Summer with the Bard

This summer, Hold That Thought is celebrating the renown playwright William Shakespeare by delving deep into the texts of his plays and the world in which he was writing. Scholars from across Washington University in St. Louis discuss the competitive business of playwriting in the late 1500s, themes that run in and out of his work, and how his legacy lives on today.

image flickr "globe theater" david welch.

July 21, 2015

"The Quality of Mercy": A Shakespearean theme

Summer with the Bard: Episode #9

Most authors have a "signature moment," a theme or scene that reoccurs in their work as if they're exploring it from every angle, and Robert Wiltenburg believes that the quintessential Shakespearean theme is mercy. Wiltenburg, the former dean of University College and an adjunct associate professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, takes us through Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies, and romances to show how mercy evolves in each genre.

July 14, 2015

Battle of the Sexes: The Women of Shakespeare

Summer with the Bard: Episode #8

William Shakespeare wrote a number of strong and memorable female characters like Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Cleopatra of Antony and Cleopatra, but would it be fair to call him a feminist? Not really, says our guest Jami Ake, assistant dean and senior lecturer in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. She explains why questions of gender and power were prominent in early modern England society and theater and examines the range of roles women take onin Shakespeare's plays.

July 7, 2015

Commedia dell'Arte & the Tragicomedy: Shakespeare's Italian Influences

Summer with the Bard: Episode #7

By now it's clear that Shakespeare drew inspiration from a variety of sources. Robert Henke, a professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, studies the Bard in the European context and particularly his Italian sources and influences. He reveals the fingerprints of the famous Italian theater troupe, the Commedia dell'Arte, in Shakespeare's comedies and discusses the Italian plays and novellas at the heart of Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew.

June 30, 2015

Friends and Rivals: Shakespeare and the Competition

Summer with the Bard: Episode #6

The early modern English theater scene was fairly small and highly competitive. Playwrights like Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Edmund Spenser were friends, but also rivals. They collaborated, imitated, and satirized each other equally as they jostled for success. Joe Loewenstein, a professor of English and director of the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities and the Humanities Digital Workshop at Washington University in St. Louis, returns to share stories about these relationships and discusses the fluid nature of authorship in theater at the time.

June 23, 2015

The Upstart Crow: Shakespeare's feud with Robert Greene

Summer with the Bard: Episode #5

In 1592, the writer and critic Robert Greene accused the budding playwright William Shakespeare of plagiarism, and this stung the Bard deeply. Joe Loewenstein, professor of English and director of the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities and the Humanities Digital Workshop, shares Shakespeares initial response to the criticism and explains how, even decades later, the Bard was still responding to Greene--though not in the way you might expect. He also discusses the culture of imitation and plagiarism in the late 16th- and early 17th-centuries.

June 9, 2015

The Birth of Theater As We Know It

Summer with the Bard: Episode #4

While Shakespeare wrote his plays, English theater itself was changing. The first actual theaters like the Globe were built, so companies could perform in places built soley for performance rather than marketplaces, pubs, or inns. Instead of religious and morality plays, writers brought politics, race, and class issues to the stage for the first time in London, which made authorities wary. Musa Gurnis, an associate professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, explains what early modern theater was like for London audiences and how theater gave English society a way to think about itself in a new way.

June 1, 2015

Why Shakespeare?

Summer with the Bard: Episode #3

Almost 500 years after William Shakespeare lived and wrote, students are still studying his work, and actors are performing his plays to packed theaters around the world. What keeps us coming back to his texts? Why has Shakespeare's work lived on when so many other great writers have been abandoned? As a sneak peak of the series to come, all of the participants of "Summer with the Bard" share their answers and perspectives on this tricky question.

May 25, 2015

The Real Antony and Cleopatra

Summer with the Bard: Episode #2

After talking with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis about their current production of Antony and Cleopatra, I decided to meet up with Roman historian Karen Acton at Washington University in St. Louis to get a sense of the real people behind the legend. Together, we look back at Plutarch's The Life of Antony, which William Shakespeare used to write his play, and the texts that survive about the lovers from their contemporaries, rivals, and ancient Roman writers.

May 18, 2015

Shakespeare: In the Park & in the Streets

Summer with the Bard: Episode #1

Shakespeare is not just in the theater or the classroom anymore. In St. Louis at least, you can find performances of the Bard's work in Forest Park and in the streets of your own neighborhood, thanks to the efforts of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Bruce Longworth, the organization's associate artistic director, and Mike Donahue, the director of this year's Shakespeare in the Park performance, come together to talk about the Shakespeare Festival's many projects and to share their insights into this year's mainstage production: Antony and Cleopatra.