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Reanimating and Reconsidering ‘Othello’

Vanessa I. Corredera (Associate Professor at Andrews University) writes about her work on Othello in ‘post-racial’ America and her recently published monograph, which is available from Edinburgh University Press.

Given my scholarship on what in my book I call “reanimations” of Shakespeare’s Othello—essentially, works that either briefly or more extensively engage with and therefore bring Othello back to life in the modern era—academic friends frequently ask whether I have heard about/seen/read the latest reiteration of Shakespeare’s (in)famous tragedy. Such was the case recently when someone posted in the Shakespeare Society Facebook group about Frantic Assembly’s adaptation of Othello at the Lyric Hammersmith. I had not heard of this adaption, so I followed the Facebook link to learn more. While I know that one should rarely, if ever, look at online comments, I could not help myself, and I was struck by two observations. First, several commenters noted that they had taken their students to see this adaptation of Othello. Second, the longstanding debate about whether Othello is a racist play or a play critiquing racism reappeared in the comments. In my book, Reanimating Shakespeare’s Othello in Post-Racial America (Edinburgh University Press), I trace how the racial frameworks (the strategies for conceptualizing race) so popular in America’s supposed “post-racial” era (2008-2016) frequently result, even if unintentionally, in anti-Black versions of Othello. To instead craft an anti-racist engagement with Othello, I reveal, takes significant, intentional care both with the racial frames used to interpret Othello and with the details that comprise the work, whether a performance of the play, a comic book rendition of the titular character, or a comedy sketch referencing both. I therefore wondered: What racial frameworks did Frantic Assembly use when adapting Othello? How did those frameworks shape their artistic decisions? And were the students who saw the adaptation properly prepared to assess whether it perpetuates racist caricatures or critiques racist systems, whether, in other words, it is an anti-Black or anti-racist Othello?

Though Reanimating Shakespeare’s Othello focuses on reanimations of Othello in America and in an era that can in hindsight seems especially naïve, the principles I explore in the book for considering race and/in Othello can nevertheless help scholars, creators, and teachers engage more ethically with the play. While the belief in a post-racial society has receded, the racial frameworks of the post-racial era I discuss in the book linger. And though scholars consider these frameworks most often in relation to the U.S., the stereotyping and therefore scapegoating of minoritized identities for racial inequity instead of attending to systemic issues, the appeal to the so-called “colourblind” view of race, and the continued privileging of white perspectives are employed far beyond America’s shores. I thus offer key questions that all who engage with Othello—from scholars to adaptors to theatermakers to teachers to the everyday audience member—can ask in order to assess more effectively the racework undertaken every time this by-and-large “toxic” play is brought back to life.[1]

1. Does this reanimation of Othello take a colour evasive approach?

First, a word on the term colourblind, which was long used to convey the ideas at the heart of what is now called colour evasive. People rightly note that it is an ableist term and that we should therefore avoid employing it. Though I do so in my book, I want to rectify that usage here. While no one term has yet to replace colourblind when it comes to discussions of racial perspective and/or casting, I think the proposition of colour evasive is an especially thoughtful and effective substitution.[2] In discussions of post-racial America, however, philosophers, political theorists, sociologists, and performance studies scholars all employ colourblind to describe the fundamental approach toward race underpinning the post-racial era: “not seeing” race. Essentially, to be what we would now call colour evasive entails considering each race as if society treats them equally, as if racial inequity no longer exists. Often, people conceptualize not recognizing race as the more polite, even ideal attitude, as if the concept of race is the issue and acknowledging race the problem. The true issue, however, occurs when people ignore racial inequality, and with it, racism. But what does this mean for Othello?

Too often, creators who re-animate Othello do not truly pay attention to race, approaching the play as if a tragedy where a Black man marries and murders a young white woman can ever be race-neutral. The reanimations of Othello I study, however, suggest that when creators are inattentive to race, their versions of Othello frequently depend on stereotyping, racial caricatures, and one-dimensional versions of the titular character, thereby making them anti-Black. Yet short of creators saying they do not focus on race, which they usually do not say expressly, how can we tell if they are taking this approach? One place to start is by paying attention to the ways they frame their reanimation.

For instance, in my Introduction, I demonstrate how when creators argue that the play is not about race and/or gesture toward their emphasis on so-called “universal” themes such as jealousy, it often means they are not thoughtfully considering race in Othello. Additionally, the care any work takes toward confronting race in Othello may be perceived by analyzing promotional materials. As I argue in Chapter 1, how we visualize Othello matters and gives insights into the racial perspectives taken when reimagining the character. For instance, in the promotional poster for Frantic Assembly’s Othello, why does only Desdemona meet the viewer’s gaze? What should we make of the fact that Othello’s shirt is positioned half-way up his back, exposing his body to the viewer? What racial dynamics does this tableau tap into or contest? If one discerns that care has not been taken concerning race and representation when promoting a particular reanimation, one can in turn be wary about a similar lack of care in the work itself.

2. Does the reanimation meaningfully push back against the stereotypes of Black masculinity triggered by Othello?

The violent Black man. The rage-filled brute. The Black Buck. These are all common stereotypes about Black masculinity that reanimations of Othello can easily invoke, even if unintentionally. After all, audiences see Othello’s rage as he confronts Desdemona’s supposed infidelity, and that rage eventually becomes murderous. While Othello may not rape her, the intimate nature of the strangling on their nuptial sheets nevertheless evokes the threat that Black masculinity supposedly poses to white femininity as envisioned in the stereotype of the Black Buck. Yes, some of these racial caricatures may have American histories. But as American cultural artifacts such as police procedurals with Black men as gangsters or hip-hop songs comprised of stanzas glorifying violence and demeaning women circulate globally, so too do these distortions of Black men. Thus, audiences within and outside of the U.S. may likely bring these stereotypes to bear upon reanimations of Othello.

It is therefore vital for creators who reanimate Othello across mediums to craft a complex vision of Black masculinity, such as the one developed by Keith Hamilton Cobb in the play American Moor (Chapter 4). Through the central figure of the unnamed actor auditioning for the role of Othello, Cobb depicts a Black man justifiably angry at the systems that delimit and oppress him, but a man who is also funny, earnest, loving, and creative. He may be virile, but he is no threat, adamant, but never violent. And importantly, through this actor, Cobb also articulates a multifaceted vision of Othello in stark contrast with the white director’s facile one. Depictions like Cobb’s vitally counter versions of Othello reduced to mere caricature, such as what I argue can be found in the comic series Kill Shakespeare (Chapter 1), where Othello is nothing more than a brutish, violent soldier reduced to a status so abject that he comes across as less than fully human. To craft an anti-racist Othello therefore means developing a nuanced, multidimensional, and decidedly non-stereotypical Othello. Anything less is unequivocally anti-Black. 

3. Does the reanimation inculcate sympathy for both Desdemona and Othello?

In Chapter 5 of Reanimating Shakespeare’s Othello, I address what I call the “Desdemona problem,” namely, the difficulty creators and audiences alike have when it comes to feeling sympathy for Desdemona’s misogynistic abuse at her husband’s hands while also holding space and extending sympathy for the racial abuse that Othello experiences. Put differently, the affective, powerful depiction of a white woman as innocent victim can make it difficult to not only attend to Othello’s racial degradation, but also to the ways even Desdemona participates in that process.

How, then, can reanimations effectively respond to the Desdemona problem? As my analysis of Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief and Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) reveals, frequently, the impulse is to lean into the Desdemona problem, with creators diminishing or even caricaturing Othello to heighten Desdemona’s plight. Alternatively, the challenge is so hard that reanimations sidestep the issue by excising Desdemona, as do Kill Shakespeare, Othello: The Remix (she is a disembodied voice in both), and even American Moor. The operetta Desdemona, however, offers an alternative approach. In the playtext, Toni Morrison powerfully exposes the misogyny Desdemona experiences within Venetian society, at home with her father Brabantio, and with Othello. Yet by staging confrontations between Desdemona and her servant Emilia, Desdemona and her slave Barbary, who reveals her name is actually Sa’ran, and Desdemona and Othello, Morrison brings to light Desdemona’s classed and racial privilege. In doing so, she reveals that the oppressed can also function as oppressors and suggests that the promise of healing only begins when all parties take accountability for the forms of domination they enact. While no reanimation need exactly mirror Morrison’s tactics, to effectually critique racism and therefore be truly anti-racist, they must account for and effectively respond to the Desdemona problem that troubles so many reanimations of this play.   

4. Whose perspective does the reanimation center?

Postcolonial theorist and essayist Ben Okri asserts that in Othello, Shakespeare essentially poured a white man into a Black body.[3] To restate Okri’s assertion, it means that though a Black man technically resides at the heart of the play, Othello nonetheless centers a white perspective because the protagonist is nothing more than a white man’s fantastical creation of Blackness. This centering of whiteness even occurs when Othello gets reanimated much less briefly, such as the short reference to the play in the podcast Serial (Chapter 3). Host Sarah Koenig frames her true-crime investigation of Pakistani American Adnan Sayed’s supposed murder of his Korean girlfriend Hae Min Lee (he has now been exonerated) as an Othello/Desdemona story. I suggest that if Adnan is Othello and Hae is Desdemona, Koenig herself functions as an Iago figure, a narrative orchestrator like Iago who focuses on her perspectives, her affective responses, and her interpretations of each moment over the people of colour on whom she reports. In most versions of Othello, this type of focus on whiteness only directs attention back to figures like Brabantio, Desdemona, and yes, Iago, on almost anyone and everyone but Othello.

Jordan Peele’s film Get Out, however, models alternative possibilities, as I trace in my closing chapter. Get Out’s narrative structure loosely follows Othello’s. Yet while debates still circulate about Othello’s relationship to race, Get Out has been celebrated and widely received as an anti-racist horror film, one that uses music, film angles, plotting, characterization and more to privilege a Black perspective and experience unabashedly. In doing so, the film exposes the horrors of existing in a white supremacist culture without the ambiguity found in Othello. While the details of what centering a Black perspective, Othello’s perspective, will change depending on a reanimation’s given medium, Get Out serves as a vital reminder of how important it is to challenge the perspectival dominance of whiteness in order to make space for new approaches and stories, including new and more racially responsible Shakespearean retellings.

I am not sure which reanimation of Othello will come my way next. Sometimes, I wish the answer were “none,” because despite the anti-racist reanimations I discuss in my book, I am largely skeptical about the need and desire to keep resurrecting this particular play in this day and age. But, if it must be revivified, my hope is that these questions will help us all identify the racial frames that do and do not contest racial inequity in and through Othello so that we can in turn discern which reanimations respond to Othello’s poignant call to “Speak of me as I am” (5.2.352).   

Vanessa I. Corredera

Andrews University


Vanessa’s book is available to purchase from Edinburgh University Press. (Use code NEW30 to receive a 30% discount.)

[1] See Ayanna Thompson’s interview “All that Glisters is Not Gold” with NPR’s Code Switch for a discussion of Shakespeare’s toxic plays.

[2] I only recently learned of “colour evasive” as a substitution for “colourblind” thanks to academic twitter. See tweets by professors such as Uju Aynya, Deadric T. Williams, Tina Cheuk, and Darnell Fine that employ the term and suggest it as an effective, non-ableist substitute.  

[3] See the essay “Leaping Out of Shakespeare’s Terror: Five Meditations on Othello” in A Way of Being Free (Head of Zeus, 2015). 

Header Image: Keith Hamilton Cobb in American Moor.

Call for Papers – Shakespeare Jahrbuch 160 (2024): ‘Shakespeare’s Libraries’

The 2024 volume of Shakespeare Jahrbuch will be a special issue on Shakespeare’s Libraries’. The editorial board invites contributions on related themes, concepts and debates, from a variety of perspectives, in particular on the material afterlife of Shakespeare’s work in editions, collections and libraries through the ages. Contributions with a contemporary or historical perspective are equally welcome.

Possible topics include:

Shakespeare’s books

  • the role of the First Folio: its history as material artefact and cultural icon
  • book formats: quartos, octavos, folios
  • typography and the material book
  • paratexts in early books publishing Shakespeare’s work

Reading Shakespeare

  • how Shakespeare’s works were read, annotated and extracted by early readers
  • changing practices of reading Shakespeare: communal/private, orality/literacy, amateur/professional reading
  • the materiality of reading Shakespeare: the relationship between book, body (cognition, affect, eye, hand, voice), tools and environments
  • reading Shakespeare in different forms and formats: page/screen, facsimile/modernised, original language/translation, plays/rewritings
  • famous readers of Shakespeare

Editing Shakespeare

  • the emergence of Shakespeare as an author: editing, genre-making, canon-formation
  • early modern syndicates of book-making: printers, publishers, sellers, stationers
  • kinds of editions: single-text, complete works, compilations; facsimile editions; critical editions; digital editions
  • the role of the editor across the centuries
  • editing Shakespeare for the 21st century: new texts, new apparatuses, new readers

Collecting Shakespeare

  • the material culture of collecting in the early modern period and today
  • early collectors of Shakespeare’s works
  • collecting practices: private or public collectors; custom-made collections; material intertextuality; compilations
  • distributed agencies in networks of authors, publishers, stationers and buyers

Shakespeare’s libraries

  • the library as material and conceptual space
  • historical types of libraries: private collections; institutional libraries; circulating and travelling libraries; digital archives
  • lost texts/libraries and the methodological challenges of the archive
  • Shakespeare (in) libraries: cultural, intellectual and societal functions


Please send an electronic version (as a Word/docx-file) of your article to the general editor of Shakespeare Jahrbuch, Prof. Isabel Karremann (karremann[at] The deadline for submissions (in English or German and of not more than 6,000 words) is 30 April 2023. Please observe the style sheet, which can be downloaded from the website of the German Shakespeare Society.

Articles are selected for publication on the basis of a double anonymous peer-review system.

Featured image: Rijksmuseum Object Number RP-P-1893-A-18092.

Daryl Chase – A Social Enterprise ‘Macbeth’ (2023) 

Daryl Chase, director of a new film adaptation of Macbeth, tells us about this socially-minded film project. 

Our film adaptation of Macbeth, produced by Screen Northants, is a stunning adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale of ambition and madness. Set not in castles but within the context of feuding estates, magic meets realism in our screen interpretation of Macbeth. The story is brought to life by a young, diverse and award-winning cast and crew within a social enterprise production. Having already focused on Shakespeare’s work, we chose Macbeth for its regular inclusion in the school curriculum, strengthening engagement with younger demographics. Maintaining the original language of the play, we adhered to the text as much as possible, with some adjustments for duration and simplification. 

The three year project, delivered by Screen Northants for BBC Children in Need, focused on using film production as a tool to raise pride and aspirations among disengaged and disaffected young people of Northamptonshire. Engaging young people on projects that matter and have an intended and more wide-reaching end goal other than purely as a tool to develop young people has proven to be the most impactful approach. Hence the ambition to create a high quality feature film that will reach wider audiences and make a meaningful contribution to Shakespeare on film. Screen Northants has a core objective to provide opportunities to underrepresented demographics in the film industry, at an age where socio-economic and geographical barriers are most severe. They strive to ensure talented young people from less privileged backgrounds are not missing out on a career in film/tv or the wider creative sector.   

Set on a dystopian estate, under the rule of Duncan, Macbeth has lived through countless feuds, loyally defending the kingdom against increasing attacks. When a malevolent force offers Macbeth a future as king, encouraged by Lady Macbeth they seize their fate sooner than promised, with grave consequences. 

Our casting age was purposefully younger than many productions of Macbeth and by not providing a brief or having expectations of film experience we allowed for broader cultural and socio-economical diversity, opening the doors to many who may not traditionally audition for Shakespeare. Shot on what would be classed as no-budget, everyone has dedicated their time and talent to making a high-end feature film that has relevance to our engagement with Shakespeare’s play while at the same time having plenty of scope for educational opportunities. The team behind the project were involved in hands-on workshops throughout the production, working with young people of varying ages. An ongoing focus for the project and Screen Northants we plan to continue engagement beyond the films release, including school workshops featuring cast and crew presence.

Screen Northants have delivered a significant number of specialist film-making masterclasses in both mainstream and special education needs settings throughout Northamptonshire as well running free after school and weekend projects for young people from excluded schools, ‘Looked After Children’, and referrals from local police initiatives for early intervention. Screen Northants have also delivered two mentoring schemes for early entrants to industry on behalf of Screen Skills. 

The production has attracted a vibrantly diverse cast, mixing incredible new talent and seasoned professionals, from Shaq B. Grant (now featuring in The Flatshare) who plays Macbeth and Aoife Smyth as Lady Macbeth to Joe Sims (Broadchurch) as Duncan. The unique model and incredible story also drew in an amazing crew, combining those with no prior film experience looking for their first break with those with more film heritage. Cinematographer Emily Almond Barr has since been BAFTA Cymru Nominated; composer Rob Lewis is part of the BAFTA talent program, and Olivier Award winner Alessandro Babalola stars as Macduff. 

The attraction of the actors and the crew to the project was the undeniably heady mix of Macbeth’s incredible narrative, and the fact this this was a production with a purpose. People opened their hearts and poured out their talents. I don’t think this would have happened so wholeheartedly had it not been built around Shakespeare’s play, which is so familiar to us. Day by day, from pre-production to production, people dedicated their time for free, working in unison to achieve our vision for this adaptation. Jane Clark (who has worked on Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast and other films) shared her experience with new storyboard artists; production designers turned derelict shopping malls into flat interiors, costume transformed pennies into clothes for armies. Each day I was astounded at how much everyone achieved, and just how much everyone cared. 

On set, we often even surprised ourselves given our limited resources… it was happening — we were making a film. Finally, we emerged from the shoot, proud of what had achieved, both in terms of the film we captured and the social enterprise goals. With an edit of the film now in final tweaks, we are looking for additional support to push the film through the crucial last stages of post-production. This includes creating a unique and exciting sound landscape, doing justice to the amazing cinematography, adding further magic with subtle visual effects, and finally quality control and delivery. 

Keen to give everyone’s hard work the justice it deserves, festival and cinema screenings await with distributors and sales agents already showing interest. We are on a final push through the closing stages of work on this film project, and would welcome anyone who would like to support us on our journey either via our Greenlit campaign, or any other collaborations, ideas or investment discussions. By helping us to complete the film, you are helping to support all the people involved, from those who benefit from the ongoing workshops, to new talent pushing themselves within the industry.  

You can find out more about the project, view work-in-progress extracts, and get in touch here:

The Greenlit campaign is here:  

For more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via email

Daryl Chase 

Writer / Director 

‘Shakespeare and Adaptation’ book series online launch (Society for Renaissance Studies), Friday 9th December, 5:00pm

The Society for Renaissance Studies will hold an online launch event to celebrate the new ‘Shakespeare and Adaptation’ book series, which is edited by Professor Mark Thornton Burnett (who is a former BSA Trustee). Shakespeare and Adaptation provides in-depth discussions of a dynamic field and showcases the ways in which, with each act of adaptation, a new Shakespeare is created. Generously hosted by the Society for Renaissance Studies, in collaboration with The Arden Shakespeare, the launch celebrates the publication of the first four books in the series:

Julia Reinhard Lupton and Ariane Helou, eds, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Adaptation and the Arts: ‘Cut Him Out in Little Stars’

Gemma Kate Allred, Benjamin Broadribb and Erin Sullivan, eds, Lockdown Shakespeare: New Evolutions in Performance and Adaptation

Thea Buckley, Mark Thornton Burnett, Sangeeta Datta and Rosa García-Periago, eds, Women and Indian Shakespeares

William C. Carroll, Adapting ‘Macbeth’: A Cultural History.

Please register via the Society for Renaissance Studies Crowdcast page:

Eoin Price – The Deep Time of the Early Modern Repertory

Eoin Price is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Swansea University. His current project, Playgoing Time in Elizabethan London is funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

I am currently working on a project called Playgoing Time in Elizabethan London. The project challenges the dominant tendency of early modern theatre scholarship to privilege a playgoer’s first contact with a play and counters the assumption that playgoers saw plays in the order of their first performance. As part of that work, I am interested in thinking again about what the terms ‘new’ and ‘old’ might mean in the early modern playhouses.

In his financial account book, the theatre entrepreneur Philip Henslowe details daily performances at his Rose playhouse. Henslowe marks some plays with the enigmatic label ‘ne’. Scholars have puzzled over what exactly this marker might mean. Typically, a play seems to have been marked ‘ne’ on its first appearance in Henslowe’s accounts. It is usually assumed, then, that ‘ne’ mostly designates a theatrical premiere. There are, however, exceptions. Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is marked as ‘ne’ on January 24, 1594 but, was seemingly performed at an earlier date (it may have received its premiere several years previously). The title page of the play’s print edition, published soon after the performance recorded by Henslowe, unusually associates the play with three different playing companies. How new, then, was Titus Andronicus in 1594? How new was ‘ne’?

What interests me about Henslowe’s administrative marker is that it exposes to view the complexity and contingency of newness as a concept. Titus Andronicus may have been quite an old and well-performed play by the time it received a Rose performance, but this did not necessarily dispel its claims to newness. The play may very well have been new to Henslowe and to many (or at least some) of the playgoers who attended his playhouse. And even if Henslowe and the Rose playgoers had come across the play before that is not to say that the Sussex’s Men performance at the Rose did not seem new in some way or other. Henslowe’s attempt to define newness (and our scholarly dissatisfaction with his idiosyncratic records) tells us something important about the dual concepts of new and old, which were so central to the structure of the early modern repertory and the subsequent scholarship it has inspired.

In Playgoing Time in Elizabethan London, I am interested in challenging the ingrained assumption that a new play is a recent play. Newness is subjective, relational and much more nuanced than our scholarly vocabulary is ordinarily able to acknowledge. Newness is not a stable or straightforward category and the repertory format, which Henslowe’s accounts outline in detail, complicates the idea of the new and its relationship to the old.

Theorists of new media have done much to address the complexity of newness as a concept and this large body of scholarship offers theatre historians new ways of thinking about newness (although I write this sentence with tongue firmly in cheek, for how easily can we speak of new ways of thinking given the contingency of newness?). Consider, for example, Siegfried Zielinski’s work on the ‘deep time’ of media and the wider body of media archaeology work it is a part of. Drawing on geological theories of deep time, Zielinski is inspired by the idea of the earth as a cyclical, self-renewing entity whose history is observable in its sedimented layers. Such a vision of time disrupts chronological, linear and teleological approaches to temporality. The history of media is not a relentless pursuit of technological evolution in which new media supersedes old. Supposedly old media returns, or remains, or is reshaped or renewed. The new sits alongside the old and each informs and reforms the other.

The early modern repertory has its own kind of deep time. Playing companies typically performed a different play each day of the week. Companies periodically premiered new plays, but they continued to perform older ones. Some plays, it seems, dropped out of use completely but often old plays would be returned to use at some point, sometimes in an adapted form. A brand-new play would be performed alongside plays that first premiered weeks, months, years, or decades earlier. Scholars understandably want to get a handle on who performed what and when, but it isn’t clear that playgoers were as bothered by such concerns and the early modern repertory seems deliberately to make it difficult for playgoers to ascertain the age of the plays they watched. Thinking about the early modern repertory in terms of deep time entails us untethering the idea that new and old are concepts that map easily on to chronological, calendar time. If we are to understand what it was that might have made Titus Andronicus seem new in 1594, and if we are to apprehend the complex temporality of the repertory more fully, we must be prepared to let go of some of our foundational assumptions about theatre and time in early modern England.

Eoin Price

Swansea University

Header Image: Title page of the 1594 edition of Titus Andronicus. Folger Shakespeare Library STC 22328.

Randall Martin – Cymbeline in the Anthropocene: A Global Eco-Theatrical Collaboration

Cymbeline in the Anthropocene is an international performance-research project which brings together seven theatre companies and environmentally committed productions from four continents. It is the first collective effort to present Shakespeare’s ecological insights to audiences beyond academia or the Anglosphere. Each contributing company has created locally site-specific and ecologically adapted performances of Shakespeare’s late tragi-comedy, Cymbeline. These are our companies, their performance titles, and the directors:

“Gold and Silver Turned to Dust”; “Does the World Go Round?”

University of Exeter Drama students

Exeter, England

Director, Evelyn O’Malley


Willow Globe Theatre company

Powys, Wales

Artistic Directors, Sue Best and Phil Bowen

Cimbelino en la Patagonia

Setebos theatre company

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Artistic Director, Mónica Maffía

“Once Upon a Time in the Anthropocene”

Cornell University Department of Performing & Media Arts students

Ithaca, New York

Director, Theo Black


Montana Shakespeare in the Parks

Bozeman, Montana

Artistic Director, Kevin Asselin

Dramaturge, Gretchen Minton

Imogen in the Wild

Shakespeare in Yosemite theatre company

Yosemite National Park and University of California Merced

Directors, Katherine Steele Brokaw, Paul Prescott, William Wolfgang


La Trobe University Department of Drama students

Melbourne, Australia

Director, Rob Conkie

Generously supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Cymbeline in the Anthropocene’s main research goal has been to build an open-access archive documenting the performance creations and ecological discoveries of participating companies. Their voluntary contributions have collectively created a compact global vision of contemporary Anthropocene conditions, while also facilitating cultural exchanges and personal understanding of the era’s present-day impacts across continental borders. The project’s research and dissemination activities continued throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, even though theatres world-wide were forced to suspend live performances for more than a year in 2020-21. During this time, regrettably, we lost four theatre companies from our original group of ten. This included three non-English-speaking productions from China, Kazakhstan, and the Republic of Georgia. But along the way we picked up two in Buenos Aires and Ithaca, New York to cross the finish line last summer with seven.

In weekly blogs since January 2020, the project website has built up a pioneering record of eco-theatrical practice by tracking practitioners’ script and screenplay creations, material construction of stage properties, and original soundscapes and artwork. The project leader, Prof Randall Martin, and website manager and project researcher, Dr Rebecca Salazar, have interviewed directors and performers to explore their environmental adaptations to local Anthropocene conditions, such as the smoky skies that now pose health risks every summer in western American outdoor performances. We have also gathered audience comments about the shows, although, disappointingly, pandemic restrictions greatly reduced this anticipated fieldwork. The website further documents the adoption of the project’s public humanities outreach by university instructors and high school teachers who have assigned the project’s website materials in their courses.

Why performance?

The Anthropocene is our present-day era of massive, human-aggravated environmental ruptures and calamities. Western and now global models of maximal resource extraction and free-market growth have set off climate, extinction, and sea-level crises on such a scale that it can be difficult to make sense of the damage or conceive of mitigating ways forward. Yet as the revolutions in gender and sexuality of the past eighty years have demonstrated, the seemingly “natural” verities or norms of Western thought – such as patriarchal and racial hierarchies – have been dismantled by cultural critique and political pressure to alter our ethical and legal assumptions.

Similarly, ecological world-views are beginning to be shifted in the light of Anthropocene dangers not just by scientific research, but by telling new stories about the animals we are, and what our well-being on earth depends on to survive. Drama, as a form of storytelling, has the added benefit of stirring spectators through shared physical and emotional exchanges among actors, audiences, non-human animals, and their environments. Theatre has the power to help us affiliate ourselves with the subjective lives and independent value of more-than-human nature, and to catalyse individual and community environmental engagement and action in the world. As foundational conservationist Aldo Leopold observed,

no important change in [environmental] ethics was ever accomplished without an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections, and convictions.

Feeling as well as re-imagining new pathways into kinship, empathy, and reciprocity with non-human beings are the primary goals and possibilities of ecotheatre. And Shakespeare is a powerful vehicle for making this affective cognition happen. 

Why Shakespeare?

For although Shakespeare’s canonical status today is often contested, and his work has historically been used as a tool of European colonialism, his works continue to be translated and adapted into scores of global languages and performance traditions. Global familiarity and transcultural adaptability make Shakespeare’s works particularly useful for mobilizing ecodramaturgical innovation on both local and global scales.

Theatre scholar Theresa M. May first defined ecodramaturgy as three different forms of engagement: 

1 It reflects lived experiences of local communities onstage and offstage, and welcomes people historically excluded from dominantly white and economically privileged theatre-making and spectatorship.   

2 It incorporates materially sustainable modes of theatre production and performance.

And 3 it relates its environmental meanings to present-day and site-specific contexts of “the community it serves, and the politics into which it speaks.”[1]   

I would add a fourth principle to these three: ecodramaturgy also revalues the well-being of non-human bio-communities and earth-systems. Foregrounding our co-evolved relations with other lifeforms disrupts the theatrical presentation of stories and beings according to the sentimental aesthetics of genre (think: “forest of Arden,” or “the heath”). It also expands the mental horizons of what environmental philosopher Todd Dufresne calls “differential consciousness.” This means recognizing our capacity for both suffering and flourishing as a species like any other. Respect for life’s pluralized unity serves to counter what Dufresne also calls modernity’s “globalization of indifference” towards nonhuman nature.[2] And it encourages us to treat entire ecosystems and their inhabitants (such as the Trent River watershed in England which Hotspur plans to disrupt but whose ecological integrity Glendower defends in Henry IV Part One) as persons equally deserving of rights to protection and care.

Let’s revisit just a single example of shared creaturely personhood in Shakespeare. It occurs in the play now known as Henry VI Part Two. There King Henry compares the trumped-up arrest of Duke Humphrey to the distress of a calf taken away by a butcher, who

… binds the wretch, and beats it when it strains,

Bearing it to the bloody slaughterhouse

And as the dam runs lowing up and down,

Looking the way her harmless young one went,

And can do naught but wail her darling’s loss,

Even so myself bewails good Gloucester’s case 

With sad unhelpful tears, and with dimmed eyes

Look after him….

(Henry VI Part Two 3.1. 211-19)

Henry insists his pain is identical — as a sentient mortal being – to the feelings of a brutalized calf and its traumatized mother. His empathy dissolves species hierarchies, and insists we are humanely implicated in a routine process of killing for food. 

Why Cymbeline?

At first glance, Shakespeare’s Cymbeline — which features a runaway princess, an evil step-mother, a war between Britain and Rome, and a final scene of farfetched revelations and reconciliations — doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for confronting today’s environmental crises.

But as a play of emotional and physical extremes, Cymbeline has come into its own as a realistic reflection of threatening twenty-first century conditions. Its themes of personal resilience and global cooperation speak to the collective action nations must take now to confront the intensifying climate crisis and its related infrastructure breakdowns and social emergencies. Moreover, the play’s complex and outlandish storylines seem newly apt for contemporary adaptation because the Anthropocene is changing earth-systems and defying conventional forms and generic norms on more fronts and larger scales than we have ever experienced before.

Outcomes and futures

The Cymbeline network’s performance and knowledge-creation activities culminated in an in-person and livestreamed performance symposium in Bozeman, Montana on 18-20 July 2022, co-hosted by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. Participating theatre directors and dramaturges each made 10-minute presentations about their shows’ rationales and formative contexts, followed by half-hour videos illustrating the results. The event wrapped up with a roundtable discussion open to in-person and live-streamed audiences. Sessions from all three days are now available on our YouTube channel through our website There you can also find full-length videos of five of our productions. Please visit and let us know what you think!

A complementary concluding event was a wonderful documentary made by CBC Radio 1’s programme, Ideas. It celebrated the originality, life-changing personal impacts, and community collaborations of selective Cymbeline in the Anthropocene productions. The show is now available in a podcast or through our website. It’s lively introduction to our project.    

At the time of writing we are making final edits to the website archive and readying it for migration to a permanent website in 2023.

Randall Martin

University of New Brunswick

[1]Tú eres mi otro yo – Staying with the Trouble: Ecodramaturgy and the AnthropoScene,”
The Journal of American Drama and Theatre 29.2 (2017), 1-18, citation 13 n. 2.  

[2] The Democracy of Suffering (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019).

33rd SEDERI Conference, 3rd-5th May 2023

The 33rd international SEDERI conference, entitled ‘Early Modern English Culture in European Perspective: Relations Across the Channel’, will take place on 3rd-5th May 2023 at the Facultat de Filologia, Traducció i Comunicació (Universitat de València).

The call for papers can be found here:

For any queries, please contact the organisers at sederi2023[at]

The organizing committee:

María José Coperías Aguilar
Víctor Huertas Martín
Jesús Tronch Pérez

University of Valencia

Varsha Panjwani – ‘I’m speaking’: Podcasts as Protest

Dr Varsha Panjwani is the host of the Women & Shakespeare podcast and the author of Podcasts & Feminist Shakespeare Pedagogy (Cambridge University Press, 2022). In this blog post, Dr Panjwani shares with us  an edited excerpt from her book, which is now available to pre-order from the publisher’s site.

Dr Panjwani’s book is available to download for free until 11th November 2022.

On 8 October 2020, this video clip was shared widely online; in cyber parlance, the clip ‘went viral’:

Perhaps this clip, in which Kamala Harris repeatedly pointed out the obvious: ‘Mr Vice President, I’m speaking, I’m speaking’, resonated with so many women generally and with women of colour specifically because they heard echoes of their own experiences in Harris’ vocalisation and Mike Pence’s attempt at dismissing her speech. Unfortunately, this moment has a robust history; in ‘The Public Voice of Women’, Mary Beard takes a long view of the ‘culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere’ in the West. She quotes from one of the foundational cultural texts, The Odyssey, in which Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, declares to his mother that ‘speech will be the business of men, all men’. Significantly, Beard elaborates that the word Telemachus uses for speech is ‘muthos’, which ‘signals authoritative public speech (not the kind of chatting, prattling or gossip that anyone – women included, or specially women – could do)’ and, according to him, muthos will be the exclusive purview of men.

Early twentieth-century broadcasting trends also reveal such vocal prejudice. For instance, as Anne McKay recounts, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) hired their first woman announcer, Giles Borrett, only in 1933 and terminated her contract after a mere three months despite her garnering praise for her performance because listeners objected to a woman’s voice in an announcer’s role. The story was similar in the US where the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) appointed Elsie Janis as their first woman announcer in 1935 and ‘listeners complained that a woman’s voice was inappropriate’, so her employer announced that she would ‘read no more Press-Radio news bulletins’.

More generally, as summarized by Christine Mottram, numerous twenty-first-century studies also indicate that masculine voice qualities such as lower pitch, deeper oral and chest resonance, downward inflection at the end of the thought, clear tone achieved by breath support are perceived as having more authority. Although these vocal features can be found in women’s voices, men are physiologically more likely to possess them, so ‘it is still the case that when listeners hear a female voice, they don’t hear a voice that connotes authority’, as Beard puts it. This sonic marginalization is not only gendered but also racial. Building on the work of Jennifer Stoever and W.E.B. DuBois, David Sterling Brown explains ‘that ‘race gets in the way’ of registering Black voices or voices of people of colour as authoritative because the dominant White listening practices set the tone for who is perceived as worth hearing and paying attention to. It is, therefore, no surprise that women of colour are the most overlooked public speakers. Shakespeare Studies reflects this pattern.

The British Academy’s Shakespeare Lectures is an annual lecture series and, since its inauguration in 1911, speakers have covered a range of subjects. However, even if we only count since the beginning of the twenty-first century until the most recent lecture (2000–18), the gender distribution is 13 men and 3 women. A similar gender (im)balance is noticeable in the speakers at The Notre Dame London Shakespeare Lectures in honour of Professor Sir Stanley Wells. An annual lecture takes place as a part of this series at the London Global Gateway of the university and it has a pedagogic focus: ‘envisioned as a celebration of a scholar of world renown, it is also a venue for students on the London program to meet leading academics and theatre practitioners who shape their fields’. Since its inception in 2012 to 2022, the series, which has ‘developed in close collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham)’, has featured 7 men and 4 women. Again, no Black or Brown woman has been a speaker here. The Kingston Shakespeare Seminar (KiSS), which promises to bring ‘leading international Shakespeare scholars’ to the Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames, hosts several lecture series, conferences, and colloquia. Among these, the variously named Rose Shakespeare Lecture/ Shakespeare Birthday Lecture is an annual event that has exclusively featured men since 2014. Only 1 woman – a woman of colour – has given a lecture in this series in 2013. KiSS also runs a public lecture series on a more regular basis. Not counting the few lectures that are shared between participants, it has included 35 men and 11 women. The data for 2017 is particularly disheartening, with 8 public lectures by men and none by women.

Some of the well-established conferences have also exhibited a similar prejudice. In 2013, The European Shakespeare Research Association’s conference that takes place every two years welcomed 9 men and 3 women as plenary speakers and none of these were scholars of colour. The 2014 conference of the British Shakespeare Association (BSA) listed 1 woman and 4 men as plenary speakers, with 2 of the men sharing the stage as part of a conversation. Neither of these plenary speakers was a person of colour. The 2016 BSA conference included 3 women and 5 men as keynote speakers and none of these were women of colour. In the same year, the underrepresentation of women as plenary speakers disappointed the participants of the World Shakespeare Congress.

The data presented here is patchy and reflects the partial nature of such records in the public domain. So, I do not wish to give the impression that there have never been conferences that have disrupted this trend. The 2019 BSA conference is a case in point as all plenary speakers at this event were women of colour. However, the very fact that I have been able to collect multiple instances in which major conferences and lecture series have marginalized women in the twenty-first century itself speaks to the gender disparity in the public voice of Shakespeare scholarship. As Wendy Lennon pointed out to me in a personal interview, since conferences can be seen as ‘pockets and examples of higher education’ or ‘a microcosm of the bigger problem’, these examples typify the (sometimes unconscious) systemic bias against women’s public voices in Shakespeare Studies.

In my minigraph, Podcasts and Feminist Shakespeare Pedagogy, I argue that, due to their emphasis on public voice, podcasts can (and are) participating in tacking this gendered aural marginalization at Shakespeare conferences and public lectures. In other words, podcasts are protests and amplify women’s voices in the field because many Shakespeare podcasts are hosted by women (see below for a list). This is not to say that podcasts have solved the issue of women not being handed the mic in our field. Rather, podcasts have the potential to change the aural landscape of Shakespeare Studies because they are creating spaces that do not currently exist in the offline world. However, the existence of podcasts should not preclude a call for fairness in the conference circuit. On her blog, Jacqueline Wernimont produced a crowdsourced list of women ‘who can be invited as featured or plenary speakers’ when she saw a similar gendered marginalization in the Digital Humanities (DH) conferences and declared that ‘going forward, all-male panels can only be construed as a choice, not an issue of ignorance. We have been busy building communities we want to see in DH, and now we’ve taken the time from our own research, our teaching, our lives to pull together information for you – now it’s your turn to do your part’. Similarly, these podcasts are audio lists of potential conference speakers but they are also more than that. Together, they constitute a virtual space which models the kind of soundscape that our students want and need in Shakespeare Studies. Now it is your turn to do your part so tune in, listen, and hand over the mic.

Here are some inclusive Shakespeare podcasts hosted by women: 

  1. Shakespeare Unlimited (Folger Shakespeare Library podcast) – includes transcripts

Explores Shakespeare in ‘global culture, from theater, music, and films to new scholarship, education, amazing discoveries, and more’. In their own words, it is ‘a “no limits” tour of the connections between Shakespeare, his works, and our world’. Every episode features guests and, after a short introduction by Michael Witmore, they are interviewed either by Barbara Bogaev or Neva Grant or Rebecca Sheir. The podcast creators have also invited a number of women scholars to address not only women-centred Shakespeare subjects but also textual, performance, editorial, architectural, social, cultural, and culinary history of Shakespeare.

  1. Such Stuff (Shakespeare’s Globe podcast) – includes transcripts

Closely tied to the work of this institution and takes listeners ‘behind the scenes, into rehearsal rooms and onto [their] stages’ with an avowed commitment to looking at ‘Shakespeare’s transformative impact on the world around us, asking questions about programming, gender, race, social justice and their relationship to Shakespeare’. It takes the form of discussions and interviews and is hosted by Michelle Terry, Farah Karim-Cooper and Imogen Greenberg.

  1. Women & Shakespeare – includes transcripts

It was created to investigate ‘how Shakespeare is used to amplify the voices of women today and how women are redefining the world’s most famous writer’. It is structured as conversations exclusively with diverse women creatives and academics. Hosted by Varsha Panjwani.

  1. Approaching Shakespeare (A University of Oxford podcast) – computer generated transcripts

For learners looking for ‘variety of different ways we might understand Shakespeare, the kinds of evidence that might be used to strengthen our critical analysis, and, above all, the enjoyable and unavoidable fact that Shakespeare’s plays tend to generate our questions rather than answer them’, Emma Smith ran this highly successful podcast series in the form of lectures which she recorded in her classroom.

  1. The Hurly Burly Shakespeare Show!

An ‘an irreverent mix of entertainment and scholarly content’ and discusses ‘the plays of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as well as other fascinating aspects of the Early Modern period’s lively theatre and print culture’ and takes the form of conversations between Jess Hamlet and Aubrey Whitlock with additional guests for some episodes.

  1. Protest Too Much

Playful and innovative in pitting the ‘host against performers, educators, and scholars in a battle’ about Shakespeare’s characters. The guests argue which of Shakespeare’s characters would win the title of the ‘best’ friend, villain, lover, overall personality etc. and they also nominate a (seemingly indefensible) character that the host has to support. The informal debates that this structure generates challenge conventional readings of Shakespeare’s characters. Hosted by Stephanie Crugnola.

  1. Let Him Roar Again 

Explores Shakespeare in the rehearsal room and the classroom in an Australian context and is hosted by actor and drama teacher, Amy Perry. 

  1.  That Shakespeare Life!

Focuses on ‘the history of the man’ and interviews ‘the history experts who know Shakespeare best’. Hosted by Cassidy Cash.

  1. The Play’s the Thing 

Dedicates six episodes to each Shakespeare play and is hosted by Heidi White, Sarah-Jane Bentley, and Tim McIntosh.

  1. Not Another Shakespeare Podcast!

Declares that it ‘takes neither itself nor Shakespeare seriously’ and is hosted by the couple Nora Williams and James Platt and, in a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to patriarchal descriptions, bills Nora as the ‘theatre nerd/Shax expert’ and James as ‘husband/theatre sceptic’.

  1. This Shakespeare is Gay

A podcast that proves play-by-play that every Shakespeare play is gay. Hosted by Emma and Hailey.

Dr Varsha Panjwani

Fordham University & New York University, London

Dr Panjwani’s book is available to download for free from the publisher until 11th November 2022.

BSA 2023 Conference

The British Shakespeare Association conference will take place at the University of Liverpool, Tuesday 25th – Friday 28th July 2023, organised by Dr Esme Miskimmin (University of Liverpool), Dr Katie Knowles (University of Liverpool) and Professor Emerita Elspeth Graham (Liverpool John Moores University).

BSA 2023: ‘Re-locating Shakespeare’

In Shakespeare’s lifetime, and in the four hundred years since the relocation of his plays from stage to page in the First Folio, his work has had a sustained and varied life in multiple geographical and theoretical locations through print, performance, research and education. More importantly, perhaps, there has been a concomitant narrative of ‘relocation’ associated with Shakespeare. The physical journeys of his works and their performers, including the visits of Lord Strange’s Men to the Northwest in the late sixteenth-century, performers who used the plays for colonialist and imperialist purposes overseas, or the arrival of Ira Aldridge, the ‘Black Roscius’ at the Liverpool docks in 1824, attest to a constant geographical relocation of Shakespeare and his performers. There have also always been sustained theoretical re-locations of Shakespeare in relation to changing contexts and prevailing critical, socio-historical and theatrical perspectives. Most recently, the opening of the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Knowsley has relocated performances and narratives of Shakespeare in the Northwest of England.

This conference will seek to explore the geographical, temporal and semantic ‘Re-locations’ of Shakespeare, looking again at the place(s) of his works and reassessing them through the wider contexts of performance, print, translation, teaching and research, including (but not limited to):

  • Notions of location, locating and re-locating within Shakespeare, including explorations of travel, exile, pilgrimage and direction.
  • Claiming and ‘owning’ locations, including colonial and postcolonial re/appropriations.
  • The cartographies of Shakespeare – the mapping / remapping, navigation and ‘discovery’ of locations.
  • Re-locating through the imagination and / or the virtual:  the movement from the ‘wooden O’ to the ‘vasty fields of France’ or the virtual Dover cliff; online performances.
  • Re-locating through translation and adaptation, including dramatic, musical, operatic and fictional adaptations.
  • Location / Re-location in the teaching of Shakespeare – where and how pupils and students experience Shakespeare.
  • Voluntary and / or forced relocations – in Shakespeare’s texts, or for pedagogical or political uses.
  • Re-locating perspectives (critical, pedagogical or performative) in relation to cultural and social changes, disability and LGBTQ+
  • Relocating in times of pandemic (from the touring circuit outside of London during the plagues and beyond, to the internet during covid).
  • ‘What do they in the North?’ (RIII 4.4.398): Implications / connotations arising from a specifically ‘northern’ Shakespeare.
  • Re-locating Shakespeare’s work in understandings of literary / theatrical / critical canons, in the light of any of the above (or any other types of ‘re-locations’).

We are delighted to have three plenary lectures by:

Professor Poonam Trivedi (formerly University of Delhi) 
Dr Eleanor Rycroft (University of Bristol) 
Ben Crystal (author, actor, producer) 

and a plenary roundtable led by:

Dr Peter Kirwan (Mary Baldwin University). 

Please visit the BSA 2023 conference page for additional information about provisional registration fees and conference news.

Contact the conference organisers

The conference organisers, Dr Esme Miskimmin, Dr Katie Knowles, and Professor Elspeth Graham, can be contacted via the conference email address:


Follow #BSA2023 on Twitter @BSA_Conference

BSA 2023 Seminars and Workshops

Self-enrolment for seminars and workshops is now closed. If you are a BSA member and you wish you submit a late enrolment, it might be possible to accommodate your request. Please email the conference organisers at british.shakespeare.conference[at]

Please note: respective seminar / workshop leaders will be in touch with their groups in early Spring to provide an outline of how their particular session will be run, and invite abstracts, bios, etc. You do not need to send your abstract and bio to the BSA Conference email address.


1. Re-wilding Shakespeare

Convenor: Dr Todd Andrew Borlik (University of Huddersfield)

Format:  In-person

This seminar welcomes papers exploring Shakespeare’s representations of the environment: from Scottish heaths to Welsh mountains, from turbulent seas to fairy-haunted forests. Given the paucity of scenic design in the Renaissance playhouse, what literary and dramaturgical strategies does Shakespeare exploit to capture a sense of place or accommodate the drama of the more-than-human world? Has the modern, indoor, and electrified Shakespearean stage become too tame? If so, how might it be rewilded? Papers addressing site-specific adaptations of Shakespeare, reskinnings that speak to environmental concerns past and present, or relocations which chart intersections of the local and global are also warmly welcomed.

2. Re-locating Shakespeare in 21st-century India

Convenors: Dr Thea Buckley (Queen’s University Belfast) and Dr Rosa García-Periago (University of Murcia)

Format: *ONLINE*

This seminar invites contributions that pay attention to the ways Shakespeare’s cultural clout has been appropriated, re-located and perpetuated in 21st-century India. It aims to understand how and why Shakespeare’s plays transitioned from symbolising British cultural dominance to inspiring a new generation of contemporary Indian artists and filmmakers. Re-locating Shakespeare in multiple languages, cinematic adaptations by national-award-winning directors Vishal Bhardwaj (Maqbool, 2002; Omkara, 2006; Haider, 2014), Jayaraj (Kaliyattam, 1997; Kannaki, 2001; and Veeram, 2016); Aparna Sen’s (Arshinagar, 2015) or Abhaya Simha (Paddayi, 2018) have certainly contributed to the national and international dissemination of India’s Shakespeare.

Digital-performance re-locations occur when television programmes such as Felicity Kendal’s “Indian Shakespeare Quest” (BBC, 2012) record kathakali performer Arjun Raina, featured here as Othello, confirming what he terms India’s lasting Shakespearean love-hate affair. Documentaries of local-language Shakespearean performance adaptations in Indian prisons, such as in Mysore or Kolkata (see Cavanagh, Shakespeare Survey 71), highlight the playwright’s hybrid national status today. Other productions feature re-locations of perspective and character via queer and alternative Shakespeares, such as the Tara Arts Macbeth (Jatinder Verma, 2015), documented by Sita Thomas (YouTube). On the whole, this seminar aims to draw attention to how Shakespeare’s cultural influence in the 21st century has been reinvented by India across local and diasporic communities for audiences at home and beyond.

Possible topics may include:

  • Adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays on the Indian screen
  • Performances of Shakespearean plays for Indian arts
  • Indian-language translations of Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare in Indian prisons
  • Shakespeare in Indian classrooms
  • Documentaries of Indian Shakespeare
  • Visual, musical and other interpretations of Shakespeare with Indian themes

3. Women Reading, Editing, and Adapting Shakespeare

Convenor: Dr Koel Chatterjee (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance and Music, UK)

Format: In-person

Shakespeare has always had a significant presence in contemporary fiction with a wide and varied audience across genres as far ranging as young adult romance, historical fiction, biofiction, dystopic fiction, urban fantasy, horror, and detective fiction. In all these genres, there is a growing body of novelised Shakespeare by female writers, as well as novels which are written from the perspective of Shakespeare’s female characters, particularly in historical and young adult genres. There is also a growing body of research on Shakespeare’s ‘Lady Editors’: Molly Yarn identifies more than 60 women who have contributed to the history of the Bard’s works which indicates the existence of an alternative version of Shakespearean editorial history. [1] This seminar seeks to revisit the relocation of Shakespeare plays into fiction to be read rather than watched, with a particular focus on female adapters, adaptations focused on the perspective of female characters, and the work of female editors and investigate how women reading Shakespeare offers insights into analysing and editing Shakespeare for our present times.

[1] Yarn, Molly G. Shakespeare’s ‘Lady Editors’: A New History of the Shakespearean Text. Cambridge University Press, 2021.

4. Re-locating the Early Modern Body: Processes, Porousness, Excretions

Convenors: Dr Anjna Chouhan (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust) and Prof. Pete Smith (Nottingham Trent University)

Format: In-person

Recent work in Early Modern studies aims to relocate critical attention to material cultures, for example Catherine Richardson and Tara Hamling’s project on ‘The Cultural Lives of the Middling Sort’. But in spite of this new focus on lived experience, there remains a taboo surrounding the representations of bodily processes / hygiene / sewage etc. The tired orthodoxy of the equivalence between human and the elemental – microcosm / macrocosm – might actually conceptualise an epistemological continuity between Man and the Natural World (Thomas, 1983) but, again, only by euphemising the actualities of households situated in an agrarian age without running water, antiseptic or anaesthetic. Shakespeare is bracingly unembarrassed by such actualities – Falstaff’s sweating bulk, Caliban’s fishy smell, Cloten’s BO, Gloucester’s eyes, Lavinia’s severed tongue, Edmund and Portia’s self-harming – all figure stage centre as theatricalised instances of bodily failure, destruction or damage. This seminar calls for contributions which attempt to re-locate the critical focus on the literary representations of bodies and bodily processes as they appear in the work of Shakespeare and his contemporary writers.

Questions asked might include:

  • What is the difference between the humours as represented in Shakespeare and his contemporaries (poets or playwrights)?
  • How does Shakespeare represent non-normative physicality – Richard III, Caliban – and mental breakdown – Ophelia, Constance, Lady Macbeth, Lear?
  • How does Shakespeare engage with voluntary / involuntary bodily processes / physical functionality?
  • What are attitudes to bodily discharge – sweat, blood, waste? Are these evidenced in material culture?
  • How might such ‘taboo’ topics be approached in classrooms and performances?

5. “Local Habitation” and Climate Shift in Shakespeare’s Age

Convenors: Dr Darryl Chalk (University of Southern Queensland) and Prof. Laurie Johnson (University of Southern Queensland)

Format: In-person

Theseus observes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream that the poet’s pen “gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name” (5.1.13, 15-16) and mockingly concludes, “How easy is a bush supposed a bear!” (21). Yet with these words, Shakespeare cues for early modern ears a well-known premise that the “air” was rich with spirits, substances, and vapours. Thus, rather than conjuring something from nothing, poets and players worked with and upon the very stuff of life. The affective charge of the stage was heightened for audiences who believed that the air itself was transformed by the playhouse experience. To what extent, however, were the early moderns mindful of the air’s transformations during an era in which Europe experienced the “Little Ice Age”? Might folklore, humoral, magical, preternatural, or supernatural thinking have cued awareness of broad-scale shifts documented by climate historians and scientists? In what ways did floods, storms, earthquakes, and other cataclysmic events or unexplained phenomena impact the representation of environment and “local habitation” in the drama and literature of Shakespeare and his contemporaries? Did drama and literature inform local adaptations through which people coped with their changing world? This seminar invites papers of no more than 3,000 words (works-in-progress are encouraged) engaged with the dramatic or literary constructions of “local habitation” in response to perceived climate shift in Shakespeare’s age.

6. “To sleep, perchance to dream”: Dreamscapes in Shakespearean Plays and Adaptations

Convenors: Dr Charlène Cruxent (University Grenoble Alpes) and Dr Nora Galland (University Côte d’Azur, Nice)

Format: In-person

After falling asleep, a whole new world awaits. Sleep enables dreamers to get access to an imaginary location usually set up by their own mind more or less consciously. The oneiric world is intrinsically liminal; it is a threshold between fantasy and reality, as Demetrius argues in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Are you sure That we are awake? It seems to me That yet we sleep, we dream” (4.1). Indeed, this imaginary location can be accessed either when we dream our night away or when we daydream. In Richard III, Ratcliffe also hints at this characteristic of dreams by reminding Richard that what happens in a dream is not real: “Be not afraid of shadows” (5.3).

Dreaming can be a wonderful experience as it is the case for Caliban who does not want his dream to stop: “In dreaming,/ The clouds methought would open, and show riches/ Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,/ I cried to dream” (The Tempest, 3.2). However, it may also prove a nightmare, something that terrifies the dreamers and makes them feel imprisoned.

In Richard III, Clarence admits to the keeper of the tower that he had a dreadful night: “I have passed a miserable night,/ So full of fearful dreams, of ugly sights” (1.4). In this play, the dream gives expression to the guilty conscience, as the ghost of Buckingham implies when he tells Richard, as if to punish him: “Dream on, dream on” (5.3). In King John, Philip the Bastard tells John about “people strangely fantasied; Possessed with rumours, full of idle dreams, Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear” (4.2).

Dreamers have the possibility to share their dreams with others by telling the story behind it and interpret it: “And by the way let us recount our dreams” (4.1), asks Demetrius to his friends in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dreaming may thus be connected to story-telling and to the very nature of drama – “such stuff/ As dreams are made on” (4.1).

This seminar invites contributions on Shakespeare’s plays that include (but are in no way restricted to) the following topics:

  • Representations and metaphors of dream and sleep
  • Dreams and the mapping of desire (idealization)
  • Space and place: the geographical construction of dreams (ecocritical approach)
  • Fantasy and Imagination
  • The (un-)conscious
  • The liminality of dreams (reality/fiction, daydreaming, somnambulism)
  • The memory of dreams
  • Relation between dream and night time
  • Dreams and nightmares (creatures of the night)
  • Dreams and the supernatural
  • Dreams and premonitions/omens/visions
  • Dreams and morality/ethics
  • Dreams on stage and on film
  • Dreams in the visual arts
  • Adaptations and appropriations of dream sequences

7. Madness, Motion, and the Relocating Mind in Early Modern Drama

Convenors: Prof. Bridget Escolme and Dr Avi Mendelson

Format: In-person

Madness and mental illness are frequently described as a mind relocated. Extreme emotions – from the Latin e-movere or “to be moved somewhere else” – could provoke medical diagnosis and, in early modern England, even a trip to Bethlem (“bedlam”) hospital. Other terms surrounding psychic alterity also suggest either changing locations or an assault on stillness: unstable, distracted (from dis-trahere or “to draw away”), tripping, and ecstatic (from ek-stasis or “to move outside one’s self”). Mental disease, it would seem, is a mind transported to the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shakespeare’s works reveal an interest in madness and the mind in motion – and not only in his popular tragedies (Hamlet and King Lear) and mainstream comedies (The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew); his fringe plays (Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens) are also enthralled by the experience of mental peregrination. Other plays from the period – The Duchess of Malfi, The Changeling, and The Honest Whore, Part 1 – feature wild bedlamites whose vagrant minds won’t sit still. This seminar, accordingly, seeks vibrant new work on any aspect of madness and mental health in early modern drama.

Some (not all) subtopics we’ve been considering: links between physical relocation (travelling, wandering, and vagabondage) and mental relocation; loci of madness (hospitals, prisons, brothels, and theatres); intersections of madness and race, gender, sexuality, social class, nationality, and disability; madness’ relationship to other mental transport (dreaming, intoxication, ecstasy, error, confusion, and desire); and pedagogical approaches to madness and mental health in drama.

8. Relocating Shakespeare and Redefining Fidelity in Appropriation

Convenors: Dr Valerie M. Fazel (Arizona State University) and Prof. Louise Geddes (Adelphi University)

Format: In-person

This seminar aims to answer Christy Desmet’s call to rethink appropriation as a dialogic practice. The central questions that drive the seminar ask what it would mean to relocate Shakespeare back, placing him back at the centre of the appropriative process, and rethinking how the relationship between Shakespeare and his appropriators are defined. Led by theories such as the rhizome, appropriation studies has long discarded theories of fidelity, and yet, the most common critical approaches look outwards from Shakespeare, asking how we might read a new work under the influence of its source. More recent work, such as Rob Conkie’s theory of aftershocks instead extends an invitation to think about how artists and audiences alike use appropriation to return to Shakespeare. How might, for example, an appropriation invite a reconsideration or entirely new reading of a Shakespeare play? How might we talk about fidelity when Shakespeare’s unstable origins challenge the basic assumptions made about what an appropriation is faithful to? How might appropriation act as a process that reorients its audience to a new source that we define as Shakespeare? Alternatively, how might appropriation be deployed as a strategy to decolonize Shakespeare – or reaffirm his position in a white supremacy? This seminar, then, explores how we use appropriations to inform our understanding of Shakespeare at the center of a reading praxis and examines how artists and critics build our understanding of what Shakespeare is through the ancillary texts that respond to him.

9. Shakespeare in the Audio World

Convenors: Dr Ronan Hatfull (University of Warwick and NYU London) and Dr Andrea Smith (University of Suffolk, UK)

Format: In-person

In the centenary year of the first Shakespeare play on radio, this seminar will examine how Shakespeare’s plays have been relocated within the audio world. This relocation can use a range of techniques, from the simple addition of music and effects to more complicated electro-acoustical manipulation, fading and mixing, stereo and surround sound and even silence. In doing so, productions can relocate these plays to new times, places and people, mainly through their use of sound. This not only takes place in audio-only productions, but sound frequently plays a key part in theatre and film interpretations. Shakespeare’s plays have also been relocated through radio and podcasts in other ways, including reinterpretation, prequel and parody.

The organisers of this seminar welcome papers on any aspect of audio Shakespeare, including but not restricted to: audio recordings, radio broadcasts, podcasts, music used in productions, sound effects, songs, opera. Papers on the use of audio Shakespeare in the classroom are also welcome. The papers must have a primary focus on the sound of these productions and adaptations or the sound elements within them.

10. Difficult Drama?: Relocating Shakespeare and his Contemporaries to the Classroom

Convenors: Dr Jennifer Rae McDermott (John Abbott College) and Mathieu D.S. Bouchard (John Abbott College)

Format: *ONLINE*

Shakespeare and his contemporaries can have a disorienting effect on students of all ages. The temporal, spatial, and social locations of original performance might, at first, seem distant from the worlds that our students inhabit. Undoubtedly our recent global experience of living through the pandemic reaffirms our connection to Shakespeare’s age by returning to plague masks, collective grief, and closed theatre-spaces. Yet, to make Shakespeare and his contemporaries accessible to students, educators must find innovative ways of relocating Shakespeare to the modern-day classroom. This online pedagogy seminar invites short papers (2- 3 pages) that examine specific examples of difficulties that students encounter when studying Shakespeare: confusing scenes; challenging topics; maddening characters; baffling textual cruxes; opaque language; nonsensical stage business; etc. Papers might reflect on successful (or unsuccessful) classroom activities designed to help students better understand the issues, cruxes, scenes, and characters in question, or they might offer examples of assignments or secondary readings that have allowed students to reflect on difficult passages in early modern texts. In the hopes of fostering dialogue across educational levels and of helping all educators better understand the larger context of their pedagogy, the seminar is particularly eager to accept papers from teachers working in a variety of institutions and educational settings, including primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, community colleges, universities, libraries, community organizations, or anywhere else where Shakespeare and his contemporaries are taught.

11. Who Owns Shakespeare?: Casting, Discrimination and the Performance of Location

Convenor: Dr Jami Rogers (University of Warwick)

Format: In-person

The production setting plays an important part in the casting process in contemporary Shakespeare, providing the audience and actors with a context for the plays in performance. The production setting has also been one of the primary tools directors have used to cast non-traditionally with recent examples being the 2012 productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Julius Caesar at the RSC with their all-Asian and all-African-Caribbean casts and Justin Audibert’s gender-flipped The Taming of the Shrew, also at the RSC. This seminar seeks to explore how locations provide opportunities for marginalized groups, including and not limited to women, people of colour, class, accent (Liverpool, Yorkshire, Scottish, Welsh), to perform in Shakespeare’s plays, groups that continue to be under-represented in the industry. The seminar seeks to interrogate how these location settings both perpetuate stereotypes and challenge discrimination in performance. Papers can be on any aspect of the location setting and casting, seeking to answer the question about who owns Shakespeare? How do directors, actors, and other personnel engage with inclusive casting and does the production setting help or hinder equity in twenty-first century Shakespeare?

12. Shakespeare, Here, Now: Locating ‘Relevance’ in Early Modern Drama

Convenors: Dr Beth Sharrock (Coventry University) and Dr Ella Hawkins (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham)

Format: In-person

“Even now, now, very now” (Othello I.i). Over the past four centuries, the issue of Shakespeare’s ongoing relevance has been subject to extensive debate. The playwright’s works are continually reframed by theatre and film practitioners, educators, artists, and politicians as direct reflections of contemporary events.

This seminar seeks to investigate how the works of Shakespeare and early modern dramatists have, historically and today, been located in the present moment. We invite contributions that explore and interrogate claims of Shakespearean relevance, and the relevance of early modern dramatists across time and in different media (including, for example, performance, print, stage and costume design, pedagogy, and adaptation). The seminar welcomes 2,000-word papers or creative responses which consider questions such as:

  • What is the role of relevance and temporality in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries?
  • What claims of relevance and topicality have been made surrounding Shakespeare’s works, and are still being made today?
  • What are the mechanisms by which Shakespeare’s relevance to particular historical moments has been cultivated and constructed?
  • How is Shakespeare’s relevance constructed along temporal, geographical, and cultural lines?
  • How might relevance contribute to circulations of Shakespeare’s contemporary cultural value?
  • And what impact might claims of relevance have on the works themselves, as well as the contemporary events they are made to speak to?

13. Shakespeare and Banishment

Convenor: Dr Alex Thom (University of Birmingham)

Format: In-person

In Shakespeare’s drama, as James Joyce once wrote, “the note of banishment, banishment from the heart, banishment from home, sounds uninterruptedly.” This seminar invites papers on the topic of Shakespeare and banishment, broadly conceived. Papers might assay, but are not limited to:

  • Comparative readings of banishment, e.g. across Shakespeare’s career, across sources, across his contemporaries, etc.
  • Receptions and adaptations of Shakespeare’s banishment plots
  • The intellectual contexts of banishment, e.g. banishment in legal traditions (common, canon, or civil); in religious discourses (Catholic, Anglican, Protestant); in philosophical works (Aristotelianism, Stoicism, neo-Platonic), etc.
  • Close readings of banishment, as experiences, in Shakespeare’s plays or poetry
  • The use of Shakespeare passages – e.g. Sir Thomas More – within modern discourses of displacement
  • Reading Shakespeare in light of postcolonial scholarship on displacement and diasporas
  • Staging banishments, or the dramaturgies of expulsion, from Shakespeare’s time to now.


1. “Bring me the map”: Shakespeare and the Cartographic Imagination

Workshop Facilitator: Dr Sharon Emmerichs (University of Alaska, Anchorage)

Format: In-person

This workshop aims to examine the figuration of maps in Shakespeare, both as physical objects and representations of cultural concepts within his plays. From using a globe to perform a blazon of a woman’s body in A Comedy of Errors (“I could find out / Countries in her”), to King Lear’s use of a map to problematically divide his kingdom between his three daughters, to Maria’s description of Malvolio’s face as “the new map with the / augmentation of the Indies” in Twelfth Night (probably referring to Edward Wright’s map “A Chart of the World on Mercator’s Projection”), Shakespeare uses maps and cartography to emphasize cultural ideas of place, space, and (re)location throughout his comedies, tragedies, and histories. This workshop will examine his plays in conjunction with early modern maps to foment discussion about how Shakespeare uses maps as objects, representations, and figurations in his works, and how these examinations can help us better understand early modern culture.

I’m planning to have interactive exercises with the workshop participants in which we examine early modern maps (I will provide facsimiles/images) and cartographic literacy, working with maps as “storytellers” of cultural desires, anxieties, propaganda, etc., and then finding those cultural markers within Shakespeare’s plays. Ultimately, we will see how the early modern public’s understanding of cartographic imagination intersects with the literary and performative culture of England, and how the expression of (re)location using maps in Shakespeare helps define English identity itself.

2. Adapting Shakespeare: How the Macro Affects the Micro, and Vice Versa

Facilitator: Dr Lucy Eyre (Edith Cowan University)

Format: In-person

Using examples from my adaptations of Othello and The Merchant of Venice this workshop will examine how Shakespeare’s plays can be adapted at a macro and micro level. The modern-day production of Othello in 2014 was set in a compound of a fictional international security company; and the 2019 production of The Merchant of Venice at the New Fortune Theatre, University of Western Australia was set in 1938 fascist Italy, as sweeping laws were introduced that had implications across minority groups. The question of intention will be discussed in relation to reinterpretation and reimagining of Shakespeare’s texts, and interpolation of sounds, images, songs, dance, and stage business into productions. In particular, purposeful adaptations that highlight diversity, or have feminist or postcolonial agendas will be explored. 

Theoretical and practical exercises will inspire participants to scrutinise and visualise Shakespeare’s plays within various contexts, such as: settings, historical periods, and/or social and political circumstances. Sections of the texts will be analysed to encourage participants to embrace the clues already provided by Shakespeare, and to look beyond the text to the real implications of adaptation when choices resonate throughout the play in production for characters, audiences, and society.

Researchers, playwrights, directors, and performers are invited to use this workshop to develop their own ideas for adapting Shakespeare’s plays, or to uncover possibilities of practice-based and practice-led research. The workshop will culminate in participants applying methods to other Shakespeare texts they may want to adapt, or in extending ideas already explored in the workshop.

3. How can we decolonise the teaching of Shakespeare?

Facilitator: Tania Roxborogh (Massey University)

Format: In-person

When the missionaries first came to Aotearoa in the early 1800s, they brought two books: the King James Bible and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. These texts were used to ‘educate’ Māori – to teach them to read and write in English and to ‘become British’. For the next 140 years, the indigenous peoples’ language and wisdom was stripped from communities causing all manner of social issues, not the least poor education outcomes for Māori. Shakespeare was used as a tool to suppress and eliminate the Māori world seen by all outside the classroom. My research investigates ways that educators can bring the world and works of Shakespeare into the indigenous space without colonising the established and valued knowledge of tangata whenua (people of the land). How can we re-locate the thinking and wisdom of Shakespeare to a foreign land without trampling on the mana (the honour/respect) of indigenous people who are striving to reclaim the value of their own stories?

This workshop will focus on effective strategies teachers can use in their own classrooms, regardless of where they are in the world, that allows their students to make connections with Shakespeare to their own cultures, thus uplifting the mana and value of both – bringing the dislocated worlds together.

4. Teach-Meet

Facilitator: Chris Green (The Perse School)

Format: In-person

This teach-meet is aimed primarily at high school teachers and anyone with an interest in pedagogy and teaching. Participants will be invited to give very brief (c.5 min) presentations on any topic pertaining to teaching, curriculum, or pedagogy, followed by discussion.

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