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From reconstruction to globalization: Shakespeare as he is today

How do we understand Shakespeare today versus one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred years ago? Through efforts like archaeological digs and excavations, studies of word spelling and linguistic patterns, researchers and experts can reconstruct an early modern theatre experience: plays performed in original pronunciation inside facsimile Elizabethan theatres. The Bodleian Libraries, Folger Shakespeare Libraries, and many others have created online, open-access copies of The First Folio, which enable his work to be obtained quickly, easily, and globally. The extent of Shakespeare research and performance is truly boundless as it is continually and freshly explored. Indeed, seeking Shakespeare today does not end with seeking the Shakespeare of 400 years ago, but finding Shakespeare in our modern world, constantly re-evaluating and re-interpreting him in the 21st century.

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Featured Image: “Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon – Sept 2012” by Diliff. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Recent Comments

  1. Thank you for highlighting the Shakespearean spelling quirks identified by Douglas Bruster. These spelling variants that Bruster identified also occur in the 70-odd surviving letters of Edward de Vere, the major alternative candidate for authorship of the Shake-speare canon.

    Bruster notes the spelling of silence as “scilens” in Hand D in “Sir Thomas More” (attributed to Shakespeare). De Vere also uses “sc” instead of “s,” in “absence” and necescassarye.” Hand D spells “sheriff” 5 ways in 5 lines. “Country” is spelled 3 ways in 2 lines. Berkeley’s emeritus English professor Alan Nelson drew attention to de Vere’s quirky spelling, arguing that de Vere couldn’t spell well enough to have written the canon. Nelson cited de Vere’s dozen ways of spelling half-penny as an extreme example. De Vere also spelled “satisfies” five different ways, and “small” four different ways.

    Bruster says Shakespeare often uses “oo” instead of a single “o.” Edward de Vere used “twoo” 30 times, “soo” 18 times; “goo” 15 times; “agoo” four times; and “broother” once.

    Bruster observes that Shakespeare tends to substitute “ow” for “ou.” De Vere’s letters include thowsand/e (188x), owt/e (60x), browght (16x), owre (15x), and bowght (14x).

    The spelling variants in the works of Shake-speare offer an excellent opportunity to eschew circular reasoning, based on the unquestioned assumption that Stratford’s Shakspere wrote these works. It is time to return to the Renaissance innovation of inductive reasoning, based on a re-examination of the relevant evidence, free of authoritarian preconceptions.

  2. Oliver Stahmann

    Thanks Richard, very interesting information!

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