Bringing Shakespeare to life online

This year the Shakespeare Institute has moved its annual Play Reading Marathon online. Dr Martin Wiggins discusses the benefits of going global.

It is important to say first that: Nothing can replace the benefit of doing this exercise with the readers in the same room, sharing the experience bodily as well as intellectually. 

But the online version has had the significant advantage of greatly extending the opportunity to participate: the exercise has linked at least four continents, with participants in Brittany, Melbourne, Texas, and Uruguay, to name but a few, who would not ordinarily be able to get to Stratford-upon-Avon for the event.  For those who can multi-task, the 'chat box' also facilitates live discussion as the reading progresses, without interrupting it. 

But whether it takes place online or in a physical room, the major benefit remains the ability to experience a body of related plays in close juxtaposition, which means we find out things about them that we could not have known if we were to read them in isolation and less intensively. 

This year we have developed a clear understanding of how Shakespeare wrote his plays for a definite group of actors with a range of different skills and talents, which recur from play to play in developing series; we have, in consequence, been able to deduce the main cast lists for the original productions.  Seeing the plays through their original actors, rather than solely through their author, has brought them alive in many new ways.

Taking part

The playreading marathon is open to our postgraduate Shakespeare students, alumni and friends. Anyone who would like to participate should e-mail Martin Wiggins in advance to get put onto the mailing list for the daily link.

Programme

Week 4

  • 25/5 1 Henry IV (early 1597)
  • 26/5 The Merry Wives of Windsor (late Spring or Summer 1597)
  • 27/5 2 Henry IV (late 1597)
  • 28/5 Much Ado About Nothing (Autumn 1598)
  • 29/5 Henry V (April/May 1599)

Week 5

  • 1/6 Julius Caesar (September 1599)
  • 2/6 As You Like It (early Spring 1600)
  • 3/6 Hamlet (Autumn 1600)
  • 4/6 Twelfth Night (Autumn 1601)
  • 5/6 Troilus and Cressida (first half of 1602)

Week 6

  • 8/6 Measure for Measure (December 1603)
  • 9/6 Othello (Autumn 1604)
  • 10/6 All’s Well That Ends Well (early 1605)
  • 11/6 King Lear (A-Text; December 1605/January 1606)
  • 12/6 Macbeth (April 1606)

Week 7

  • 15/6 Antony and Cleopatra (Autumn 1606)
  • 16/6 Timon of Athens (Spring 1607)
  • 17/6 Pericles (Autumn 1607)
  • 18/6 Coriolanus (early Summer 1608)
  • 19/6 Cymbeline (December 1610)

Week 8

  • 22/6 The Winter’s Tale (February 1611)
  • 23/6 The Tempest (Autumn 1611)
  • 24/6 Henry VIII (early 1612)
  • 25/6 Double Falsehood (late 1612)
  • 26/6 The Two Noble Kinsmen (July/August 1613)