The James Shirley Marathon

The Shakespeare Institute
Monday 15 June (14:30) - Friday 3 July 2015 (17:00)

Every June, members of The Shakespeare Institute read aloud, in chronological order, the complete dramatic canon of a sixteenth- or early seventeenth-century playwright. The exercise enables us to observe, in concentrated form, the development of a single dramatist’s imagination and technique, and to experience a large number of neglected plays by a significant talent of the Shakespearian era.  In previous years we have read the plays of John Fletcher and of Thomas Heywood.  This year we turn to James Shirley.

Shirley was the most substantial professional dramatist of the generation after Shakespeare.  He was born in 1596, at around the same time as Shakespeare was writing The Merchant of Venice, and he began writing plays nine years after Shakespeare’s death, initially doing so part-time in parallel with his day-job as a schoolmaster. In the late 1630s he was the principal dramatist for the first commercial theatre in Dublin, and in 1642 his last full-length play, The Court Secret, was being prepared for its London premiere when the outbreak of Civil War closed the theatres; but he continued writing shorter work for private performance during the Interregnum, and The Court Secret was eventually revised for production after the theatres reopened in 1660.

 The James Shirley Marathon is undertaken with the cooperation of the editors of the forthcoming Oxford University Press edition of Shirley’s Complete Works, and will feature recordings of the surviving music from the plays.  All are welcome to attend for some or all of the Marathon, but members of the public not already known to the Institute should make arrangements in advance by contacting the organizer, Dr Martin Wiggins (  The schedule is as follows:

Monday 15 June
2.30: The School of Compliment
7.00: The Maid’s Revenge

Tuesday 16 June
10.30: The Wedding
2.30: The Witty Fair One 

Wednesday 17 June
10.30: The Contention for Honour and Riches
2.30: The Grateful Servant 

Thursday 18 June
2.30: The Traitor
7.00: The Humorous Courtier 

Friday 19 June
10.30: Love’s Cruelty
2.30: The Changes 

Saturday 20 June
10.30: Hyde Park
2.30: The Ball 

Monday 22 June
2.30: The Bird in a Cage
7.00: The Young Admiral 

Tuesday 23 June
10.30: The Gamester
2.30: The Triumph of Peace & The Example 

Wednesday 24 June
10.30: The Opportunity
2.30: The Coronation 

Thursday 25 June
2.30: The Arcadia
7.00: The Lady of Pleasure 

Friday 26 June
10.30: The Duke’s Mistress
2.30: The Royal Master 

Saturday 27 June
10.30: The Constant Maid
2.30: The Politician 

Monday 29 June
2.30: St Patrick for Ireland
7.00: The Gentleman of Venice 

Tuesday 30 June
10.30: The Doubtful Heir
2.30: The Imposture 

Wednesday 1 July
10.30: The Brothers
2.30: The Cardinal 

Thursday 2 July
2.30: The Sisters
7.00: The Court Secret 

Friday 3 July
10.30: Honoria and Mammon & The Triumph of Beauty
2.30: Cupid and Death & The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses

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