GW Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare and Gail Paster Lecture


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0346  Friday, 24 August 2012


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

Date:         Wednesday, August 22, 2012 8:36 PM

Subject:     George Washington University MEMSI upcoming events


GW Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare and Gail Paster Lecture 



Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare



George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare, a signature program for undergraduate students. The program offers a select group of students a unique opportunity to explore the works of William Shakespeare in a global and multimedia context.


Program Highlights

  • Enjoy small classes and intimate interaction with award-winning professors
  • Subsidized, faculty-led study tour of London and Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Meet the head of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and leading scholars and artists in London
  • Attend performances at the Folger Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C.
  • Participate in events at the Folger Shakespeare Library and on campus
  • Take advantage of undergraduate research fellowships
  • Use cutting-edge digital tools for the study of Shakespeare and for creative work


Program Website:






Dean’s Lecture on Shakespeare Series



Friday September 7, 2012, 3:30 pm.  

Post Hall, George Washington University’s Mount Vernon Campus

Free shuttle available from Foggy Bottom:


Inaugural Dean’s Lecture on Shakespeare by Dr. Gail Kern Paster (Director Emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library)


“Shylock, Othello, and the Theatrical Coding of Difference: Images from the Folger Picture Archive”


Images of Shylock and Othello from the Folger image database show how these figures of the Jew and the Moor as Other have been represented since the eighteenth century have been presented for consumption and display. Setting images side by side has great heuristic potential for understanding the theatrical coding of difference in an historical trajectory.  The talk is designed for a broad audience.  It is free and open to the public, and it will be followed by a reception.




ISC 2012, Part 2: Plays from World Shakespeare Festival 2012


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0345  Friday, 24 August 2012


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

Date:         Friday, August 24, 2012

Subject:     ISC 2012, Part 2: Plays from World Shakespeare Festival 2012 


International Shakespeare Conference 2012

Shakespeare Institute



Part Two: Three Plays from World Shakespeare Festival 2012 Briefly Considered


ISC attendees were offered tickets to three plays from World Shakespeare Festival 2012. I attended all three but not the Shakespeare Institute Performance Group Macbeth, a separate addition to the program. 



Much Ado About Nothing


On Wednesday evening, I attended the Asian/Indian Much Ado About Nothing at the Courtyard Theatre. 


To begin, I would like to express my joy that the Courtyard is still standing and being used as a production venue for the RSC. Although there are images for a planned new Other Place in the renovated Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Courtyard still stands, yet for how long is a question. I have always liked this space and have seen some tremendous productions in it, including the Henry 6 plays and the Tennant/Stewart Hamlet. However, my understanding from questioning the mayor of the Stratford Council at the opening reception is that even though there was an agreement that the Courtyard would be torn down after the renovations to the Memorial Theatre were completed negotiations continue—he really didn’t see me coming when he introduced himself to me and I asked about the new wheelchair access requirements for taxis as well as the fate of the Courtyard.


Okay, now for the Much Ado. The World Shakespeare Festival web site ( describes the production as “This vibrant and colourful production transposes Shakespeare’s vivacious, and at times unsettling, comedy of love and deceit to an Indian setting.” Yes, indeed the production and costumes were colorful, not a Holi celebration but colorful. The majority of the cast was of Indian subcontinent extraction but seemingly not all: Antonio (Ernest Ignatius) and Friar Francis (Robert Mountford), referred to as Panditji, whose role it was to perform the Brahmin wedding rituals.


The production was directed by Iqbal Khan whose credits include Broken Glass (Tricycle Theatre, 2011) and The Killing of Sister George (Arts Theatre, 2011). Some of the choices worked: having Beatrice (Meera Syal) as an older woman than Hero (Amara Karan) and having Leonato (Madhav Sharma) forget some of his lines during the gulling Benedick (Paul Bhattacharjee). (These observations are from a conversation I had with Hugh Grady and John Drakakis). Bhattacharjee, at first, resembled, to me, a grizzled, Indian George Clooney before he shaved and cleaned up for Beatrice. Other choices just didn’t work for me: Hero’s using an iPhone to gull Beatrice and the whole of the Dogberry beats. The concluding dance was suggestive of Bollywood but not as characteristic as dancing in Bollywood Shakespeare adaptations I have seen: Maqbool (2003) and Omkara (2006). 



Troilus and Cressida


On Thursday evening at the Swan Theatre, I saw the Wooster Group/RSC collaborative Troilus and Cressida. I understand that the Wooster Group playing the Trojans (directed by Elizabeth LeCompte) and the RSC cast members playing the Greeks (directed by Mark Ravenhill) rehearsed separately before getting together for the final production rehearsals and performances. The resulting juxtaposition of such varying styles was so jarring that it drove some from the theatre at the Interval, but as I hope I shall make clear this extreme juxtaposition of styles is just what the production seemed to be striving to emphasize. 


The Wooster Group is noted for its experimental, often multimedia approach to theatre. “For more than thirty-five years, The Wooster Group has cultivated new forms and techniques of theatrical expression. Wooster Group theatre pieces are constructed as assemblages of juxtaposed elements: radical staging, found materials, films and videos, dance and movement, multi-track scoring, and an architectonic approach to theatre design. The Wooster Group has played a pivotal role in bringing technologically sophisticated and evocative uses of sound, film and video into the realm of contemporary theatre, and in the process has influenced a generation of theatre artists nationally and internationally” ( 


The Wooster Group was invited to participate with the RSC in this production commissioned for the World Shakespeare Festival: “When the RSC approached The Wooster Group about a collaboration, we found the proposal irresistible—the lodestone of British culture as manifest in the RSC versus the experimental technique of our New York ensemble” (


Entering the Swan, the spectator immediately notes the presence of four video screens positioned above the stage and visible to the cast and audience. Initially, the screens have a slightly pulsing white line across them. 


At the opening scene, sans Prologue, the images on the screens become, I believe, a documentary of Eskimo/Native American life. Troilus (Scott Shepherd) enters with a lacrosse stick (sport of Native American origins often played in US largely at exclusive private and public schools, at least on the East Coast). The Wikipedia article on lacrosse indicates the following: “Lacrosse played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes across the continent for many years. Early lacrosse was characterized by deep spiritual involvement, befitting the spirit of combat in which it was undertaken. Those who took part did so in the role of warriors, with the goal of bringing glory and honor to themselves and their tribes” ( Troilus swings his lacrosse stick as if in a lacrosse game with his eyes glued on a video screen. He moves in a fashion similar to that of those being projected on the screens. Troilus and the Trojan warriors wear stylized, feathered garb with, for reasons I was not wholly able to determine, a rubber-like figure on the back. 


The Wooster Group actors have their voices amplified by the visible mikes they wear. Troilus delivers his lines in a singsong cadence that I heard second or third hand resembles that of Pacific Northwest Native American tribes. Pandarus (Greg Mehrten) delivered his lines in a similarly stylized fashion. With all of the business going on (including at times loud drumming and musical accompaniment), it was sometimes difficulty to hear clearly the lines that were being spoken. As one quite familiar with the play, I initially was disoriented by what was happening on stage and on the video screens. It was only after the fact that I realized that the Wooster Group’s style was intentionally jarring and disorienting. 


When her time arrives, Cressida (Marin Ireland) emerges from a teepee like structure for her exchanges with Pandarus. The viewing of the returning Trojan warriors is almost drowned out by the drumming and music, but again images on the video screens reflect what is happening on stage. Other members of the Wooster Group include Andrew Schneider (Aeneas), Bruce Odland (Priam), Ari Fliakos (Hector and Varlet), Bobby McElver (Helenus), Gary Wilmes (Paris), Jibz Cameron (Cassandra and Margarlon), Jennifer Lim (Andromache), and Zbigniew Bzymek (Antenor). 


With the first scene of the RSC Greeks, the productions elements were different in the extreme from those of the Wooster Group. The RSC group wore military uniforms that might have been out of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ulysses (Scott Handy) delivered his lines as one has come to expect from the RSC. Interestingly, the images on the video screen, as with all scenes of the Greeks, shifted back to the dark screen with a white line through it, the line now pulsing to the speech patterns of the RSC actors as on an oscilloscope or voice recognition software. 


Get it, RSC equals verse speaking; Wooster Group equals theatrical experimentation. 


The contrasts could not have been more pronounced. RSC actors, a relatively small company, doubled most of the parts. Danny Webb was Agamemnon and Diomedes, who has an Aussie accent. Zubin Varla played Menelaus and an appropriately sleazy Thersites in a wheelchair. In fact, Zubin Varla’s Thersites was as over the top as that of the Amazing Orlando of Jonathan Miller’s BBC/Time-Life version. Scott Handy was not only Ulysses but also Helen. Clifford Samuel was Nestor and Patroclus. Aidan Kelly enacted Ajax as a dumb jock, professional wrestler in a body suit worthy of the Hulk and played Diaphram with shirt barely covering his massively bulging Ajax muscles. Joe Dixon was a gorgeous, dreadlocked Achilles with the sculpted body worthy of a Venice Beach Boardwalk denizen. 


During the Trojan scenes, the Eskimo/Native American documentary or documentaries, I was not sure it there were only one or more, always played on the screens with the Wooster Group actors watching the actions there and mimicking them. The Trojans would, at times break, into the sort of chanting that this North American associates with the many western films he has seen. Interesting during the tenderish love scene between Troilus and Cressida preceding their night together, the two, again watching the screens, mimic the actions and affectionate gestures briefly of James Dean and Julie Harris in Kazan’s film of East of Eden (1955) and for longer of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood in Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass (1961).


At the Interval, I half-jokingly said that I felt thoroughly defamiliarized and that I had spent the first half picking my jaw up from the floor. By the end of the production, however, I was thoroughly excited by what I had seen. I recognized the dialectical juxtaposition of the theatrical styles of the Wooster Group and of the RSC. I realized that a further dialectic was created between the Wooster Group actors and the actions of the video screens. I realized that the Wooster Group’s delivery of lines and stylized actions further distanced me from what I was seeing. 


After going to sleep at about midnight, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. and things really began to fall into place. 


What I had seen was not the, at times, typical entertain-the-tourists productions that I sometimes have associate with some of the RSC play rotations. What I had seen here was definitely not check-your-mind-at-the-door dinner theatre faire, where spectators go to escape into unabashed entertainment; what I had seen was a challenging dialectical theatre of engagement that resisted audience identification with the actions on stage in favor of Verfremdungseffekt—“defamiliarizing,” “distancing,” “estranging”—destroying of the familiarity of a representational on-stage reality while completely resisting audience compliancy with what is seen and heard. That I could not get back to sleep and spent the rest of the night thinking about what I had seen made this Troilus and Cressida, for me, an example of Brechtian “Epic Theatre” at its best, theatre whose affect does not happen until after the production and then continues to evolve into a new synthesis with the possibility of initiating societal change. 


The first Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida I saw was on the grounds of the Washington Monument in the early 1970s at the height of the War in Vietnam. I was a graduate student who had just completed a semester teaching “World Lit I,” with a syllabus that included the Iliad and the Aeneid, works stressing heroism and bravery. And what I saw in that Troilus and Cressida was something more resembling the reality and absurdity of the war I had opposed for half a dozen years and would continue to oppose for almost same time. That production, even though not as accomplished as ones I have seen since, opened my eyes to the power of theatre as a political weapon. I was changed by what I had seen and would continue to be changed and opened to the power of theatre when I saw Peter Brooks’ Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Kennedy Center a short time later. 


At breakfast in the guesthouse where I stay, I realized that THIS Troilus and Cressida was not for all markets, but then that was the point.



A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)


On Friday evening, I saw the opening night production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It), another work especially commissioned for the World Shakespeare Festival with a limited engagement of, I believe, nine performances in the newly Royal Shakespeare Theatre before moving to the Edinburgh International Festival. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) is a creation of the Moscow, avant-garde, Dmitry Krymov Laboratory troupe, billed as a “Chekhov International Theatre Festival / Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory / School of Dramatic Art Theatre Production.” 


The approximately ninety-minute production was presented in Russian with English surtitles and no Interval. The premise was that “Amongst the chaos of an auditorium that hasn’t finished being built, the mechanicals are rehearsing for their big performance.” The troupe consists of twenty humans and Venya, a Russian Jack Russell Terrier (who steals the show with a performance that defies belief it is so good). There are also what seem like 20-feet-tall puppets representing Pyramus and Thisbe. To give a bit of the flavor of the production, at a crucial moment, Pyramus needs a cast member to use a bicycle pump to inflate his penis. 


In an interview available on the World Shakespeare Festival site, Krymov explains the production’s concept:


Q: Speaking of the style of this play, will it be similar to your previous work?


A: Well, I thought that I always change my style with every production, but apparently, I always remain the same!


Q: Well, there are some recognizable features typical of your productions… 


A: For instance?


Q: For instance, a specific approach to the original text, non-linear story-telling in which visual images play more important role than words?


I very much hope that here we will stay on familiar tracks. This is even more important because we are not using Shakespeare’s original text, we will tell the story with our own words.


This is not a translation of the play. It is more about the themes of Shakespeare’s plays. The play is called A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It). So we’re playing with the names of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s like, for example, putting on and billing a play as Hamlet, but making the story more like Othello. I want people to leave the theatre wondering which of Shakespeare’s plays they have actually seen. I like to blur the boundaries of his work.


This production was entertaining, provocative, and stunningly realized, a fascinating theatrical experience but one that did not move me as much as the Troilus and Cressida did. 


ISC 2012, Part 1: Some Papers Briefly Considered


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.




The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0343  Monday, 20 August 2012


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

Date:         August 20, 2012 1:37:56 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand


Gabriel Egan re-raised “take up” in response to my posting:


> I mentioned the claim that King Lear Q1(u)’s “take up

> to keep” could have been turned into F’s “Take up,

> take up” by Shakespeare himself when revising the

> play by annotating an exemplar of Q1 (one containing

> this uncorrected reading). Gerald Downs dismissed

> the possibility with “no author would revise other people's

> travesties”. So, I pointed out that James Joyce and

> Charles Dickens did, as shown by Gary Taylor.

> Downs now writes:


>> But Stone and I, if I may speak for him, are talking

>> about the many manifest errors in Q1. By "travesties"

>> I take the whole of the corruption into account.


> No, with respect Gerald, we were both referring to

> this one specific variant, not a set of others.


> I’d be grateful if you’d either acknowledge the

> possibility in respect of this variant, or else show why

> we shouldn’t accept the possibility in this case.


I’m willing to discuss a point or two. My earlier July 9 posting made my position clear: Shakespeare’s revision of the misprint was


>> Highly unlikely: for one thing, "take up" looks . . .

>> like emending . . . graphic error; achievable by anyone,

>> and not to be taken as evidence for Shakespeare.

>> Possibility? That's not argument. More important, this is

>> one of many shortcomings that Shakespeare (if the

>> reviser, which I don't believe) overlooks alongside,

>> and inside, his revisions. Followers of the Oxford

>> Shakespeare have to buy into that -- even to express it.


Proper argument must take into account the large number of errors in Q1 Lear that led not to correction, but to further error in F. An isolated example may be examined but not removed from the set as if that will settle any question. If Shakespeare revised Q1 he’s partly responsible for more than one compound error, often with lingering ill effect. When I refer to “take up” in this respect I include it in the plural—“travesties.”


Further, to grant one “possibility” is to grant all, supposing Shakespeare the reviser. Choosing to argue “take up” as an “acceptable possibility” is mistaken if other examples are ignored or treated singly. However, I don’t mind applying my statement to one instance, provided we grant a probabilistic notion of “never”; I mean, “fat chance.” Miscorrected “take up to keep” can’t be construed as evidence of Shakespearean revision; its worth is as negative evidence. Argument for Lear’s authorial revision is noted for overstatement; “accepting possibility” doesn’t help.


We should also understand that Q1 error and other faults made their way into F through agents other than the single reviser some suppose to have been Shakespeare. Again, I agree with Egan that F is revised from Q1 itself. Nevertheless, the “New Oxford Orthodoxy” adds (but doesn’t argue) the hypothesis that Q1 copy was Shakespeare’s foul papers. In other words, Egan begins at Square Two. Because features of F (including use of Q2 as copy) are so dependent on Q1, advocates of Shakespearean revision reject Q1 ancestry other than the author’s “difficult” rough draft. On this view, foul papers needn’t be argued: they simply have to be assumed. Otherwise, the “take up” rationale must be resorted to many, many times over.


Now to “take up” and Shakespeare’s willingness to revise others’ goofs. My first thought (are Egan’s objection) was that “it’s possible, therefore it is” is a logical fallacy. The very idea that Joyce’s behavior determines Shakespeare’s is obviously mistaken. The point can only be made by a statistical argument of some kind. I don’t recall how Gary Taylor spoke of Joyce’s & Dickens’s revision of misprints to something different from the originals. But I doubt he listed them as percentages of misprints not so altered. Without such a basis the instances are of no value. If Joyce wrote that way once in ten opportunities, that counts against someone else doing it in a single instance. If Joyce is one in ten authors acting so, that counts against other authors. Each Lear instance are subject to the same statistics. These odds (no doubt greater than ten-to-one) must be multiplied with each other.


The circumstances of Joyce’s altered misprints should also be noted. Were they amid scores of errors of every kind? Would restoration of an original reading be troublesome? Was he revising authoritative copy? Did he correct the other misprints, or did he revise many of them, as Shakespeare is imagined to have done?


One may as well cite Oscar Wilde: “A poet can survive everything but a misprint.” (Got this from the L.A. Times Crossword). Q1 Lear is one big misprint. Wilde or Joyce?


Gerald E. Downs

Dugdale Archive


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0342  Monday, 20 August 2012


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

Date:         August 18, 2012 12:39:23 PM EDT

Subject:     Dugdale Archive 


Very briefly to answer Marcia Eppich-Harris’s question about F1 and copyright, authors did not usually hold copyright for their works in this period.   From the charter granted to the Stationers’ Company by Mary I in 1557 until the first and second copyright acts of Anne in 1708/09, only freemen of the Stationers’ Company or their widows if they did not remarry could print, publish, and hold copyright in works in England.  A very few authors were freemen of the Company and therefore could hold copyright but they did not hold it as authors but as stationers.  Copyright was thought to be perpetual and to be real property and could be sold, transferred, subdivided, inherited, and the like but only amongst freemen of the Company. Authors or those who had control of texts sold them outright to Stationers and that was their only profit from their writing.  Some few had private arrangements with Stationers which might involve some further payment (e.g., Milton with Paradise Lost) but no matter what this might be copyright still had to be held by a freeman of the Company.  Thus, no one in the Shakespeare family, no matter how defined, stood to benefit in any way from F1 because of copyright.


William Proctor Williams


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