Shakespeare and the History of Taste

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Shakespeare and the History of Taste June 18 through July 27, 1990 Directed by Joseph G. Price, Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University

Ben Jonson praised Shakespeare's universality as "not of an age but for all time." Yet, paradoxically, each age has expressed its own particularity by its special accommodation to and appropriation of Shakespeare. If, as Shaw claimed, the Shakespearean canon is "a mirror to nature;' the nature of things is reflected in very different prisms from age to age.

This N.E.H.-funded summer institute will approach "Shakespeare and the History of Taste" from two directions: first, the perception of Shakespeare in each age as illustrated in its editions, criticisms. theatrical performances, and visual representations; and second, his influence in each age upon literature, art, music, popular culture, and, frequently, politics.

Institute participants will explore the rich holdings of primary and secondary materials in the Folger Shakespeare library: texts and translations, critical and historical studies, paintings and musical scores, theatrical records and memorabilia, unpublished memoirs and scrapbooks, newspaper clippings and popular miscellanies.

SHAKESPEARE IN HIS OWN AGE The institute will begin by examining the extent to which Shakespeare conformed to the traditions of Renaissance drama and to popular taste and the extent to which he was an experimenter against the fashions and prejudices of the time.

SHAKESPEARE FOR EACH AGE Participants will go on to examine how Shakespeare was viewed in the moral climate of the Restoration, under the neo-classical rules of the eighteenth century, through the romantic vision of the nineteenth century, into the twentieth century with his adoption as "our contemporary," and as imported into other cultures. Particular attention will be paid to what pleased, what offended in each period.

SHAKESPEARE AS LEGEND AND MYTH Group members will explore the steps by which Shakespeare's influence led from legend, to a full-blown mythology peopled by the characters he created, to the quasideification of"bardolatry" to a twentieth-century debunking of the myth that has not prevented the permeation of Shakespeare into every aspect of culture, from advertising to philosophy.

SHAKESPEARE AND THE THEATRE An especially rich source oflnvestigation will be the records of performances over four centuries. Participants will attempt to recover the very different Hamlets, Shylocks, and Othellos of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries and of the astonishingly various cultures that have adopted Shakespeare.


OTHER PARTICIPATING FACULTY MEMBERS will include staff members from the Folger Shakespeare library, the Folger Consort, and the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger. In addition, a major Shakespearean actor from London and Stratford-upon-Avon will demonstrate acting styles and preferences through the evolution of Shakespearean performance.