Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Marlowe, not Shakespeare—so what?

The recent media furore surrounding the publication of new findings about the authorship of Shakespeare’s works reassures us of one thing: people care about Shakespeare. Or, perhaps better stated, people care about caring about Shakespeare. A momentary venture into the ‘comments’ section to any of these news stories (a risky move at the best of times) reveals at least three camps of commentators.

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Shakespeare’s contemporaries and collaborators [infographic]

While it is obvious that Shakespeare drew a tremendous amount of inspiration from Christopher Marlowe (note the effect of The Jew of Malta, Hero and Leander, and Tamburlaine on The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Shakespeare’s history plays, respectively), this kind of borrowing and […]

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Rihanna and representations of black women – Episode 39 – The Oxford Comment

“Come and put your name on it,” is the first line in Rihanna’s song “Birthday Cake.” She is referring to her female anatomy as she dances in a hip-centered motion, reminiscent of Caribbean movement. Across the globe, reactions to the song’s connotation and the provocative dancing varied greatly, each individual interpreting the sequence of events based on their own experiences, culture, race and gender.

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Secrets and trivia from the Broadway stage

Why do some great Broadway shows fail, and mediocre ones thrive? How does the cast onstage manage to keep tabs on the audience without missing a beat or a line? Ken Bloom, author of Show and Tell: The New Book of Broadway Audiences, delves into the inner workings of the Broadway stage and the culture surrounding Broadway hips and flops.

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Shakespeare and performance: the 16th century to today [infographic]

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Shakespeare’s plays were performed at professional playhouses such as the Globe and the Rose, as well as at the Inns of Court, the houses of noblemen, and at the Queen’s palace. In fact, the playing company The Queen’s Men was formed at the express command of Elizabeth I to […]

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Strategies for reflective practices in dance training

Reflective practice has the capability to facilitate deeper experiential understanding to enhance performance. It can release the dancer from the traditional ‘watch and repeat’ mode of dance training. Reflective practice and experiential learning is the crux of the process utilized in the Functional Awareness®: Anatomy in Action approach to somatic movement training.

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Is Shakespeare racist?

Just as there were no real women on Shakespeare’s stage, there were no Jews, Africans, Muslims, or Hispanics either. Even Harold Bloom, who praises Shakespeare as ‘the greatest Western poet’ in The Western Canon, and who rages against academic political correctness, regards The Merchant of Venice as antisemitic. In 2014 the satirist Jon Stewart responded to Shakespeare’s ‘stereotypically, grotesquely greedy Jewish money lender’ more bluntly.

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Shakespeare’s clowns and fools [infographic]

Fools, or jesters, would have been known by many of those in Shakespeare’s contemporary audience, as they were often kept by the royal court, and some rich households, to act as entertainers. They were male, as were the actors, and would wear flamboyant clothing and carry a ‘bauble’ or carved stick, to use in their jokes.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

Ben-Hur: tracing the iconic novel and films through history

The latest film adaptation of the story of fictional Jewish noble Judah Ben-Hur is premiering in theaters today. You’ve probably seen the 1959 film version starring Charlton Heston, but do you know about the story’s rich history and impact over the last 136 years?

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Breath: the gateway to expressivity in movement

In many forms of dance the breath support for movement is not an integral part of training. It is not perceived to be important in the same manner that stretching, strengthening, and balance warrant focus. Little coaching and training time addresses breath support in most Western dance forms. We propose breath support is at the heart of expressivity and artistry in movement phrasing.

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Setting Shakespeare to music

Shakespeare has inspired countless and varied performances, works of art and pieces of writing. He has also inspired music. In this 400th year since Shakespeare’s death we asked five composers ‘how did you approach setting the Shakespeare text you chose for your recent work?’

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Shakespeare and the natural world [infographic]

It is probable that Shakespeare observed, or at least heard about, many natural phenomena that occurred during his time, which may have influenced the many references to nature and science that he makes in his work. Although he was very young at the time, he may have witnessed the blazing Stella Nova in 1572.

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Musical literacy in Shakespeare’s England

It is a commonplace to say that, in Renaissance England, music was everywhere. Yet, however true the statement is, it obscures the fact that music existed in many different forms, with very different functions and very different meanings.

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What would Shakespeare drive?

Like many Elizabethan gentlemen who had business in London but family in the provinces, Shakespeare would have spent a considerable amount of time on horseback. Few of his contemporaries, however, had Shakespeare’s talent for turning the vexations of travel into deathless verse. Sonnet 50 recounts a trip on horseback in which the poet’s reluctance to leave his beloved makes him keenly conscious of his body as a burden that increases the animal’s suffering: “The beast that bears me, tired with my woe, / Plods dully on to bear that weight in me”. According to Galenic medicine, black bile, or melancholy, was considered the heaviest of the four bodily humors.

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What music would Shakespeare’s characters listen to?

Shakespeare’s characters can often appear far-removed from our modern day world of YouTube, Beyoncé and grime. Yet they were certainly no less interested in music than we are now, with music considered to be at the heart of Shakespeare’s artistic vision. Of course our offerings have come a long way since Shakespeare’s day, but we think it is a shame that they never had a chance to hear the musical delights of Katy Perry or Slipknot.

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