Dame Judi Dench and Emeritus Professor Stanley Wells at the Shakespeare Institute in March 2020

On Monday 2 March, the annual London Shakespeare Lecture in Honour of Professor Sir Stanley Wells CBE, reached a new milestone with an event which included an interview with Dame Judi Dench.

The event, co-organized by the Shakespeare Institute, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the Notre Dame University London Global Gateway, which provided its plush metropolitan venue close to Trafalgar Square, featured both a performer and an academic, when Dame Judi Dench was interviewed by Professor Sir Stanley Wells himself.

Professor Wells - former PhD student, then Fellow, then Director of the Shakespeare Institute, and now Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust -- has been a close friend of Dame Judi ever since she came to Stratford to join the Royal Shakespeare Company in the mid-1960s.

When the University of Birmingham gave her an Honorary Fellowship of the Shakespeare Institute, it was an important step in the convergence of theatrical and academic expertise which the Shakespeare Institute has always promoted, and which is now expressed in its formal collaboration with the RSC.

The annual event has to date featured an alternation between distinguished Shakespearean practitioners and distinguished Shakespearean academics: the first lecture was given Professor Sir Stanley Wells himself, and subsequent speakers have included artistic directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and Shakespeare's Globe, along with scholars including Ann Thompson, Lois Potter, and Birmingham's Russell Jackson and Michael Dobson. 

Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, said “On March 2nd Dame Judi -- by common consent as good a Juliet, Viola, Titania, Hermione, Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra as anyone is ever likely to see, among many other superlative performances -- reflected on her own training, on her abandoned ambitions to become a set designer, on the performers and directors from whom she has learned, on verse-speaking, and on her memories of performing on nights when she could see Stanley Wells near the front of the stalls.”

Dame Judi Dench, Professor Sir Stanley Wells OBE and Professor Michael Dobson at a Shakespeare Institute event

After the event, the packed audience, including Shakespeare Institute research students who had made a special excursion to London for the occasion, had the opportunity to share wine and conversation with both of the speakers.

Based in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, the Shakespeare Institute aims to bring Shakespeare to life through our innovative postgraduate degrees.

Dame Judi Dench and Professor Sir Stanley Wells OBE speak at a panel event
Dame Judi Dench and Professor Sir Stanley Wells OBE speak at a panel event
Dame Judi Dench speaking at an event