William Shakespeare is such a studied and celebrated writer that it might seem there could be nothing more to examine about his work. But scholars are still hard at it as Shakespeare’s 450th birthday approaches on April 23.
A University of Virginia professor, who is co-editor of “The Norton Shakespeare” anthology, recently penned a book that explores issues of property, inheritance and ownership in the Bard’s plays. Another U.Va. professor, a fight director and choreographer, teaches how to battle like a Shakespearian character.
Here’s what wisdom they and other faculty experts and students can offer on the Bard.
• Katharine Maus
Maus, the James Branch Cabell Professor of English and co-editor of several Norton anthologies including “The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition,” published a book last year, “Being and Having in Shakespeare,” about how Shakespeare explored issues surrounding property, inheritance and ownership in many of his plays.
“He live[d] in a society that distinguishes emphatically and in sophisticated ways between landed and chattel property, between the entitlements of daughters and the entitlements of sons, between what one owes to kin and what one owes to friends,” she writes in her book.
In other words, issues of property have as much to do with relationships as they do with ownership of land and other things.
• Colleen Kelly
Kelly, an associate professor and director of the drama department’s graduate acting program, specializes in stage combat. She has worked professionally as an actor, director, fight director and dance choreographer. Her work has been seen at professional theaters such as the American Shakespeare Center, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Old Globe Theatres and San Diego Repertory Theatre.
Kelly will give a talk, “Them’s Fight’n Words, or Shakespeare vs. the Sword,” as part of U.Va.’s BARD Fest, to be held April 23-26.
• Douglas Fordham
Fordham, an associate professor of art history, can address the growing popularity of representations of Shakespearian scenes in British art during the 18th and early 19th centuries. He will also give a talk at U.Va.’s BARD Fest.
• John Lyons
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John Lyons, Commonwealth Professor of French, studies French tragedy and the genre of “tragic stories” (histoires tragiques), one of which – by François Belleforest – contains the story of “Romeo and Juliette.”
“I am particularly interested in the horror that is included in tragedy (and which we moderns often understate). For me, ‘Romeo and Juliette’ is at least as much a horror story as a love story, because it concerns the fear of being buried alive and waking up in the tomb.” He, too, will speak at U.Va.’s BARD Fest.
• Anne Donnelly
Donnelly, a fourth-year undergraduate drama major, and two other students, Kate Tooley and Adam Santalla, have adapted and abbreviated four of Shakespeare’s comedies – “As You Like It,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – for performances on April 25 and 26, collectively called “All the Lawn’s a Stage,” referring to the area where the University of Virginia’s renowned Academical Village is located.
“Our goal is to get people talking about Shakespeare, by bringing his work right into the heart of the University: Thomas Jefferson’s Lawn,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly is the artistic director of U.Va.’s BARD Fest. Her job is to oversee all four productions, as well as the other events. She has worked on various aspects of the project since last summer, when she first approached a few of her peers about writing adaptations of some of Shakespeare’s plays. Now she is involved in rehearsals, applying for funding, working on publicity materials, getting the props and costumes, and generally overseeing all of the operations to make sure everything is going smoothly.
• Laura Elliott
Another student who can talk about U.Va.’s BARD Fest is co-producer Laura Elliott. A third-year undergraduate drama and economics major, she said she hopes the wide range of topics being discussed at one of the events, “Will Talks,” will attract students from all over the University.
“I think this will be a really cool opportunity to examine how Shakespeare has influenced so many different things. He’s not only relevant to drama or English majors,” she said.