From 31 July to 7 August, the University’s Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon co-hosted the tenth World Shakespeare Congress with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare’s Globe and King’s College London.
The seven rich days of lectures, performances, seminars and events took five years of logistical planning and diplomacy to assemble, with an ambitious plan to split the programme between Stratford-upon-Avon and London. We welcomed 800 delegates to Stratford on the first Sunday evening, and on the Thursday morning a fleet of buses carried them all to London for the remainder of the week.
Thanks to carefully-calculated bursaries, the Congress brought together not just eminent scholars but also postgraduate students and Shakespeare enthusiasts from all over the world.
As the Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Michael Dobson, pointed out in his opening address, the history of Shakespearean commemorations in Britain has often been marked by damaging rivalries between Stratford and London, and not the least of the achievements of this Congress was a harmonious working relationship between five host organisations across both locations.
In keeping with the Institute’s own focus on the fruitful connections between Shakespearean scholarship and the creativity of the Shakespearean theatre, a distinctive and welcome feature of this Congress was the presence of major creative artists as its plenary speakers: Gregory Doran, senior honorary research fellow of the Shakespeare Institute and artistic director of the RSC; the great Birmingham-born actor and university honorand Adrian Lester; the novelist Howard Jacobson (discussing his post-Shakespearean novel Shylock Is My Name); the Globe’s early music specialist Claire Van Kampen; and a panel of international Shakespearean directors assembled by the Globe’s Tom Bird.
The Congress concluded with a service in Westminster Abbey, which culminated in a spine-tingling reading of Prospero’s speech ‘Our revels now are ended…’ given by Shakespeare Institute honorary fellow Dame Janet Suzman.
The World Shakespeare Congress 2016 was a landmark in the relations between study and stage, Stratford and London, Shakespeare and the world, and the university is proud to have made it possible.