The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1609 Tuesday, 9 July 2002
Date: Monday, 8 Jul 2002 11:08:56 -0700
Subject: Shakespeare in the new DNB: "triumphantly international"
SHAKPERians may wish to know what role Shakespeare will have in the vast
New Dictionary of National Biography project, whose title has just been
officially announced as the "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in
Association with the British Academy." In the latest enewsletter
"Big articles still reach me for approval..., last but not least a huge
article on Shakespeare, which carries to the ultimate its discussion on
the ramifications of influence. Half the memoir is devoted to the
after-life, which has as its denouement the worldwide advertising for
cigars which have brand-names such as Hamlet, Romeo y Julietta, Falstaff
and Antonio y Cleopatra. Shakespeare's biography, the history of his
life and his cultural after-lives, the author concludes, 'is not only
national but triumphantly international.'"
The article's author was not mentioned. On the website--
http://www.oup.co.uk/newdnb/ --I learned that the Shakespeare in the
original DNB (1882-1900) was separately published as book, but the new
one will be 15,000 words or less.
A tidbit on Sir John Fastolf: "It is important that New DNB's articles
relate their subjects to their popular reputations and how they came to
have them. This comes naturally to contributors when discussing certain
sorts of subjects, for example saints. But the point is much more widely
taken than that. For example, the article on Sir John Fastolf concludes
with his metamorphosis into Shakespeare's Falstaff, and ends with a
mention of Orson Welles's portrayal of him in Chimes at Midnight." This
was the previous New DNB editor, H.G.C. Matthew, in a 1995 lecture, at
And to summarize the vast project, Harrison writes, "With 95% of the
dictionary now captured on our database, we are fast approaching our
target of 50,000 articles in print and online by 2004."
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