Naseem Alotaibi (University of Liverpool) began Friday’s first student panel, Working with Texts. Her paper “Lewis Theobald and Accusations of Plagiarism: A Reconsideration of Shakespeare’s Involvement in Double Falsehood” asserted that scholars have not sufficiently investigated accusations of Lewis Theobald’s plagiarism. Some critics consider Double Falsehood to be the lost Shakespeare play Cardenio. However, Theobald frequently imitated Shakespeare’s writing and was accused of plagiarizing and falsifying multiple plays.
Scott Shephard (Royal Holloway, University of London) continued the discussion with his presentation “Q1 Hamlet at the National and the Globe Abstract”. Hamlet’s so-called “bad” first quarto, discovered in 1823, has gained some legitimacy in recent years. Since 2000, several theatre companies have used its cuts in performances. Shephard especially focused on Nicholas Hytner’s 2010 production at the National Theatre and Dominic Dromgoole’s 2011 production at the Globe. Both versions received reviews which seemed to have been based more on the performances (mostly positive for the National, less so for the Globe) than for their use of Q1.
Sara Marie Westh (The Shakespeare Institute) passed out hexaflexagons with the words “author,” “intent,” and “character” for her talk “‘Words, words, words’: The Author, his Characters and interpreting Intent”. She noted that we tend to ignore textual instabilities and search for authorial intent, including Shakespeare’s. Westh found this desire to be a natural attempt to connect with and understand another person, but it also distracts from character intentions. There is a difference between author and character, made all the more difficult to discern due to the fluidity of word and thought.
Next up: Music and Noise! Karen Harker (The Shakespeare Institute) introduced us to David Pountney’s 2001 radical production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth. This innovative adaptation of Verdi’s opera received negative reviews, but Harker elaborated on how the production’s color scheme highlighted the composer’s score. Green slime represented blood and was associated with Macbeth, while red was associated with witchcraft, madness, and Lady Macbeth. The way these colors were used showed the progression of the characters, their relationship, the music, and the presence of the supernatural.
Laura Wright’s (Yale University) paper “‘After so many hours, lives, speeches spent…’: making noise and doing nothing in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida” spoke about the copious amount of noise in Troilus and Cressida. The drums, fanfares, and verbose speeches have often annoyed audiences, but their sounds are the “white noise” of the war that hangs over the play. The cacophony jars viewers and suggests that its opposite, harmony, is elsewhere, always out of reach. Characters attempt to outshout one another and are deaf to each other’s meanings. Silence is often connected to tragedy and noise with comedy, and the play uses noise to bizarre and complex effects.
Jen Waghorn (The Shakespeare Institute) finished the panel with “‘Vaine disports of minstrelsie’: musical crimes and culprits in early modern England”. What exactly were musical crimes? Minstrels were frequently conflated with vagabonds, and musicians could be imprisoned for disturbing the peace, performing in the wrong time and place. Playing inappropriate or libellous songs was also a dangerous enterprise. As religious conservatism increased during the 17th century, musical crimes were increasingly reported and punished. Musical criminals were arrested, fined, physically abused, and, perhaps worst of all, forbidden from playing music ever again.
The final panel of the day covered Shakespeare and Social Media. Thea Buckley (The Shakespeare Institute) started with “To Be Schwarzenegger, Haider, Cumberbatch or You?: interactive Shakespeare and the evolution of Hamlet as hero(ine)”. Hamlet has become a mythical trope, repeatedly regenerated. He can be found in action films and various variations on his story. Interestingly, Hamlet’s inaction can be countered by Choose Your Own Adventure books and interactive computer games. Buckley also showed clips of the Indian film Haider, an adaptation of Hamlet set in 1995 during the Kashmir conflict.
Elizabeth Jeffrey’s (The Shakespeare Institute) piece “‘Get thee to a puggery!’: Shakespeare and Pop Culture” looked at several Shakespearean phenomenon: an upcoming production of pugs doing Hamlet and a performance of Romeo and Juliet told in the style of Dr. Seuss. Kevin Broccoli’s Pug-let was sponsored by a Kickstarter campaign and will be live-streamed. The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet and of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are examples of how recent years have seen the influence of the internet as well as increasingly “whimsical” adaptations of Shakespeare’s works.
Brittany LaPole (The Shakespeare Institute) finished the day of panels with her overview “Social Anxiety: The relationship between Social Media and Shakespearean Scholarship”. She observed how experimental productions often utilized the plays Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as we saw in Jeffrey’s talk. LaPole used Such Tweet Sorrow (the story of R&J live-tweeted) and Dream40, a highly interactive, mostly digital rendition of Dream. Occasionally there is an “us vs. them” mentality between those who embrace digital Shakespeare and those who reject it. However, by and large, the internet has produced an array of creative responses to Shakespeare, serving as a playground to fans who wish to respond to Shakespeare in original ways.
The day of textual conundrums, musical controversies, and digital Shakespeare concluded with a party at the pub Keys & Kitchen, complete with food, drinks, music, a garden patio, and cooperative weather.