Richard Wilson: The Bard on Brexit

From The New European April 21-April 27 2017





Shakespeare scholar RICHARD WILSON says the Bard’s work is one long battle between Brexit and Remain. And his vision of ‘this sceptered isle’ is not necessarily what the Little Englanders would have you believe

Brexit Shaxedit

Shakespeare lovers love the spring, ‘the only pretty ring-time’, according to his best-loved song, when the Bard’s Birthday and St George’s Day fall boisterously together. But this April 23 there will be a louder ‘ding-a-ding ding’ than ever to the ‘hey-nonny-no’ in the ballad of the Brexiteers, who will be caroling how in ‘the present time’ their love of Will ‘is crownèd with the prime’ of the first spring of UK independence.

Already, the traditionalist quarterly This England has credited the joy that ‘The battle’s now won / Our day’s work is done,’ to the inspiration of Shakespeare’s poetry about ‘This sceptered isle’.

But in its next poetic breath this ‘unashamedly patriotic magazine for those who love our green and pleasant land’ is also resolved to ‘fight on’ under its Shakespearean banner: ‘Our enemy shall know fear / This battle cry to hear: / St George for England!Continue reading

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Michael Bogdanov

Kingston Shakespeare Seminar mourns the death of the inspirational theatre director Michael Bogdanov. He was a dynamic contributor to our programme and valiant friend of the Rose Theatre. The text of Michael’s stirring KiSS lecture, ‘The Readiness is All’, given on October 24 2013, is accessible on our website, and makes for timely reading.

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Michael Bogdanov: ‘The Readiness is All: Existential Shakespeare’

[This paper was given on October 24, 2013 as part of the series on Shakespeare and Philosophy]

Michael Bogdanov at KiSS 2
The Readiness Is All

Good evening. For the purposes of this lecture,  I am going to concern myself with six plays – Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IVth, more particularly the character of Hal/Henry Vth, Richard III, Macbeth and The Tempest.

The world of Shakespeare is one of a continual power struggle – the power of the imagination versus real-politik.  The pragmatic versus the creative.  Greed, avarice, war, aggression, slaughter in God’s name.  Richmond in Richard III – God give me strength  to kill as many of my enemies as possible. Macbeth – bathed in reeking wounds, memorizinig another Golgotha.   Bolingbroke’s dying advice to Hal – “Busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels”.  Get out there, son, and deflect the country’s attention away from the problems of unemployment, taxation, homelessness, with a “just” war, trumped up by the Church against the French.  Nearly six hundred years later Thatcher triumphed domestically the same way, the Archbishop blessing the troops at Plymouth as they left for the Falklands.  Richard III, the man who says, “This is what I’m going to do”, and does it.  Hamlet and Claudius, two men caught midway between the thought of action and the act itself. the one starting as man of action, the other finishing.  In the middle, meeting in indeterminate indecision.  Prospero, the man for whom it all happens in his head.  He may conceive of overturning the natural order, reversing the laws of the universe, plan revolutionary systems, humble and humiliate his enemies, but at the end of it all, he will wake up, get up from his café table, pay for his croissant and his coffee and wander off down the street, exactly the same as when he started.

Continue reading

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Tomorrow: Shakespeare and Hegel / Speaker biographies

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Yet tomorrow is also the Shakespeare and Hegel symposium!
To go or not to go:
That is the question..
For more information on the speakers
Look below..

Continue reading

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CFP: Karl Marx 200th anniversary – Shakespeare special issue

Call for Papers

For a special issue of Shakespeare: A Journal marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, we are inviting submissions of papers, related to the issue’s central topic of investigating Marx’s impact, in a broad sense, on Shakespeare studies, either by exemplifying it in your own way or by commenting directly on it. Reference to the situation in our contemporary world as part of the overall argument would be welcome as well. We are also looking for papers that investigate Shakespeare’s influence on Karl Marx and the development of his writings.

The proposed length for this is 6000 words, and the journal requires double-blind peer evaluation. We expect a strong issue.

Send abstracts or proposals by May 1, 2017 to and Final versions will be due at the end of summer 2017.

Karl Marx Sketch

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Chantal Schütz & Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise: “Early Modern Chalices and Inkpots: Materializing the Powers of Commixture” (KiSSiT WiP), March 30

Mosaic chalice inwellThe final KiSSiT Work-in-Progress session for this term is entitled “Early Modern Chalices and Inkpots: Materializing the Powers of Commixture” and features Chantal Schütz (École Polytechnique) and Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3). We convene at the Gallery of the Rose Theatre, Kingston on March 30, 2017 starting at 6.30pm. This event is free and open to everyone!

Chantal Schütz : “The smell of the inkhorn”

Since the use of Pen, Ink, and Paper, or Parchment, the Inkhorn hath not been uninvented: and that the first making of them was of Horn, is evident from its name; for let it be for Gallantry, made of Gold, Silver, Pewter, Lead, or Tin; yet it is but an Inkhorn (Randle Holme  Academy of Armory, 1688)

The inkwell (or standish) and its associated implements remind us that early modern writing was seeped in intensely material concerns: the quality of the pen and ink, the reliability of the container, the smell of the inkhorn. That it became an object of beauty to be treasured by its owners is testament to a shift from mostly professional applications to uses that were both more private and more socially diverse.

This paper discusses the use of the term as well as the object in Early Modern texts and visual representations and explores some of its symbolic associations.

Chantal Schütz, associate professor of English at the École Polytechnique, Head of the English and  Deputy-Head of Languages and Communication. Ph.D. supervised by François Laroque, on Thomas Middleton’s A Mad World, my Masters. Bilingual edition of the play published by Garnier in 2013. Financial officer of the French Shakespeare Society. Was a Leverhulme scholar at Reading University seconded to the Globe 1996-2000.

Recent work includes papers on Shakespeare and music; Middleton’s Black Book, A Mad World, my Masters, Microcynicon; Shakespeare and opera; Shakespeare in performance at the Globe.

Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise: “The Cup of Alteration”

In this paper, I look at the material history of chalices and communion cups in early modern England as well as the significance of drinking rituals and the implications of literary appropriations or transformations of the physical object. I explore cups as a privileged site of “commixture” and “alteration,” in a variety of senses. Not only does the changing material aspect of recycled chalices mirror and materialize the broader history of the English Reformation but it also offers an epistemological metaphor that sheds light upon the value and function of early modern poetry and drama.

Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise is Associate Professor of Early Modern English Literature and Cultural History at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3. She has published a monograph on George Herbert’s poetry, Le Verbe fait image (i.e. The Word Made Image, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle 2010), and has worked extensively on religious poetry. She is completing a book project on “The Objects of the Early Modern Lyric,” which includes a chapter on Shakespeare’s sonnets. She is currently launching a new collaborative project for the Institut Universitaire de France on “Material Europe” in the early modern period that is geared at re-writing the history of the “Republic of Letters” through a “Republic of Things”.

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Richard Wilson on Cardenio at the RSS

The History of Cardenio

Richmond Shakespeare Society at the Mary Wallace Theatre, March 18 2017

Shakespeare and Cervantes both died on April 23 1616, and Borges was not the only other writer to fantasize that the dramatist and novelist were one and the same person… So, the scholar Gary Taylor has had the madcap conceit of reuniting the surviving bits of Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio with Cervantes’s tale of Don Quixote, from which its plot is lifted. Putting the demented Knight of the Doleful Countenance into the play, as an academic driven bonkers by his theories, makes complete sense of its love-mad hero, and highlights the similarities with the stories of Falstaff, Hotspur, Hamlet and King Lear. In the manic new production by the Richmond Shakespeare Society, directed by Gerald Baker, this beguiling flight of fancy becomes a truly Quixotic extravaganza, where the performers are themselves so touched by their lunatic adventures that Cardenio can be indulged in his frenzy, the Don can be forgiven his delusion, and even Taylor’s scholarly hallucination can be humoured.

Richard Wilson
Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies
Kingston University

Gerald Baker and Gary Taylor

Gerald Baker and Gary Taylor at the Mary Wallace Theatre. Taken by Richard Wilson at the opening night of The History of Cardenio, a Richmond Shakespeare Society production of Gary Taylor’s reconstruction of the 1612 play by Shakespeare and Fletcher directed by Gerald Baker.

Gerald Baker and the Bard

Gerald Baker pensively looking at the Bard.

The play is on until March 25. For booking see here. See also the KiSS excursion to the play on March 23.


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KiSS Cardenio Excursion, March 23

cardenio_imageInstead of the planned John Fletcher reading, Kingston Shakespeare will make an excursion to Cardenio, directed by our playreading collaborator Gerald Baker.

KiSS has arranged a special rate for members to attend Thursday’s (March 23) performance of The History of Cardenio, Gary Taylor’s reconstruction of the lost play by Shakespeare and Fletcher, the most authentic vision of the lost play. KiSS members can see the play for half price – £6 (including temporary membership of Richmond Shakespeare Society) – for that one night, cash on the door only. The venue is the Mary Wallace Theatre, The Embankment, Twickenham, TW1 3DU, and the play starts at 7.45pm. This opportunity replaces the advertised KiSS reading.

For more information on the play, see this earlier post.

See also Richard Wilson’s blurb for the play.

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Christian Smith on Shakespeare’s influence on Marx

Karl Marx SketchAs a primer to our forthcoming symposium on Shakespeare and Marx in June (also for the up-coming Shakespeare and Hegel event) have a look at the work of our friend Christian Smith. He has recently published an article on the Shakespearean influence on Marx: Verdammt Metall’: Marx’s use of Shakespeare in his Critique of Exchange-value. Furthermore, below are two of his interviews with David McLellan and Jonathan Bate about the same topic (also Freud).

Christian Smith is currently in Berlin writing his monograph on Shakespeare and Marx, where he has also set up a body work practice (with Annie Barker), the Shakespearingly named Forest of Arden Healing Arts. For more videos and info see his research page.

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Symposium: Futures of Political Theology, June 2

Futures of Political Theology

Nomos / Demos / Pseudos

Political theology

An International Symposium

2 June 2017 – Room PRJG0003 (Kingston University)

Speakers: Arthur Bradley [Lancaster] | Ward Blanton [Kent] | Howard Caygill [Kingston] | Antonio Cerella [Kingston] | Mick Dillon [Lancaster] | Dario Gentili [Rome 3] | Yvonne Sherwood [Kent] | Elettra Stimilli [SNS] | Richard Wilson [Kingston]

Symposium Description

Upon the occasion of some strange or deformed birth, it shall not be decided by Aristotle, or the philosophers, whether the same be a man or no, but by the laws.
–Thomas Hobbes, The Elements of Law Natural and Politic

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?  –W.B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’

What – strange, deformed, beastly – species of political order is struggling to be born today? To be sure, political praxis and theory has sought to narrate the history of the contemporary from the financial crash of 2008 to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 in many different and competing ways. In the early 21st century, we are said to be witnessing everything from the death of liberalism, globalization and internationalism to the birth of a new extreme populism, protectionism and isolationism – all presided over by a new kind of Demogorgon (people-monster).

Yet, what arguably makes our current crisis so difficult to name is that it is not merely a political crisis but a crisis of the political – of the particular triangulation between truth, authority and representation that has dominated politics since the early modern period. If we are experiencing a new set of constitutional crises in Europe, America and elsewhere – between executive, legislature and judiciary, between national and transnational sovereignty and more widely between representative and direct democracy – it is perhaps because they reflect a larger and more profound political dissensus about who or what – if anyone – has the authority to decide upon truth. In this sense, contemporary media controversies – ‘truthiness’, ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ – are merely a symptom of a much deeper political ontological pathology where nomos, demos and pseudos meet and clash.

This international symposium gathers together a group of distinguished interdisciplinary scholars – including philosophers, political theorists, theologians and cultural critics – to explore not simply the future of political theology but the political theology of the future. What can the conceptual resources of political theology – the messianic, the apocalyptic, the eschatological and so on – contribute to a re-thinking of the future? How might political theology intervene in, and re-imagine, our contemporary crises of truth, authority, representation, economy, populism and so on? What might a political theology of the 21stcentury look like?


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