Claude Fretz



PhD title: Dreams, Sleep and Genre in Shakespeare's Plays
PhD Shakespeare Studies


  • BA English (First-class honours) (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • MA English: Shakespeare in History (Distinction) (University College London)


My research project explores genre in Shakespeare through the lens of dreams and sleep, using a chiefly historicist and formalist methodology. Deploying the Early Modern understanding of dreams, it attempts to go beyond previous studies in this field and explore the ways in which dreams and sleep interact with the unfolding of plots in terms of the plays’ genres. My thesis thus looks at the extent to which sleep and dreams can be seen as vehicles of the Shakespeare’s reshaping of the classical, traditional categories of genre. This study is exciting, because it enables us to view dreams in Shakespeare as something else than expressions of the subconscious that we often so readily assume because of the legacy of psychoanalytic criticism. Early Modern dreams were by some in the Renaissance seen as prophetic, and by others as part of physiological processes. Both perceptions are important to drama and its genres and narratives, because they stand in a direct relationship to the plays’ actions and the determinants guiding the characters.

Apart from my current PhD project, I retain an interest in questions of dramatic genre, representations of the supernatural, embodiment, language and rhetoric in Early Modern literature, as well as twentieth-century critical theories. I enjoy attending conferences and research seminars to engage with a range of things Shakespearean, for example at the Tudor Symposium, where I have spoken on dreams in classical and Shakespearean drama, or at the annual BritGrad, where I have talked about the problems of deceptive words and verbal signification in Shakespeare.

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