The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0344  Monday, 20 August 2012


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

Date:         Monday, August 20, 2012

Subject:     ISC 2012, Part 1: Some Papers Briefly Considered 


International Shakespeare Conference 2012

Shakespeare Institute



Part One: Some of the Papers Briefly Considered


The theme of the 2012 International Shakespeare Conference was “Working with Shakespeare.” Paper presentations were roughly organized around major areas of “work”—poetic work, theatre work, linguistic work, and other work.


Here are some of the highlights that stood out for me during the Conference. 


The proceedings opened with presentations in the category of poetic work with David Schalkwyk’s interviewing Scottish poet Don Paterson regarding Paterson’s commentary on the Sonnets (commentary contained in the Touch Press/Arden iPad Sonnets’ app but otherwise not readily available in this country, i.e., the US).  Paterson looked at the Sonnets from the perspective of a working poet, and his commentary is often controversial and, at the same time, refreshing. I ended up buying the iPad app, which I have found remarkably good, despite loads of reservations I have about its publisher. Further, in addition to the previously mentioned performances of the Sonnets, the app contains a beautiful high-resolution facsimile of the John Rylands Library Wright imprint, one of the few of the extant copies I did not examine either physically or in facsimile when I was working on my co-edited edition: Shake-speares Sonnets and Louers Complaint 1609.


In the next paper, Scottish poet and critic Lachlan MacKinnon presented an interesting and worthy case, I thought, that Shakespeare intended Edmund Spenser to be the rival poet of the Sonnets. David Fuller examined audio recordings of Lucrece, including those with Richard Burton and Peggy Ashcroft. And Dympna Callaghan presented a convincing case concerning Sonnet 126, its completeness and function in the sequence. 


During the theatre work sessions, Amy Scott-Douglass spoke of her work with nursing home Shakespeare, an expansion of other community performance work she has done with the Shakespeare in prison project. Carol Rutter discussed with Michael Pavelka his work in designing for the Propeller company. Kiernan Ryan presented a provocative paper toward a defining of Shakespeare’s universal theatre based on Shakespeare’s staging of the future. 


The linguistic work presentations began with Jonathan Hope and Michael Witmore cogently explaining their work in analyzing Shakespeare’s “periods” as interpreted by their use of with linguistic parsing by the computer program Docuscope: Interested parties can read more about the work of Hope and Witmore at the following links:


The Very Large Textual Object: A Prosthetic Reading of Shakespeare:


The comic ‘I’ and the tragic ‘we’?:


Wine Dark Sea:


Jonathan Hope and Michael Witmore, 2010, ‘The hundredth psalm to the tune of “Green Sleeves”: Digital Approaches to the Language of Genre’, Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 3 (Fall 2010), pp. 357-90


Obviously, I found Jonathan’s and Michael’s work fascinating and their explanations of it excellent. 


Tiffany Stern presented a stunning paper, “‘Downe In their Tables’: Q1 Hamlet’s Audience and Text,” in which she convincingly, to me, demolished the case for Q1 Hamlet’s being a “pirated” text by exhaustively reviewing the preponderance of “noting” in sermons of the period and how those practices may have been responsible for the genesis of Q1 Hamlet. After all what actor would remember 


To be, or not to be, I there's the point,

To Die, to sleep, is that all? I all:

Not, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,

For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,

And borne before an euerlasting Iudge,

from whence no passenger euer return'd,

The vndiscouered country, at whose sight

The happy smile, and the accursed damn'd.

But for this, the ioyfull hope of this,

Whol'd beare the scornes and flattery of the world,

Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore?


On the other hand, someone summarizing after the fact might very well come with these lines. I eagerly look forward to seeing more of Tiffany’s work on this subject in print. 


The last three papers of the Conference were from Evelyn Gajowski, Hugh Grady, and John Drakakis under the rubric “How Presentists Work with Shakespeare” in a woefully inadequate time for the interesting points that had to be made in all too fast a manner so as to fit into the allotted period. At least, a space was made for presentists, albeit a compressed one.


I will strive to gather my thoughts on the three productions I saw from the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 for Part Two of this exceedingly brief personal overview.


I welcome any corrections, additions, or expansions.


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