The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.219  Wednesday, 26 July 2017


[1] From:        Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 25, 2017 at 10:44:11 AM EDT

     Subj:         Query: Will


[2] From:        John W Kennedy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 25, 2017 at 11:20:55 AM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Query: Will


[3] From:        Patty Winter <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 25, 2017 at 1:18:24 PM EDT

     Subj:         Re: Query: Will




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

Date:         July 25, 2017 at 10:44:11 AM EDT

Subject:    Query: Will


Dear Hardy,


It is easy to respond to the series Will, but also tedious. When people ask, I simply say that it was not made for me but for people in their teens and twenties, so a fogy commentary would be churlish and beside the point. 


If pressed, I elaborate by saying that I mostly notice the above average knowledge (Edward III!) and the prevalent factual errors (Shakespeare writes Edward III alone).  For me, it is a case of knowing too much to let the show off the hook while being curious about all the knowledge that most viewers will miss. 


I'll tell you and other Shakespeareans that I really do not like the series for these reasons and others, but so what? The show was not made for me.


All the best, 

Mike Jensen 



[Editor’s Note: I must be in my teens and twenties although my birth certificate says otherwise. –Hardy]



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

Date:         July 25, 2017 at 11:20:55 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Query: Will


My wife and I are enjoying it. The “punk rock” aspect is far less than advertised, and the greatest fault I’ve found has been a degree of over-inspiration (shall we say?) from Shaw’s “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets”. As to the torture—well, it’s there, but the show does not luxuriate in it. 



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

Date:         July 25, 2017 at 1:18:24 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Query: Will


On Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 10:25:03AM -0500, Hardy M. Cook wrote:


This past weekend, my older daughter, son-in-law, and I were visiting my younger daughter in the township of Bryn Mawr. After a fine meal in Philadelphia, we returned to Becca’s apartment, and I was eager to share Will with my GenX and Millennial daughters.


After the first episode, neither one wished to see any more. While some might criticize the punk-rock world of the play Becca could not take the

torture and Melissa did not like the self-harm. I tried to explain that the Elizabethan had taken torture to level virtually unheard of until our day,

but I could not get them to watch further episodes.


I am curious about others’ reactions to the show. 


I found the first six episodes on Comcast OnDemand and recently watched them all. I was nearly ready to give up a few times because of the torture scenes (and fast forward isn't enabled for TNT OnDemand), but I stuck with it and am liking the show overall.


A friend gave up after the first episode because she couldn’t take the

anachronistic punk-rock feel of the series. I find the clothing, music, etc. acceptable as modern-day equivalents of what Will would have encountered in the rough-and-tumble parts of London back in his day. Similarly, for the poetry slams in the pub. :-)


The creator of the show has a very definite idea about Shakespeare’s religious background, and that storyline takes up a lot of the series (including the presence of the Queen’s torturer). I have no opinion on the matter and so am not bothered by the show coming down firmly on one side of the controversy. 


BTW, there is a young boy whom Will encounters shortly after his arrival in London, and that boy’s storyline gets increasingly interesting as the series progresses. 







“The Book of Will”

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.218  Wednesday, 26 July 2017


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

Date:         Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Subject:    “The Book of Will”




In the Hudson Valley, Shakespeare as Man, Myth and Drinking Buddy



JULY 25, 2017


GARRISON, N.Y. — Before Shakespeare was a billion-dollar industry, he was a workaday playwright. And before he was a playwright, he was a guy with a high school education, a flintlock wedding, three young kids and the ravening ambition to vault himself out of a sheep-related career in a small market town and into the dicey, disreputable world of Elizabethan theater.


So it’s one of the great pleasures of Lauren Gunderson’s sturdily moving and slightly clumsy “The Book of Will,” receiving its rolling world premiere, that it treats Shakespeare not as some sage or minor divinity but as a workmate and a drinking buddy. Shakespeare never appears onstage at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival as he did in the recent TNT series “Will.”


The play begins in 1619, three years after his death, when a few of his former colleagues are carping about the pirated versions of his plays now cluttering London stages and bookstalls. (“To be, or not to be, I there’s the point, /To Die, to sleepe, is that all?” Yeah. There’s a reason they call it the bad quarto.)


A couple of these men, John Heminges and Henry Condell, come up with the wild idea to publish all of Shakespeare’s scripts in a handsome bound folio rather than the cheap unauthorized quartos then available. This notion wasn’t unprecedented; Ben Jonson had recently published a folio of his own works. But it was daring. And expensive. Even without “Pericles” or “Two Noble Kinsmen,” which were left out of its first edition, the folio would transform publishing, theater and maybe even how we conceive of what it means to be human. Which is a lot to ask of a book and more to ask of a play, as textual criticism tends to offer limited catharsis and thrills.


Ms. Gunderson’s drama, directed by Davis McCallum, the festival’s artistic director, concentrates less on the vagaries of Renaissance publishing and more on the relationships between Henry (Kurt Rhoads) and John (Sean McNall), their wives (Krystel Lucas and Mary Bacon) and John’s daughter Alice (Kerry Warren). The discussions of rights and costs and paper stock are pretty engrossing, but a lot less poignant than the personal exploration of what, if anything, can transcend death and loss.


[ . . . ]


The evening before I saw “The Book of Will,” the festival presented a sweet, sporadically funny “Twelfth Night,” directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel and featuring most of the same cast. (There are three other plays, including “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and Kate Hamill’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” in repertory this summer.) The fool Feste (Michael Broadhurst) blew the dust from a folio and there we were in Illyria. Mostly. The Hudson never totally receded, especially when train whistles drowned out Olivia’s sighs or a giant moth did its own “to be or not to be” with a stage light. (Spoiler: Not.) Mr. Stuelpnagel (“Hand to God”) knows his way around a comedy, yet this comedy’s rhythms felt sometimes rollicking and sometimes jerky.


Here as in “The Book of Will,” the words, words, words are the hang up. The lines that generated the most laughs were mostly ad-libs, as when Viola, midtussle with Olivia, exclaimed, “Oh my God, you’re strong,” or Feste chided a couple exiting early with, “But you’ll miss the end!” (Admittedly nothing got as many laughs as Mr. McNall’s madcap business with a garden hose.)


You could wish that Mr. Stuelpnagel had found more to work with in the iambs. Still, with the river lapping and the trees susurrating and the moths sizzling, there was poetry enough.




A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Delacorte Theater

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.217  Wednesday, 26 July 2017


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

Date:         Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Subject:    A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Delacorte Theater




‘You Create That Chemistry’: How Actors Fall in Instant Love



JULY 24, 2017


The course of true love hardly ever runs smooth? Agreed. But few romances are as extravagantly potholed as Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, the play ends with an extravagant wedding, but the path down the aisle is cratered with a death threat, an elopement, pixie interference and the greatest catfight in world literature. Also, botanical date-rape drugs.

Through it all, four actors have to fall deeply, wildly, lip-bruisingly in love at every performance.


“You do, genuinely,” Shalita Grant said.


Added her co-star Annaleigh Ashford, gesturing toward her castmates, “We have had to develop a sort of kinetic, frenzied physical relationship.”


In the “Midsummer” now in previews and opening on Monday at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Ms. Ashford plays Helena, who pines for Demetrius (Alex Hernandez), who loves Hermia (Ms. Grant), who adores Lysander (Kyle Beltran), who adores her right back — at least until the fairies roofie him. At each performance, these actors have to convince a Shakespeare in the Park audience of nearly 2,000 of their overwhelming, clothes-ripping desire.


Then they have to take their bows, go home to their various partners and come back the next night to desire all over again. Faking true love: How do they do it?





Andrew Scott’s Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.216  Wednesday, 26 July 2017


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

Date:         Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Subject:    Andrew Scott’s Hamlet




Andrew Scott’s portrayal in a London production of “Hamlet” almost banishes other performances from memory.


Hamlet and the Surveillance State of Denmark


Ben Brantley


JULY 24, 2017


LONDON — A chronic theatergoer may be excused for believing that all roads lead to Hamlet. I spent my first evening here this month in the company of that Danish prince, who is being embodied with such compelling, thin-skinned agitation by Andrew Scott that I felt I could see his heart palpitating, and breaking apart, within his chest.


Mr. Scott was so authoritatively unhinged in the director Robert Icke’s anxious summoning of Shakespeare’s Denmark as a surveillance state — an Almeida Theater production at the Harold Pinter Theater in the West End — that he almost banished other Hamlets who have been crowding my imagination of late. But not quite.


After all, only two weeks before I had been on intimate terms with another, very different — but equally original and intriguing — Hamlet, given vibrantly morbid life by the American actor Oscar Isaac in Sam Gold’s radical new version for the Public Theater in New York. And it was hard not to recall the last “Hamlet” I had seen in London, in 2015, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch.


You may remember that Mr. Cumberbatch portrayed the brilliant, emotionally paralyzed titular detective in the popular BBC television series “Sherlock,” in which he was bedeviled by his evil arch-nemesis, Jim Moriarty, who was given chillingly psychotic life by one Andrew Scott. (Can the Hamlet of Martin Freeman, who played Dr. Watson to Mr. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, be far behind?)


The “Hamlet” with Mr. Scott was my second helping of Shakespeare last Thursday. The first was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s high-tech interpretation of “The Tempest” at the Barbican Center, with Simon Russell Beale as that mighty sorcerer in exile, Prospero. Mr. Beale is the same actor who delivered what remains the most complete and penetrating Hamlet of my theatergoing experience, in a National Theater production 16 years ago.


Between last week’s performances of “The Tempest” and “Hamlet,” I had tea with a septuagenarian British actor who played Hamlet in his youth (and later appeared in other productions in other roles). He remarked that now that he was too old for Hamlet, he finally understood how it should be done.


Such is the grip that this existentially challenged tragic hero continues to exert on the imagination. In a way, it’s impossible to miscast the part, because Hamlet is so easy to identify with. As the man I had tea with noted, it is always possible to play Hamlet as an extension of “your own personality.”


It is a role, in other words, that everyone takes very personally, and the variations are infinite. Its status as both the most universal and mutable of roles helps explain why actors always want to tackle it, and why theater addicts like me always want to see them.


Mr. Scott’s take on the character may be the most palpably neurotic, and least overtly heroic, I’ve seen. His Hamlet has as many obsessive-compulsive twitches as the adolescent title character played by Ben Platt, a Tony winner this year, in the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” (Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Ben Platt is “Dear Prince Hamlet.”)


[ . . . ]


Mr. Scott understands that while, on one level, Shakespeare may be “words, words, words,” it’s what lies beneath and between them that brings those words to life onstage. The audience truly hangs on the pauses in this Hamlet’s monologues, and even if you know the speeches, you wait in suspense for what he’ll say next.




CfP - The 2018 IASEMS Shakespeare Graduate Conference

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.215  Wednesday, 26 July 2017


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

Date:         July 25, 2017 at 11:03:15 AM EDT

Subject:    CfP - The 2018 IASEMS Shakespeare Graduate Conference


Shakespeare and his Contemporaries

The IASEMS Graduate Conference at the British Institute of Florence



Florence, 20 April 2018


The 2018 IASEMS Graduate Conference at The British Institute of Florence is a one-day interdisciplinary and bilingual English-Italian forum open to PhD students and researchers who have obtained their doctorates within the past 5 years. This year’s conference will focus on the theme of conversion, a fascinating phenomenon, a promise of newness that blends elements of individual experience with larger problems of historical change.


The ideological and spiritual life of early modern Britain finds a special interpretative key in the notion of conversion, whether perceived as an individual response to a religious and political challenge, a community reaction to political upheaval, or a social change brought about by the innovations of modernity.


The goal of this Conference is to develop an understanding of conversion that will address epistemological, psychological, political, spiritual and technological kinds of transformation, perceived both as subjective and collective change. Therefore conversion is to be understood in its broadest possible sense, and nor merely as a religious phenomenon. 


Topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following:


- forms of conversion, sacred and secular, i.e., awakening to a new faith, an intensification of existing beliefs, an embracing of a (radical) political movement, etc.


- conversional thinking and practice


- early modern textual ‘conversions’, i.e., from manuscript to print, from one format to another, from one genre to another


- relationships among transformation, freedom and power


- forms of religious dissent in early modern British culture


- religious change and gender 


- how early modern English theatre and other theatrical practices represent, adopt, transform, relocate forms of conversion


- conversion narratives


- the phenomenon of forced conversion


- authenticity and pretense in conversion


- religious conversion as catalyst of other transformations (e.g., translation, alchemy, enthusiasm, etc.)


- technologies of transformation


Candidates are invited to send a description of their proposed contribution according to the following guidelines:


- the candidate should provide name, institution, contact info, title and a short abstract of the proposed contribution (300 words for a 20-minute paper), explaining the content and intended structure of the paper, and including a short bibliography;


- abstracts are to be submitted by Sunday 29 October 2017 by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;


- all proposals will be blind-vetted. The list of selected papers will be available by the end of November 2017;


- each finished contribution should not exceed 20 minutes and is to be presented in English (an exception will be made for Italian candidates of departments other than English, who can give their papers in Italian);


- Candidates whose first language is not English will need to have their proposals and final papers checked by a mother-tongue speaker


- participants will be asked to present a final draft of the paper ten days before the Conference. 


Selected speakers who are IASEMS members can apply for a small grant



For further information please contact Ilaria Natali

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



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