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British Shakespeare Association: Two New Trustees

The Board of Trustees of the British Shakespeare Association wishes to appoint two new Trustees who share the Association’s aims to educate, promote, and foster a better understanding of Shakespeare and his work. We are looking for (1) a Trustee with an interest in EDI issues to actively inform our policies on equality, diversity and inclusion and their application to the BSA’s activities and (2) a Trustee who will be able to assist the BSA’s Web and Communications Officer (Maria Shmygol) with work on the BSA’s website and digital initiatives. Applications are open to any member of the BSA, and we particularly welcome applications from disabled applicants, those from BAME backgrounds, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Trustees work voluntarily (with reasonable expenses reimbursed) to further the aims of the BSA across its four main constituencies of members: academic researchers, teachers, theatre practitioners and members of the public.

Please click for further details on Trustee (1) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Trustee (2) Web and Communications Deputy.

Please make nominations (including self-nominations) by email to the Chair of the British Shakespeare Association by 10 December 2021.

 

British Shakespeare Association Election of New Trustee (Web and Communications Deputy)

The Board of Trustees of the British Shakespeare Association wishes to appoint a new Trustee to further the Association’s aims to educate, promote and foster a better understanding of Shakespeare and his work. We are looking for someone who will be able to assist our Web and Communications Officer (Maria Shmygol) with work on the BSA’s website and our digital initiatives. Applications are open to any member of the BSA, and we particularly welcome applications from disabled applicants, those from BAME backgrounds, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Trustees work voluntarily (with reasonable expenses reimbursed) to further the aims of the BSA across its four main constituencies of members: academic researchers, teachers, theatre practitioners and members of the public.

The British Shakespeare Association is a registered Charity and its Trustees take joint responsibility to help the Board promote the Association’s objectives which are: to educate, promote, and foster a better understanding of Shakespeare and his works in a manner consistent with an educational charity limited by guarantee; and benefiting those individuals, members, charities, or institutions with an educational purpose toward the study of Shakespeare in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In line with these objectives, and with its policy for diversity, inclusivity and equal opportunities, the Board warmly welcomes applications from any member of the Association, and from across all parts of the United Kingdom as well as our international members so that different constituencies are represented.

Trustees are required to attend three meetings of the Board of Trustees per year, which are normally held on a Saturday afternoon online via Zoom in January, May, and September, and to attend the Association’s AGM. The BSA will meet all reasonable expenses for UK travel associated with attending any BSA meetings, and accepts virtual attendance via videoconferencing. In addition, some of our Trustees also sit on sub-Committees of the Board (whose business is usually conducted virtually).

Web and Communications

The Board seeks to elect a Trustee with an interest in helping to expand the Association’s digital initiatives and maintaining our new website, which is currently in development and which will be launched towards the end of this year. Digital initiatives are an expanding area of the Association’s work, and we are keen to make our new website an active hub for BSA members through a new blog, new educational content, and online events. In the first instance, the Trustee will assist our Web and Communications Officer (Maria Shmygol) with the implementation of these plans for the new website, building on the success of our recent virtual conference and other online BSA events. Web and Communications is a standing item on the agenda for our Board meetings.

At the Board Meetings and the AGM the Trustee will:

  • Report alongside the Web and Communications Officer on issues relating to the BSA’s web content and technical running of the website.
  • Assist with commissioning, receiving, copy-editing, and uploading content to the website (training will be provided), particularly the BSA’s new blog.
  • Offer comments and advice from a web and communications perspective on other items and events discussed on the agenda .

In addition, we would like the Trustee to be prepared to:

  • Assist in the organisation of virtual conferences and events, and act as a member of the BSA’s Conference Team, which provides an overview of plans for forthcoming BSA Conferences.

The BSA is a charitable company limited by guarantee and all Trustees share a responsibility as Directors to ensure that the BSA is managed well.

Trustees are elected by the membership for three years and may stand for re-election for a second term.

What are the benefits of joining the BSA Board?

You will gain:

  • opportunities for networking, mentoring and collaboration with scholars, practitioners and education professionals in Shakespeare studies
  • professional development through contributing to a non-profit charitable organisation
  • a wider perspective on Shakespeare and advance knowledge of Shakespeare-related events and research
  • the opportunity to steer the organisation to better meet the needs of practitioners in theatre, radio, tv, film, education, and academia, and to engage members of the public with the work of Shakespeare.

Application process:

If you wish to nominate yourself please submit a 300 word (max) statement that outlines your interest in the role and any relevant experience. Please submit this by email to the BSA’s Chair, Alison Findlay by 10 December 2021.

Please contact Maria Shmygol should you require any further information about the role of Web and Communications Deputy.

In the event of there being multiple applications for the post, we will invite you to amend your statement if you wish to do so in preparation for an election (by electronic means) by BSA members.

British Shakespeare Association Election of New Trustee (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion)

The Board of Trustees of the British Shakespeare Association wishes to appoint a new Trustee to take up position on the Board in Spring 2022 with special responsibility for informing our policies of equality, diversity and inclusion, and their presence in the BSA’s activities. Applications are open to all members of the BSA but we particularly welcome applications from disabled applicants, those from BAME backgrounds, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The position of Trustee is voluntary (with reasonable expenses covered) so we are looking for a member of the BSA who will give of their time to further the aims of the BSA across its four main constituencies of members: academic researchers, teachers, theatre practitioners and members of the public.

The British Shakespeare Association is a registered Charity and its Trustees take joint responsibility to help the Board promote the Association’s objectives which are: to educate, promote, and foster a better understanding of Shakespeare and his works in a manner consistent with an educational charity limited by guarantee; and benefiting those individuals, members, charities, or institutions with an educational purpose toward the study of Shakespeare in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In line with these objectives, and with its policy for diversity, inclusivity and equal opportunities, the Board warmly welcomes applications from any member of the Association, and from across all parts of the United Kingdom as well as our international members so that different constituencies are represented.

Trustees are required to attend three meetings of the Board of Trustees per year, which are normally held online via Zoom in January, May, and September, and to attend the Association’s AGM. The BSA will meet all reasonable expenses for UK travel associated with attending and BSA meetings and accepts virtual attendance via videoconferencing. In addition, some of our Trustees also sit on sub-Committees of the Board (whose business is usually conducted virtually).

Equality Diversity and Inclusivity

The Board seeks to elect a Trustee with special responsibility for informing our policies of equality, diversity and inclusivity and their application to all our activities. The person needs to be committed to (and ideally will have experience of) striving towards a practice that is anti-ableist, anti-racist, trans inclusive, and anti-sexist.

We have instituted EDI as a standing item on the agenda for our Board meetings.

At the Board Meetings and the AGM the Trustee will:

  • Report on any issues relating to equality, diversity and inclusivity that have arisen, or pro-active measures that need to be taken to better implement EDI principles.
  • Offer comments and advice from an EDI perspective on other items and events discussed on the agenda.
  • Contribute to reviews and changes to the BSA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity policy.

In addition we would like the Trustee to:

  • Act as an initial point of contact for any member with protected characteristics.
  • Act as a member of the BSA’s Conference Team which provides an overview of plans for forthcoming BSA Conferences.

The BSA is a charitable company limited by guarantee and all Trustees share a responsibility as Directors to ensure that the BSA is managed well.

Trustees are elected by the membership for three years and may stand for re-election for a second term.

What are the benefits of joining the BSA Board?

You will gain:

  • opportunities for networking, mentoring and collaboration with scholars, practitioners and education professionals in Shakespeare studies
  • professional development through contributing to a non-profit charitable organisation
  • a wider perspective on Shakespeare and advance knowledge of Shakespeare-related events and research
  • the opportunity to steer the organisation to better meet the needs of practitioners in theatre, radio, tv, film, education, and academia, and to engage members of the public with the work of Shakespeare.

Application process:

If you wish to nominate yourself please submit a 300 word (max) statement that outlines your interest in the role and any relevant experience. Please submit this by email to the BSA’s Chair, Alison Findlay, by 10 December 2021.

Do contact Alison or any other Board member should you require any further information.

In the event of there being multiple applications for the post, we will invite you to amend your statement if you wish to do so in preparation for an election (by electronic means) by BSA members.

BSA Online Conference: ‘Shakespeare In/Action’ (5-7 Aug)

The BSA’s online conference on ‘Shakespeare and In/Action’ will take place on 5-7 August. Registration for the conference is FREE and open to all members of the BSA in good standing; the registration form is accessible via the ‘Members’ area of the BSA website.

Click here to join the BSA or renew your membership.

The conference schedule is available HERE.

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INTERACTIVE WORKSHOPS at the BSA conference

It is still possible to sign up for one of two interactive workshops at this year’s conference. These two-hour sessions will be held as ‘live’ online events during the conference, giving participants an opportunity to engage directly in exercises and prompts pertaining to the workshop theme. There is a cap of 15 participants per workshop. Please note: workshops will be open to auditors at the workshop leaders’ discretion and may be recorded.

To enroll in a workshop, email the workshop facilitators directly with an expression of interest by 19th July 2021:

‘Active Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare as Critical Pedagogy’

Jennifer Kitchen (University of Warwick) Jennifer.Kitchen@warwick.ac.uk

Active approaches to teaching Shakespeare are growing in popularity, typically seen as both enjoyable and accessible. A growing body of literature and resources supports this work across primary, secondary and higher education contexts. Meanwhile, Shakespeare scholarship more broadly is increasingly recognising the role of critical pedagogy, particularly feminist and post-colonial approaches, and asks how we can continue to teach Shakespeare within 21st Century understandings of cultural value and inclusivity. In my upcoming book (Critical Pedagogy in Active Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare Cambridge University Press, 2021) I explore how active approaches to teaching Shakespeare can be understood as an act of critical pedagogy and offer a range of ways to forefront and extend the critical, feminist and post-colonial potential of these approaches. This workshop therefore draws on this work by inviting participants to actively explore a mix of ‘classic’ active approaches exercises with a critical pedagogy lens. Suitable for Shakespeare teaching practitioners in the broadest sense, I draw on a range of critical approaches within Shakespeare scholarship, inviting participants to reflexively and collaboratively explore how active Shakespeare work can facilitate the teaching of these perspectives.

‘Female Solidarity in Shakespeare’s Plays’

Tanya Roberts (London South Bank University) robert10@lsbu.ac.uk

This interactive workshop will invite participants to explore the connections, support, and camaraderie between female characters in Shakespeare’s canon. We will explore these relationships by examining characters such as Desdemona and Emilia in Othello, Isabella and Mariana in Measure for Measure, Helena and the Countess in All’s Well That Ends Well, Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It, and Beatrice and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing. A practical approach of acting exercises and scene rehearsal will lead into group discussion, exploring ideas such as agency, and intersectional feminist solidarity. A common addition to Shakespeare’s development of narrative from his source material was the inclusion or expansion of female characters and relationships. We will examine some of these important dynamics that Shakespeare sought to instate. Whilst many of the scenes may not pass the Bechdel test, interpretation in performance can help to highlight the power and potency of these alliances.

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For more information about the conference, please visit the conference website.

In Memoriam: Professor Michael Hattaway

The British Shakespeare Association is saddened by the passing of Professor Michael Hattaway, on Wednesday 7 July, after a courageous, nine-month struggle with cancer. The Shakespeare world has been enriched by his lively and accessible academic work, from the well-used Elizabethan Popular Theatre (1982), to his editing of valuable collections like The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays (2002) and the expanded two-volume New Companion to Renaissance Literature and Culture (2010). His passion for Shakespeare shone through his editions of As You Like It and Henry VI Parts I, II and III for the New Cambridge Shakespeare. Like the heroic Talbot, from Henry VI Part I, Mick’s legacy will continue to ‘amaze’ us all (4.4.84). We send our condolences to his wife Judi, son Ben and his wife Suzy, step-daughters Laura and Rebecca and her husband Scott, and Alex, Alice, Harry, Charlie, Elizabeth, and Laurence, who loved him as their grandfather.

The BSA has helped to fund the transport of Shakespearean drama books, bequeathed by the late Professor Michael Hattaway, to Dr Veronica Popescu and her English Department colleagues at the University of lasi, Romania, who are severely short of resources to teach Shakespeare.

Bringing the Bard Back Home? The English Translation of Foreign Shakespeare Criticism in the Long Nineteenth Century

BSA members Raphaël Ingelbien and Carmen Reisinger tell us about their five-year research project at KU Leuven, which was launched last year.

Translations of Shakespeare’s texts and their impact on the development of various literatures are well charted, but the translation of the vast amount of Shakespeare criticism that was produced in Europe in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries remains unexplored. Shakespeare critics in different countries sometimes read each other in the original, yet translations were also crucial for the circulation of their writings across national boundaries, bringing them to ever wider foreign audiences swept up in contemporary ‘Shakespearomanie’. This project (2020-2024) will analyse English translations of French and German writings on Shakespeare produced between the mid-eighteenth century and 1914. It will challenge the view that British publications about Shakespeare functioned within a national literary culture that had enshrined the English ‘Bard’ at its centre.

The project will examine the textual and paratextual strategies used by various translators to convey the significance of foreign perspectives on Shakespeare: domesticating v. foreignizing translation styles, bowdlerizations, critical footnotes, laudatory or sceptical prefaces, etc. The backgrounds and professional ethos of the translators involved and the reception of their translations will also be examined.

English translations of foreign Shakespeare criticism often involve a two-way traffic, not just because they re-import a national writer as seen through foreign eyes, but also because much foreign Shakespeare criticism was already influenced by British critics – and vice-versa. The translations will be analysed through the prism of histoire croisée to take the study of cultural exchanges between Britain and the continent beyond one-way, linear processes of reception and intellectual influence.

Our project also hopes to lay the groundwork for a new approach to the use of translated Shakespeare criticism in anthologies, casebooks, modern critical editions, etc: as a preliminary case study involving translations of Heine has suggested, famous pronouncements on the Bard by continental luminaries like Goethe, Schlegel, Gervinus, Voltaire, Staël or Hugo are still routinely reprinted without a systematic, critical reflection on how English translations of their texts came about.

We are hoping to explore these and related issues involving more languages and periods in the history of Shakespeare criticism through an international conference in Leuven in 2023.

Raphaël Ingelbien and Carmen Reisinger (KU Leuven)

Bringing the Bard Back Home? The English Translation of Foreign Shakespeare Criticism in the Long Nineteenth Century

BSA members Raphaël Ingelbien and Carmen Reisinger tell us about their five-year research project at KU Leuven, which was launched last year.

Translations of Shakespeare’s texts and their impact on the development of various literatures are well charted, but the translation of the vast amount of Shakespeare criticism that was produced in Europe in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries remains unexplored. Shakespeare critics in different countries sometimes read each other in the original, yet translations were also crucial for the circulation of their writings across national boundaries, bringing them to ever wider foreign audiences swept up in contemporary ‘Shakespearomanie’. This project (2020-2024) will analyse English translations of French and German writings on Shakespeare produced between the mid-eighteenth century and 1914. It will challenge the view that British publications about Shakespeare functioned within a national literary culture that had enshrined the English ‘Bard’ at its centre.

The project will examine the textual and paratextual strategies used by various translators to convey the significance of foreign perspectives on Shakespeare: domesticating v. foreignizing translation styles, bowdlerizations, critical footnotes, laudatory or sceptical prefaces, etc. The backgrounds and professional ethos of the translators involved and the reception of their translations will also be examined.

English translations of foreign Shakespeare criticism often involve a two-way traffic, not just because they re-import a national writer as seen through foreign eyes, but also because much foreign Shakespeare criticism was already influenced by British critics – and vice-versa. The translations will be analysed through the prism of histoire croisée to take the study of cultural exchanges between Britain and the continent beyond one-way, linear processes of reception and intellectual influence.

Our project also hopes to lay the groundwork for a new approach to the use of translated Shakespeare criticism in anthologies, casebooks, modern critical editions, etc: as a preliminary case study involving translations of Heine has suggested, famous pronouncements on the Bard by continental luminaries like Goethe, Schlegel, Gervinus, Voltaire, Staël or Hugo are still routinely reprinted without a systematic, critical reflection on how English translations of their texts came about.

We are hoping to explore these and related issues involving more languages and periods in the history of Shakespeare criticism through an international conference in Leuven in 2023.

Raphaël Ingelbien and Carmen Reisinger (KU Leuven)

Teaching Shakespeare Magazine: New Editor Wanted

A message from Sarah Olive (Editor of Teaching Shakespeare)

After twenty-odd issues of Teaching Shakespeare, I will be stepping down from the role of editor from June 2021 as I take on the role of lead editor for the academic journal Jeunesse: Young people, texts, cultures. It’s been an absolute pleasure and a great honour to be the editor for the past decade, and I can’t thank warmly enough the BSA trustees, our fabulous designer Becky Chilcott, our guest editors and, last but not least, our contributors and readers. The British Shakespeare Association will now be running a process to select the next editor of Teaching Shakespeare. So, to help with that task, I’m sketching out below a little of the magazine’s history and how it currently operates (something the new editor may well work with the BSA to change), so that you can see if you would like to nominate yourself for the role.

Teaching Shakespeare is a freely-available, online magazine for the British Shakespeare Association, published since 2011, at the instigation of then BSA President, Professor Stuart Hampton-Reeves and the BSA Education Committee, then led by Dr James Stredder. It built on a 1990s project, Shakespeare in Schools, by Rex Gibson (Cambridge University). Where that publication had a focus on the UK and US, Teaching Shakespeare’s mission was to be truly international in content, contributors, and readership. It is further distinct from the previous project because it is written for, and by, cross-sector educators, working at all levels of education and in sectors including theatre, heritage, and prison education. Apart from being available online, Teaching Shakespeare has previously involved a small print run (by York Design and Print Solutions) for promotional distribution at conferences, however given the pandemic this is currently less viable. The magazine was originally published twice a year, now thrice – it’s fair to say it has been steadily moving towards a model of publishing whenever enough material for an issue has been received.

As editor, I seek and accept proposals for content, edit and proofread them; write editorials,  a ‘noticeboard’ page, contents list and front cover text (or liaise with the guest editor of take-over issues to help them do this); assist with finding hi-res, copyright-free images in liaison with contributors and our designer; liaise with the BSA web personnel and secretary to get the magazine on the website and in the newsletter; upload the magazine to the TES teacher resources website; promote the magazine to readers and potential contributors at conferences, educational institutions and on social media; represent the magazine at BSA committee meetings (as needed) and AGMs; run user-evaluations ever couple of years; and am the first and main point of contact for the designer, contributors, archivists (like the World Shakespeare Bibliography and Scopus), and advertisers (Teaching Shakespeare is funded by the BSA, with occasional advertising space sold to academic publishers and higher education institutions). I have also written funding bids within my university to obtain occasional editorial assistance and/or student internships for running evaluations with readers and contributors. In 2020, I wrote and published a 4-page guidance document for contributors https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wTFFeVEpnk1w_JVvinbtmjLJgv7y6e6k99hxF6ViMsQ/edit?ts=60b62e3c  as well as a plan for moving towards a form of peer-reviewing (not yet enacted, and certainly not binding, so the new editor will be able to decide whether or not to pursue it), with approval from the trustees.

Complete readership data is unavailable. However, funded research on the magazine’s impact in 2019 suggested an average readership of 1000 people per issue in 60 countries.  Wanting a ‘Teaching Shakespeare in lockdown’ special issue, to help educators worldwide find ‘Covid-keeps’, I have been working with guest editor Dr Ronan Hatful on issue 21, out in Summer 2021. This will be followed, likely in September/October 2021, by another guest issue, 22, coming out of a conference for teachers. The guest editor is currently finalising contributions: liaising with her and proofing the content is likely to be the first major task for the new editor. Beyond that, I’ll be passing over to the new incumbent the odd accepted article and details of a handful of people who have proposed and are working on submissions, but issue 23 will be almost entirely their brainchild!

 

A message from Chris Green (Chair of the BSA Education Committee)

Sarah Olive’s work on Teaching Shakespeare magazine over the last decade has been exceptional, and we would like to thank her for everything she has done in this context (and more widely) for the British Shakespeare Association. We wish Sarah the very best of luck for the future and – in particular – for her editorship of the journal Jeunesse.

The BSA now invites applications for the position of Editor of Teaching Shakespeare. Please send a copy of your CV – along with a brief covering letter – by email to Chris Green, Chair of the BSA Education Committee, at cejgreen@hotmail.com . The deadline to apply is Friday 16 July 2021.

 

Early Career Researcher News: Mette Hildeman Sjölin

Mette Hildeman Sjölin, Stage Appropriations of Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies, 1980-2010 (Lund Studies in English, 2020)

BSA member Dr Mette Hildeman Sjölin tells us about the content and origins of her first monograph, which is available in open access here.

 

I first got the idea for what would become my doctoral thesis and then my first monograph, Stage Appropriations of Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies, 1980-2010, when I read Lear’s Daughters during my exchange studies at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010. I became so enamoured of this one-act feminist play written by the Women’s Theatre Group in 1987 after an idea by Elaine Feinstein, that on my return to Sweden I translated it into Swedish and directed it with my university drama society. A couple of years later, when I embarked on my PhD studies, the experience of seeing Shakespeare’s King Lear through the lens of having read (and directed) Lear’s Daughters was an important starting point.

Shakespeare’s drama has always been an object of adaptation and a source of inspiration for other playwrights. Shakespeare’s own plays were of course based on already existing stories, from history writing and ancient myths to recent texts by contemporary colleagues. In a way, Shakespeare’s plays are only one stage in an ongoing process of adaptation. King Lear and his daughters, for example, appear in countless guises both before and after Shakespeare’s version. During the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, in the wake of the second feminist wave, there was an explosion in Shakespeare appropriations seeing the stories from the point of view of female characters. It also became increasingly common to treat Shakespeare’s tragedies as domestic drama, both in appropriations and in performances of the plays themselves.

In Stage Appropriations of Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies, 1980-2010, I investigate stage plays written around the turn of the millennium and taking place in the play worlds of five of Shakespeare’s tragedies: King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Reading these appropriations against the backdrop of the sources and performance histories of Shakespeare’s plays, I pay particular attention to the depiction of women and family relationships.

Many of the appropriations I study are written from a feminist perspective, and I am particularly interested in how theatre companies relate Shakespeare’s texts to present-day gender politics. During the last forty years, the debate on how the gender balance can be redressed on the professional stage has among other things led to an increasingly open attitude to what bodies can perform what roles. The feminist plays I have analysed also use a number of specific strategies to give space and a voice to fictitious women that they consider to have been marginalised and silenced in Shakespeare’s versions of the stories.

At the same time that new plays were written from the point of view of Lady Macbeth to counterbalance the male-dominated and female-demonising Macbeth, actors playing the role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play were trying to uncover her human side from under all the stereotypes and conventions that had amassed over the years. Furthermore, a comparison of Shakespeare’s text with the sources he used for Macbeth reveals that he had already done a great deal when it comes to humanising Macbeth’s wife and giving her more space to express herself. By considering material such as this, my book provides a fresh perspective on how Shakespeare’s women have travelled through time, as they have been interpreted and rewritten by theatre practitioners and writers. The overall contribution of the book is to show how appropriations are used as a strategy for discussing issues that are central both to Shakespeare’s plays and to the present gender-political climate.

Dr Mette Hildeman Sjölin (Lund University, Sweden)

To learn more about Mette’s research, please visit her departmental profile page.

 

Early Career Researcher News: Mette Hildeman Sjölin

Mette Hildeman Sjölin, Stage Appropriations of Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies, 1980-2010 (Lund Studies in English, 2020)

BSA member Dr Mette Hildeman Sjölin tells us about the content and origins of her first monograph, which is available in open access here.

I first got the idea for what would become my doctoral thesis and then my first monograph, Stage Appropriations of Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies, 1980-2010, when I read Lear’s Daughters during my exchange studies at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010. I became so enamoured of this one-act feminist play written by the Women’s Theatre Group in 1987 after an idea by Elaine Feinstein, that on my return to Sweden I translated it into Swedish and directed it with my university drama society. A couple of years later, when I embarked on my PhD studies, the experience of seeing Shakespeare’s King Lear through the lens of having read (and directed) Lear’s Daughters was an important starting point.

Shakespeare’s drama has always been an object of adaptation and a source of inspiration for other playwrights. Shakespeare’s own plays were of course based on already existing stories, from history writing and ancient myths to recent texts by contemporary colleagues. In a way, Shakespeare’s plays are only one stage in an ongoing process of adaptation. King Lear and his daughters, for example, appear in countless guises both before and after Shakespeare’s version. During the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, in the wake of the second feminist wave, there was an explosion in Shakespeare appropriations seeing the stories from the point of view of female characters. It also became increasingly common to treat Shakespeare’s tragedies as domestic drama, both in appropriations and in performances of the plays themselves.

In Stage Appropriations of Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies, 1980-2010, I investigate stage plays written around the turn of the millennium and taking place in the play worlds of five of Shakespeare’s tragedies: King LearMacbethOthelloRomeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Reading these appropriations against the backdrop of the sources and performance histories of Shakespeare’s plays, I pay particular attention to the depiction of women and family relationships.

Many of the appropriations I study are written from a feminist perspective, and I am particularly interested in how theatre companies relate Shakespeare’s texts to present-day gender politics. During the last forty years, the debate on how the gender balance can be redressed on the professional stage has among other things led to an increasingly open attitude to what bodies can perform what roles. The feminist plays I have analysed also use a number of specific strategies to give space and a voice to fictitious women that they consider to have been marginalised and silenced in Shakespeare’s versions of the stories.

At the same time that new plays were written from the point of view of Lady Macbeth to counterbalance the male-dominated and female-demonising Macbeth, actors playing the role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play were trying to uncover her human side from under all the stereotypes and conventions that had amassed over the years. Furthermore, a comparison of Shakespeare’s text with the sources he used for Macbeth reveals that he had already done a great deal when it comes to humanising Macbeth’s wife and giving her more space to express herself. By considering material such as this, my book provides a fresh perspective on how Shakespeare’s women have travelled through time, as they have been interpreted and rewritten by theatre practitioners and writers. The overall contribution of the book is to show how appropriations are used as a strategy for discussing issues that are central both to Shakespeare’s plays and to the present gender-political climate.

Dr Mette Hildeman Sjölin (Lund University, Sweden)

To learn more about Mette’s research, please visit her departmental profile page.

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