Shakespeare's Theatrical Documents (symposium)

Shakespeare’s Theatrical Documents

A Spring 2016 Folger Institute Symposium

Description: As well as being called “play-makers” and “poets,” playwrights in early modern England were sometimes known as “play-patchers.” This is because plays themselves could be viewed as a collection of odds and ends rather than a whole entity. This symposium, sponsored by the Institute’s Center for Shakespeare Studies as part of its triennial anniversary programming, will bring together panels of major scholars to explore the “patches” that made up Shakespeare’s texts before, during, and after performance. Participants will consider the documents from which a play was constructed (including plot-scenarios and snatches of co-authored text); the documents from which a play was performed (including actors’ parts, stage scrolls, prologues and epilogues, backstage plots, and arguments); and the documents into which a play resolved after performance (including ballads, chapbooks, and passages in miscellanies and commonplace books). Investigating the way documents inform and complicate our ideas about play-construction, performance, revision, and reception, the symposium will ask participants to consider whether plays themselves were ever whole entities: what is a play?

Organizers: Tiffany Stern is Professor of Early Modern Drama at Oxford University and a General Editor of Arden 4 Shakespeare. Her books include Shakespeare in Parts (co-written with Simon Palfrey, 2007) and Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (2009). She is currently writing a book about theaters and fairs, and another about documents after performance. She is organizing this symposium with Owen Williams, the Institute’s Assistant Director for Scholarly Programs.

Provisional Schedule

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Opening Reception and Symposium Registration


Plenary Lecture: “From Script to Stage to Script”

Tiffany Stern, Oxford University
Welcome and Chair: Kathleen Lynch, Folger Institute

Friday, March 18, 2016


Documents before Performance
Welcome: Owen Williams, Folger Institute
Lucy Munro, King’s College London
Holger Syme, University of Toronto
Chair: Tiffany Stern, Oxford University

10:30-10:45: Break


Documents of Rehearsal
James Marino, Cleveland State University
Richard Preiss, University of Utah
Chair: Brooke Conti, Cleveland State University

12:15-1:30: Lunch (on your own)


Documents during Performance
Sonia Massai, King’s College London
Paul Menzer, Mary Baldwin College
Chair: Peter Holland, University of Notre Dame

3:00-3:30: Tea Break


Staged Documents
Matt Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University
Sarah Wall-Randell, Wellesley College
Chair: Erika T. Lin, George Mason University

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Documents after Performance
Laura Estill, Texas A&M University
Andras Kisery, City College of New York, CUNY
Chair: Musa Gurnis, Washington University in St. Louis

10:30-10:45: Break


Playtexts as Documents
Claire M. L. Bourne, Virginia Commonwealth University
Zachary Lesser, University of Pennsylvania
Chair: Jennifer Wood, Shakespeare Quarterly

12:15-1:45: Lunch (on your own)


Lost Documents; Absent Documents; Forged Documents
Roslyn L. Knutson, University of Arkansas, Little Rock
David McInnis, University of Melbourne
Chair: Anston Bosman, Amherst College

3:15-4:00: Tea Break


Wrap-up Session: Rethinking Shakespeare’s Theatrical Documents


Peter Holland, University of Notre Dame
Paul Werstine, King's University College at Western Canada


Closing Reception