Still Harping on Shakespeare

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak to the Swansea branch of the Historical Association at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. I loved it: it’s a real pleasure to talk to people about stuff that I am passionate about. I was asked to talk about Shakespeare and I did, but naturally, I also talked about Beaumont, and Fletcher, and Jonson, and um, Aston Cockayne. I wanted to try and think about some of the writers who are less well remembered and to reflect on some of the processes that led to Shakespeare’s canonization and Beaumont’s marginalization. The PowerPoint slides below give you some idea of the material, if not the general direction of the argument. My claim was that Shakespeare’s centrality ought to be critiqued more often (no surprise for any regular reader of this blog) and that we ought to think about his canonization as political (hence the George Osborne quote). In turn, I suggested that Beaumont and Fletcher’s marginalization was, in part, political: Coleridge repeatedly insisted that Beaumont and Fletcher were royalist lapdogs who lacked Shakespeare’s brilliant ambiguity. That claim has largely stuck, but it ought to be unstuck. I don’t know whether the talk can be counted a success, but I had someone come up to me at the end saying they wanted to read Beaumont so I’m going to count that as a professional highlight.

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