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SHAKESPEARE AT 400: TEACHING AND PERFORMANCE IN THE ARCHIVES

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of poet, playwright and actor William Shakespeare’s death (baptised 26 April 1564, died 23 April 1616).

23 June 2016

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His works have captured hearts globally, with his plays translated into over 100 languages. To mark the anniversary, commemorative events are taking place across London and the UK during 2016, including exhibitions, screenings, performances, conferences, talks and new publications.

The Archives here at Queen Mary University of London are a rich resource for those interested in the teaching and performance of Shakespeare. Our collections include lecture papers and notes related to the teaching of English and Drama at Westfield College and Queen Mary. These include the papers of Harold Jenkins (1909-2000), Shakespearean scholar and the first chair of English at Westfield College from 1954, the same year he was assigned to edit Hamlet for the New Arden Shakespeare. During the 1950s he wrote essays on Twelfth Night and As You Like It. He also published The Structural Problem in Henry IV in 1956, and delivered this at his inaugural lecture at Westfield College. In 1958 Jenkins became joint general editor of the Arden series alongside Dr Harold Brooks. His collection in the Archives comprises papers relating to his work as a literary scholar specialising in Shakespeare and his work as a university lecturer.

The Archives also holds the papers of Jacob Isaacs (1896-1973), Chair of English Language and Literature at Queen Mary College from 1952-1964. His papers include research notebooks and papers related to literature and film, often including Shakespeare.

Also held in the Archives is the Queen Mary Players (1979-2009) collection, containing photographs, programmes and promotional material from productions put on by the Queen Mary Players. This former student and staff drama group, known as the QMC Fringe Theatre Club from 1979-1991, often put on productions of Shakespeare’s plays and helped to fundraise for the building of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Between 1987 and 2009 the group performed Twelfth Night three times, with two performances each of Hamlet, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, alongside single performances of many of Shakespeare’s other works.

A dozen short lunchtime performances and charity evenings were put on by the Queen Mary Players in aid of the QM student welfare fund and to raise money for the building of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Productions included short Shakespeare parodies by W.S. Gilbert and Michael Green titled ‘Dramatic Licence.’ The group raised several thousand pounds in support of the Globe which is commemorated with two flagstones on the forecourt of the theatre building.

If you are interested in exploring more of the Archives holdings on the history of English literature, writing and performance at QMUL please see our online Gallery Arts in the Archives: Publications, Poetry and Performance. For more information on the archives collections and details of how to access them please see the Arranging Your Visit page or email: archives@qmul.ac.uk.

 

 

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