I leant something interesting at the Shakespeare Symposium at the University of Melbourne, where we heard lectures from Dr Sarah Olive from the University of York; and from the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham: Dr Erin Sullivan, Professor John Jowlett and Dr Will Sharpe.
Whereas nowadays aspiring writers study at a college or university, in Shakespeare’s time new writers learned their craft from experienced writers, through collaboration.
This has had an impact on the questions about Shakespeare’s authorial validity. Collaboration may have characterised all of his early works, I heard. Sometimes there were acts of revision rather than collaboration, as the apprentice was asked to complete an unfinished work by another author. There would have been collaborations at the other end of Shakespeare’s writing, too, as he took on his own apprentice.
“We can only imaginatively reconstruct Shakespeare’s authorialship, rather than be certain,” said Dr. Will Sharpe.
There has been a lot of scholarly discussion about this over the years. How can we tell, 400 years after the Bard’s death?
Many have studied the style of the writing – sometimes clues may be found in the choice of the feminine or masculine form of a word (shown by the addition of an ‘e’, if in the feminine).
Dr Erin Sullivan spoke about using the social media to present Shakespeare’s work in an exciting new format (Such Tweet Sorrow, a Twitter performance over five weeks) that had people tweeting and interacting with characters throughout the festival. http://wearemudlark.com/projects/such-tweet-sorrow/
“Theatre, as an art form, has been slow to explore the internet’s virtual stage.”
– Dr Erin Sullivan
What do you think online theatre might look like?
Dr Sarah Olive discussed defining the BBC Shakespeare Unlocked in festival terms, especially given the accessibility offered by the online platform (Google +). The definition of a festival is being rewritten to reflect the possibilities of contemporary times.
“Twitter’s search engine makes it easy to participate in festivals.”
– Dr Sarah Olive
#HollowCrown, #ShakepeareUnlocked, #ShakespeareSeason.
Professor John Jowlett introduced The New OXford Shakespeare, highlighting the features of the new versions, before the book’s launch, where a toast was made and cake in the shape of the Globe Theatre was cut.
“The role of the editor is to eliminate textural variance.”
– Professor John Jowlett
This would have been a mammoth task, I think, as there would be many versions that were not authorial, with theatre alterations and transcriptions, as the writing was honed for performance. At the time, the writing was the tool for the performance, a necessary step in the delivery of the story.
The book will be available in print and soft copy and more supplementary volumes will be released; and editions of alternative versions are planned.