Shakespeare Quartos in the Twenty-First Century: Texts and Performance

King's College London August 5, 2016 3:45 pm - 5:15 pm

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Jacquelyn Bessell (Guildford School of Acting, United Kingdom), Silvia Bigliazzi (Verona University, Italy), David Kathman (Independent Scholar, United States), Steven Urkowitz (City College of New York Emeritus, United States)

This seminar will consider Shakespeare’s so-called “bad quartos” from the complementary perspectives of textual scholarship and stagecraft. For most of the twentieth century, these texts were generally considered to be memorial reconstructions, and little thought was given to the idea of performing them, because they were considered irredeemably corrupt. Such theories are still widely accepted today, but their major tenets have been increasingly questioned. New work by book and theatre historians, and acceptance of the idea that Shakespeare revised his own work, have undercut key elements of the traditional narrative, and stage productions of “bad” quartos have highlighted their theatricality and stageworthiness. In this seminar, we invite participants to explore topics relating to Shakespeare’s “bad quartos”, with particular attention to textual and performance issues that can ideally question or complement each other. Textual questions could include the relative priority and dating of “bad” and “good” texts of the same play; rhetorical or stylometric comparisons; the theatrical provenance of “bad” texts, and the careers of stationers who printed or published them; and defenses of (or challenges to) the idea of memorial reconstruction. On the performance side, topics could include whether “good” and “bad” texts reveal different approaches to staging; the stage histories of particular “bad” texts, and what these histories can tell us about their theatrical potential; present-day stagings, including stage business and gestural expressiveness; and the role of new media in exploring the potential of “good” and “bad” texts.

Jacquelyn Bessell is a stage director and Head of Postgraduate Studies at the Guildford School of Acting. Her productions and publications use actor training methodologies to explore Shakespeare’s plays in performance. She is currently working on somatic approaches to memorisation and performance, Civic Shakespeare, and bilingual productions of Shakespeare’s plays.

Silvia Bigliazzi teaches English Literature at Verona University (Italy). Her publications include intrerart, performance, and translation studies on the Renaissance and the twentieth century, the theatrical function of narrative, and the role of soliloquies in different Q versions. She is currently working on Civic Shakespeare, Digital Shakespeare, and the Renaissance chorus.

David Kathman is an independent scholar in Chicago, Illinois. His scholarly publications have covered such topics as theatrical apprenticeship, playing venues of sixteenth century London, biographies of early modern English theatre people, and textual and attribution questions. He is working on a book about inn playing in Elizabethan London.

Steven Urkowitz, though retired, continues writing on authorial revision in Shakespeare’s multiple-text plays. He has directed medieval, Renaissance, and modern plays and vocal music performances, and he serves as a trustee of the American Shakespeare Center Blackfriars Theater in Staunton, Virginia.