SHINE: Shakespeare in Europe:

History and Memory
International Conference

Krakow, 17-20 November 2005

Organised by:
Institute of English Philology, Jagiellonian University
Polish Shakespeare Society
Institute of Modern Languages, Pedagogical University in Kraków
In cooperation with the British Council



Abstracts of papers:

Odette Blumenfeld: Strategies of Power: Richard II and Richard III on the Romanian Stage (Abstract)

The lecture will look into the reasons why in a country where plays and films dealing with important events from native history have achieved a certain popularity, stage directors and theatres have shown no special interest in Shakespeare’s chronicle plays with the notable exceptions of Richard II and Richard III or, of late, King John, i.e. of those plays from the two cycles well-known for having exploited the ‘theatrical’ possibilities of history and in which Shakespeare deepens characterization, thus providing actors with generous parts.
Secondly, relying on the dramatic reviews, on my own memories of a very young spectator and on interviews with older actors for the staging of the two plays before 1989, on video taped performances, interviews with direct orslike Mihai Manutiu and Alexandru Dabija, or actors like Marcel Iures and Oana Pelea for the more recent ones, our analysis will focus on some of these productions as sites for negotiation with and intervention into the Shakespearean texts. Undoubtedly, all these performances have shown an interest in the anatomy of personality, i.e. the psychological portraits of the protagonists. However, the recent ones, politically charged readings, have envisaged a world of cruel Realpolitik. Consequently, we shall examine the manner in which these productions have approached different strategies of power suggested by the Shakespearean texts and recontextualize them so that they could have an appeal to a Romanian spectator living in a period of transition at all levels of society, the anxieties informing them, the bitter conclusion they have reinforced, that politics is a game of deception, a point of view many Romanians still share.

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Clara Calvo : Victorian Shakespeare and Nineteenth-Century Spain (Abstract)

Between 1833 and 1868, England and Spain were under female rule  - or at least, both countries had a woman sitting on the throne. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) enjoyed a long reign (1830-1901) and died as ruling queen whereas Queen Isabel II (1830-1904) became Spain’s monarch at the age of three and wore the crown until the Spanish ‘Glorious’ Revolution (La Gloriosa) put an end to her reign (1833-1868). The year of the Spanish revolution saw an unusual interest in Shakespearean drama - new translations of Macbeth, Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet were published and the first Shakespearean comedy translated into Spanish, The Merchant of Venice, also found its way into the press. This outburst of Shakespearean translations indicates that 1868 brought on more than internal political change. From 1868 onwards, Shakespearean comedy gradually becomes known in Spain and an interest for editions of Shakespeare’s collected works, as opposed to individual plays, sprouts. This paper argues that 1868 is a turning point in the reception of Shakespeare in Spain and looks for some of the reasons behind this change in Victorian England and nineteenth-century Europe’s reception of Shakespeare.

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Manfred Draudt: Shakespeare´s vague memory of history (Abstract)

Shakespeare´s history plays used to be - and possibly still are - commonly regarded as a reliable source of information on English (medieval) history. The first Duke of Marlborough allegedly knew no history but what he had learned from them. Yet Shakespeare, according to Sir Philip Sidney´s definition, was a poet rather than a historian.
He does not turn history upside down, changing the basic outlines of what his audiences were familiar with, yet at the same time he does not feel tied to the details of historical events and figures but takes numerous liberties, as a comparison of his histories with their sources will show. The same principle can be observed in those of his tragedies which are closely affiliated with history such as King Lear, the outline of which can be traced back to Geoffrey of Monmouth´s Historia and Holinshed´s Chronicles. While recent criticism has focused on the political issues and implications of his plays, it is important to remember that Shakespeare´s re-structuring of historical material reflects his artistic creativeness as he juxtaposes main plots and sub-plots through parallels and contrasts, designs foils or antagonists for his protagonists and shapes historical figures into familiar or recognizable stage types. Shakespeare always exploited the dramatic potential of his material and ultimately used history, its events and figures, for the creation of effective theatre.

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Andreas Höfele: “Retail’d to all posterity”: The case of Richard III (Abstract)

On its current website, the Richard III Foundation, Inc. [...] is respectfully requesting that the bones in the Tower, that are alleged to be the sons of Edward IV, be subjected to modern scientific examination and the treatment of DNA analysis. The examination of the bones will not only bring closure to their identity, but it will also bestow them with an appropriate and lasting place in the annals of history.
King Richard III, the reigning monarch from 1483-1485, has through the writings of Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare been vilified for over 515 years. It is imperative that we put to rest the resolution of one of England’s greatest historical mysteries. But, it is equally paramount that we provide justice for a man wrongly accused.
Such is the power of words that mere words won’t do to break their evil spell. Only the reading of bones, a method at once archaic and hypermodern, holds any promise of success in a struggle against the authority of collective memory, in which Richard Gloucester is permanently inscribed as the arch-villain. To all card-carrying Ricardians (as the defenders of the last Plantagenet king call themselves) the real villains are, of course, the two authors, More and Shakespeare, who have made him memorable.
Richard III is one of the handful of English monarchs ‘everyone’ knows. How was this knowledge generated, what does it consist of and how was it made available for reproduction? Addressing these questions, I will be looking at an instructive case of interaction between literature, history and memory.

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Ton Hoenselaars: The European History of Henry V (Abstract)

It has long been customary to consider Henry V  a play about specifically English or British concerns, with critics concentrating on the play’s practice of national self-glorification or on its representation of the price of glory. Over the centuries, however, the cult of memory which Henry V  effectively advances and which it has itself kept alive, has also generated a range of no less relevant national responses under different political, academic, theatrical, and cultural circumstances, both in the US and on the European continent. In my paper, I shall attempt to bring Henry V into focus as part of a European tradition that is relative to but also distinct from alternative English, British, or US traditions.

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Ruth Ledebur: Speak, Memory: The Relevance of Anniversary Celebrations in the History of the German Shakespeare Society (working title) (Abstract)

In nineteenth century Germany,  the jubilees for the classical poets Goethe and Schiller were understood to support the general striving for national unity and identity. The tercentenary celebrations for Shakespeare on 23 April 1864 followed the established pattern, Shakespeare already then being considered the third classical German poet after Goethe and Schiller. The jubilee was crowned by the foundation of the German Shakespeare Society in Weimar. Since then, this society’s annual meetings have been held in Weimar on Shakespeare’s birthday, and every 25 years (in 1889, 1914, 1939, and 1964) special anniversary festivities were arranged,serving a double purpose: in honouring its patron poet the Society, at the same time, confirmed and strengthened its own raison d’etre. In that the Shakespeare Society was considered a national institution, these festivities were imbedded in the political and cultural landscape, and, in their  own ways, reflected the general political and social upheavals and changes in Germany.
My paper inquires into the ways in which these anniversaries helped to refashion the specific image of Shakespeare as a part of the national memory and identity and, at the same time, stimulated and regulated the writing and re-writing of the history of the German Shakespeare Society. The paper is based on publications of the Shakespeare Society and on unpublished material from the archives of the Shakespeare Society which illustrate the preparations for these celebrations and the ongoing debates about them inside the Society.

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Jerzy Limon: The Memory of Architecture: New Thoughts on Reconstructing Old Theatres (Abstract)

The paper deals with Renato Rizzi’s unconventional approach to reconstructing a Renaissance theatre in Gdansk. Contrary to the tradition of creating pseudo-historical structures, Rizzi proposes  “a jewel in a casket”, i.e. a wooden delicate structure inserted into a solid stone and brick “box”, the external form of which creates fascinating relationships with the historic cityscape.

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Paola Pugliatti: The Art of War in Shakespeare and in European Renaissance Treatises (Abstract)

“Never lead your soldiers to battle unless you have fortified their spirit and unless you are assured that they are fearless and ready; never try them unless you see that they are sure of victory.” (Niccolò Machiavelli)
We do not know whether Shakespeare had a chance of reading Machiavelli’s The Art of War (1520), which was translated into English in 1560. Nevertheless, Machiavelli’s precept appears to be clear in the mind of Shakespeare’s Henry V, and his famous speech before engaging battle with the French at Agincourt is one of the most effective pieces of war strategy in the whole canon. It is not only Machiavelli’s work, however, that Shakespeare may have read, since his time saw the appearance of a copious production of war treatises in all European countries.
The paper discusses the ethics and the esthetics of warfare which was at the core of those treatises and the way in which, directly or indirectly, Shakespeare’s representation of war seems to have established a dialogue with those texts..

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James R. Siemon "Halting Modernity: Richard III's Preposterous Body and History" (abstract)

Approaches to Shakespeare’s Richard and his tragedy have often looked backward and emphasized inherited ‘Tudor’ form and content in play and protagonist. Elements derived from self-interested dynastic accounts, from hybrid morality plays with their embodied abstractions, and from The Mirror for Magistrates with its self-regulating, transhistorical social order obviously contribute to such accounts.  On the other hand, others have detected elements in Richard that look forward suggestively toward something resembling a half-realized representation of an individualized subject (Adelman), a machiavellian agent (Charnes), or a paradigmatic instance of middle-class resentments (Freud). 
This paper will attempt to set the play, its protagonist and especially his bodily hexis within more historically-defined contexts of heteroglot issues and concern, and especially to relate them to sixteenth-century social and religious conflicts, at large in Europe generally and also specific to England. While every English playgoer would ‘remember’ aspects of King Richard and his ‘history’ from chronicles and clichés, Shakespeare’s Richard is largely constructed from an immediately available lexicon shared by anti-papal, anti-Cecil, anti-puritan, and anti-episcopal polemic, while he also anticipates the satirical genres prominent in the decades that follow his first halting steps upon the early modern stage.

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Boika Sokolova: The Scottish Play, Yet Again! (Abstract)

Since its first publication in the 1623 Folio, Macbeth has fitted, more or less comfortably, into the genre realm of tragedy. Indeed, a tragedy with a dynastic Stuart appeal, but an appeal seen as relevant mostly to the moment of its production. Yet, the play’s foreign reception has consistently homed in on the violence of the history it portrays and has, across time, redefined its relevance as an anatomy of tyranny, detaching the kingdom of Scotland from its geographical place, diffusing it and floating it freely to distant spots on the globe. Thus, in one of its latest dramatic transmutations, Scotland has become Idi Amin’s Uganda, or any war zone in Africa.
My paper explores four productions of the Scottish play, seen on the London stage during the 2004/5 season, in which the great tragedy is, sometimes boldly, sometimes shame-facedly, rethought in terms of the violence of the modern world. The four productions under discussion are Andrew Hilton’s (Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol), Dominic Cooke’s (RSC), Max Stafford-Clark’s (Out of Joint) and John Caird’s (The Almeida).
It will try to suggest ways in which the power of evil lying at the heart of the play is brought closer to home by the stage. The apparent increase in the number of visible women and children in performance, the recurrence of endings associated with the tradition of the late 20th century, seems to be consistently used to encourage a more immediate recognition of a pattern of recurrent violence.
The discussion cannot but notice the recent resurgence of interest in Macbeth by the Scottish political establishment, expressed in a petition by 20 MPs to the Scottish Parliament, appealing for ‘an amnesty’ for the historic royal, and for clearing his memory from the bad press he has got by his association with Shakespeare. While Macbeth wades in the blood of the killing fields of Africa, Macbeth seems bound for a millennial celebration of the anniversary of his birth in 2005…we’ll see!

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short paper:
Michael Hattaway: "Shakespeare Remembered by his Jacobean Successors: Reflections on the Summer Programme at the Swan Theatre Stratford 2005" (Abstract)

My paper offers an extremely enthusiastic report on four of the productions that constituted the ‘Gunpowder Season’ this year at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford:  Thomas More [i.e. Sir Thomas More], Sejanus, A New Way to Please You [i.e. Middleton and Rowley’s The Old Law], and Believe What You Will [i.e. Massinger’s Believe as You List].   The company is using these plays to explore both unfamiliar parts of the late Elizabethan and Jacobean canon and also the condition of contemporary Britain – as it did in the 1960s.   It turns out that each of the plays is indebted to particular Shakespearean texts, taking forward political themes he explored in plays like 2 Henry VI, Julius Caesar, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, As You Like It, and Pericles.  New insights into types of dramatic construction, varieties of absolutism, the role of conscience, and the relationships between ‘philosophy’ and ‘policy’ emerge from the discussion.  

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The conference gets financial support from:

ACUME, the  European Thematic Network for Cultural Memory in European Countries
Institute of English Philology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Rector of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków



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Shakespeare in Europe
University of Basel, Switzerland

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last changes: November 2005