The Irish take on Shakespeare

From the campus to the Peacock, all the world’s a stage for lecture series on the Bard

Shakespeare was viewed as a mascot for cultural imperialism in early twentieth-century Ireland, and the official celebrations and firework displays seen in other European countries are absent here, but the visit by President Michael D Higgins to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, did coincide with the celebrations. Photograph: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

Shakespeare was viewed as a mascot for cultural imperialism in early twentieth-century Ireland, and the official celebrations and firework displays seen in other European countries are absent here, but the visit by President Michael D Higgins to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, did coincide with the celebrations. Photograph: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

Fri, May 23, 2014, 14:06

With 2014 marking the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, a series of lectures on the Bard by UCD and the Abbey has proved popular this year. Two lectures by Shakespearean experts have already taken place and a third with director Selina Cartmell finishes the series at the Peacock on May 30th.

Prof Michael Dobson from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon got the series under way in UCD in early May, discussing Shakespeare, Amateur Performance and Civic Identity in Britain and Ireland. Praising Wayne Jordan’s production of Twelfth Night, which finishes its run at the Abbey on May 24th, Prof Dobson deemed it an “excellent tribute” to the Bard and his birthday celebrations.

Covering interesting issues such as how Shakespeare was viewed as a mascot for cultural imperialism in early twentieth-century Ireland, Prof Dobson also commented on the global celebrations for the anniversary, noting that Ireland lacked the official celebrations and firework displays seen in other European countries. The visit of President Michael D Higgins to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, did, however, coincide with the celebrations and the selected scenes the Royal Shakespeare Company performed for him were discussed at the lecture.

Case studies of amateur Shakespearean performance in 19th-century Kilkenny and 20th-century northern England were also explored. Focussing on the “little theatres” proliferating across Europe around this time, Prof Dobson spoke of Shakespeare as a key figure for creating and sustaining civic community.

Shakespeare: ’the chap that writes like Synge’ was the second lecture in the series, given by UCD’s Prof Anthony Roche and charting the literary history between Shakespeare, Synge, Yeats and Joyce. Using Synge’s notebooks, which are held at the library in Trinity College, Prof Roche argued that Shakespeare was a key influence on Synge’s own theory of drama. Parallels were drawn between Hamlet and The Playboy of the Western World, with the former cited as a “neglected intertext” of the latter. Examples of Joyce engaging with Shakespeare through Synge were also given, with Synge deemed an important figure for understanding language and place in the works of the Bard.

The annual public lecture series concludes with a talk by Cartmell at the end of the month. The director will be joined by Andrea Ainsworth, voice director at the Abbey, for Visceral and Fearless: Staging and Speaking Shakespeare. It is a free but ticketed event and can be booked through ucd.ie/alumni/events, or abbeytheatre.ie.

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