Cobbe portrait, claimed to be a portrait of William Shakespeare done while he was alive, 1610, unknown artist (Hatchlands Park, surrey, England)
For more than 400 years, Shakespeare’s plays have been part of our lives: quoted in the taverns of 16th-century London, sparking the theatre riots of 19th-century New York City, performed in the American Wild West, and filling stages and screens across the globe today. Shakespeare created worlds out of words that inform and shape our language and our culture. His histories, tragedies, and comedies capture the human condition, explore what it means to love and to hate, and display the humorous and the absurd sides of life.
Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger goes “inside Shakespeare” to examine the playwright and his plays through discussion, examination of language, and clips of productions. This program is equally suited for those who seek an introduction to Shakespeare and his works and for fans who wish to deepen their appreciation and enjoyment of the Bard.
9:30–10:45 a.m. What Makes Shakespeare “Shakespeare”?
What is it about Shakespeare that grabs our attention and won’t let it go? How did Shakespeare, a glove-maker’s son with limited education, create plays that still engage us today? Why do his plays stand out from those of his contemporaries and other playwrights through the centuries? The actor, playwright, and shareholder in the Globe Theater was a product of his time, but he created characters and plays that are timeless.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Histories: “All is true”?
Shakespeare was not a historian. Instead, he used history to ask questions that reflect the concerns of his time (and our own): What is power? Who will gain power, and what will they do with it? Shakespeare creates portraits of great leaders such as Henry V, and poor ones like Richard II, with such resonance that his works are included in modern military training. His plays color the way we see such figures as Richard III, raising questions about the place of story in history.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30– 2:45 p.m. The Tragedies: “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?”
Writing during a time of ongoing religious upheaval, Shakespeare explored life and death through his tragedies. He had characters die center stage to examine the meaning, implications, and permanence of death. Told with chills and thrills, witches and ghosts, and blood and gore, Shakespeare’s tragedies are some of the most popular plays of all time.
3–4:15 p.m. The Comedies: What “might well have made our sport a comedy?”
Shakespeare uses and challenges conventions of theatrical comedy to create magical worlds. His comedies celebrate life and love in ways that keep his audience on their toes. Plots often involve mistaken identities, disguises, and cross-dressing, and center on impossible relationships that somehow lead to a happy ending. But these comic works are also complicated, and question the promised happy ending in ways modern audiences understand
Lloyd Stanger is the former head of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
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