termed it jingoistic—but Gould had definitely thrown down a gauntlet challenging this view that scholars deemed necessary to consider and respond to. If you were of a mind to celebrate English hegemony in martial matters, with an accent on their heroic and noble aspects, Gould’s essay might be seen as analogous to an opening of Pandora’s box: Henry V’s world hasn’t been the same since.



The author lives in the Pacific Northwest and has been reading and studying Shakespeare for many years. He has also written a more broadly ranging essay on the ironic Henry V,  “Once More: The Case for a (Mindful) Reading (Ironic) of Henry V” that can also be found free on the Internet, as well as a comprehensive book on the ironic interpretation of Henry V titled, A Genius Hoax: Shakespeare’s Trojan 

Horse War Play.



You should send your comments directly to the author by Mark E. Alcamo <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>; or if you wish, you may start a thread through the normal SHAKSPER channels by sending it to the list at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Applying Shakespeare Symposium, the Shakespeare Institute, 9 March 2018

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0131 Tuesday, 13 February 2018


From:        R. M. Shaughnessy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 12, 2018 at 2:02:23 PM EST

Subject:   Applying Shakespeare Symposium, the Shakespeare Institute, 9 March 2018


Registration is still open for this one-day event:


Applying Shakespeare Symposium, the Shakespeare Institute, 9 March 2018


The 'Applying Shakespeare' symposium is an opportunity for practitioners and scholars to come together to consider the uses of applied Shakespeare, sharing best practice and considering the impact of new and existing projects.


Shakespeare’s work continues to occupy a unique position within contemporary education, performance and popular culture. Applied theatre is an umbrella term for a range of performance forms, often in non-theatrical spaces and with an agenda of personal or social change. When these two fields combine, the results can be transformative for those involved. 


Speakers include Dr Sue Jennings, Kelly Hunter, Ben Spiller and Phil Novis as well as papers on topics such as Robben Island Shakespeare, Shakespeare with autistic children and broadcast representations of applied Shakespeare.


There will be short performances from Open Access Arts and Blue Apple Theatre.


This event is organised in collaboration with Guildford School of Acting, University of Surrey, and the Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance, University of Kent.




Shakespeare Research Seminar

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0130 Tuesday, 13 February 2018


From:        R.M.Shaughnessy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 12, 2018 at 8:18:22 AM EST

Subject:    Shakespeare Research Seminar 


Dear colleagues,


Please join us for a joint GSA Theatre & Performance/ School of Literature & Languages research seminar: 


Cultures in Contact


Wednesday 21 February, Ball Studio, GSA, 5.00-700pm


Fictions of Comfort: Shakespeare and the Failure of Consolation


Jürgen Pieters, Ghent University


Leadership signalling in Richard II


Darren Tunstall, Guildford School of Acting, University of Surrey


GSA Theatre and Performance, School of Literature and Languages Joint Research Seminar | GSA - Guildford School of Acting


Cultures in Contact Wednesday 21 February, Ball Studio, GSA, 5.00-700pm


Wine and alternatives will be served. 


Robert Shaughnessy 

Director of Research 

Guildford School of Acting

University of Surrey 




Vermont Shakespeare Festival

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0128 Tuesday, 13 February 2018


From:        Nicholas Clary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 12, 2018 at 4:53:02 AM EST

Subject:    Vermont Shakespeare Festival


The Vermont Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 season includes a Salon Series as well as a summer production in various venues in northern Vermont. Actors present staged readings of selected plays in the Salon Series, after which invited guests join the actors and the directors in discussing the plays with the audience. The summer production is mounted in full dress performance.


Salon Series schedule:

     Wittenberg by David Davalos

          March 10 at Highland Center for the Arts (Greensboro, VT)

          Mach 11 at Vermont Coffee Company (Middlebury, VT)


     Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller, new translation by David Harrower

         October 14 at Saint Michael’s College (Colchester, VT)


     The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson

        December 1 at Town Hall Theater (Middlebury, VT)

        December 2 at The Mead Hall (Colchester, VT)


Summer Production Schedule:

     The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

      July 27-29 at Highland Center for the Arts (Greensboro, VT)

      August 3-5 at Champlain College (Burlington, VT)

      August 9-11 at Shelburne Museum (Shelburne. VT)


Further information is available at




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