Dr Simon Smith

Photograph of Dr Simon Smith

Shakespeare Institute
Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama

Contact details

The Shakespeare Institute
Mason Croft
Church Street
CV37 6HP

I am a Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama, based at the Shakespeare Institute and the Department of English Literature. I research the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, especially in relation to their original conditions of production, and teach Shakespearean and early modern topics in Stratford and Edgbaston.


  • BA, MA (Cantab)
  • MA, PGCE, PhD (London)


I was appointed to a Lectureship in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at Birmingham in 2016, formally taking up the post in 2017 upon completion of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. I taught previously at Oxford, Shakespeare’s Globe, Central School of Speech and Drama, and Birkbeck, University of London. My degrees are from King’s College, Cambridge (BA), King’s College London (MA) and Birkbeck (PhD).

I held a Junior Research Fellowship and Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Queen’s College, Oxford from 2014 to 2016, and have had various roles at Shakespeare’s Globe including Early Modern Music Research Associate.

Before beginning my PhD at Birkbeck in 2010, I taught Secondary English in state schools in south London, also completing a PGCE at the Institute of Education.


I mostly teach early modern literature (1500-1700), with a particular focus on Shakespeare and early modern drama. I also have teaching interests in drama from antiquity to the present day, in book materiality, and in Shakespeare and contemporary performance.

Postgraduate supervision

I am always pleased to hear from prospective students interested in working on Shakespearean and early modern topics, especially drama; playhouse culture; music and literature.


My first major research project examined responses to music in Jacobean drama, published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press as Musical Response in the Early Modern Playhouse, 1603-1625. I have written various shorter pieces on music and early modern drama for journals including Shakespeare Survey (2014) and edited collections including Shakespeare, Music and Performance (CUP, 2017). Above all, I’m interested in the ways in which people encountered musical performance – particularly in the playhouse – in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially those people for whom music was neither a profession nor a field of study, but rather an everyday cultural experience.

I am currently working on a study of early modern theatre audiences, specifically concerned with the roles of judgement and pleasure in playhouse responses before 1642. This research was supported by the Leverhulme Trust (2014-17), and will ultimately take the form of a monograph provisionally entitled ‘Experiencing Shakespeare’s theatres: playgoing, pleasure and judgement in early modern England’. Shorter pieces emerging from the project consider playgoers’ interest in actorly skill (Shakespeare Survey, 2017), the intersection of dramatic consumption in performance and in print, and playgoer engagements with stage spectacle. The project has allowed me to think more broadly about some of the questions about theatrical experience asked with specific reference to music in my last project, as well as enabling me to continue wrestling with the vexed but important question of how best to embed understandings of the material conditions under which early modern drama was produced and consumed into close readings of the plays themselves.

All of my work is informed by a strong interest in sensory studies; this is a field in which I collaborate regularly, having organised a conference (2011) and a Shakespeare Association of America seminar (2016) on the senses, and edited The Senses in Early Modern England, 1558-1660 (MUP, 2015) with Jackie Watson and Amy Kenny. I am currently preparing an article on the taste and smell of early modern music that follows on from my contribution to a Folger Shakespeare Library seminar on ‘The Embodied Senses’ in 2017, and I am editing a collection of essays exploring the intersection of Shakespeare studies and sensory studies.

I put my research into practice whenever possible by providing historical music research, arrangement and direction for productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. As Early Modern Music Research Associate of Shakespeare’s Globe I have contributed to the design of – and practical experiments in – the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and provided historical music research for various productions including 'Original Practices' stagings of Richard III and Twelfth Night. As a musical director I have collaborated several times with Emma Whipday (UCL) on research productions of early modern plays and masques, including one performance from actors' parts. I have also provided music research and arrangement for a fistful of 'Read Not Dead' staged readings at Shakespeare's Globe, most recently for Thomas Jordan's Tricks of Youth, chosen for performance by public vote following a pitch by director Nicola Pollard and myself in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2015. In 2014, I provided historical music research and historical theatre research for the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall.

Other activities

In June 2017, I organised a conference examining ‘Playing and Playgoing in Early Modern England’ with Emma Whipday (UCL) at Queen’s College, Oxford, supported by the Leverhulme Trust. I have also been involved with the organisation of conferences exploring ‘Shakespeare, Music and Performance’ (2013) and ‘The Senses in Early Modern England’ (2011), and have co-convened panels and seminars for the Shakespeare Association of America (2016) and the Renaissance Society of America (2015).

Recent conference and seminar papers include: 

  • ‘Grave men’s profit and gallants’ delight?: playgoing, pleasure and judgement in early modern England’, ‘Playing and Playgoing in Early Modern England’ Conference, Queen’s College, Oxford, 2017
  • ‘The Taste and Smell of Early Modern Music’, ‘Embodied Senses’ Seminar, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, 2017
  • ‘Playgoing, pleasure and judgement in early modern England’, Early Modern Literature Seminar, University of Oxford, 2017
  • ‘Pleasure, Judgement and the Early Modern Actor’, London Shakespeare Seminar, Senate House, University of London, 2017
  • ‘Acting Amiss: Towards a History of Actorly Craft and Playhouse Judgement, Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies Seminar, University of Birmingham, 2017
  •  ‘Judging the skill of the early modern actor’, Conference – ‘Teaching and Learning in Early Modern England: Skills and Knowledge in Practice, University of Cambridge, 2016
  • Considering the craft of the early modern actor: towards a history of playhouse judgement’, Seminar – ‘“A Taste of Your Quality”: Shakespeare and the Idea of the Actor, 1580-1660, World Shakespeare Congress, The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford, 2016
  • Sensing Music in the Early Modern Playhouse’, Seminar – ‘Literature and History in Early Modern England’, Faculty of History, University of Oxford, 2016
  •  ‘Close harmony: locations for musical performance at Jacobean indoor playhouses’, Conference – ‘Conventions of Proximity in Art, Theatre and Performance’, Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture, 2016
  • Early encounters with Shakespeare’s music: writer, performer and audience in the early modern playhouse’, Conference – ‘Shakespeare’s Musical Brain’, The Musical Brain and Shakespeare400, King’s College London, 2016 [keynote]
  • ‘Reading Beaumont’s drama in the seventeenth century’, Conference – ‘Beaumont400’, King’s Shakespeare Festival, Guildhall Library and King’s College London, 2016
  • Playgoing, pleasure and judgement in early modern England’, Seminar – ‘The Shakespeare Audience’, Shakespeare Association of America Meeting, Vancouver, BC, 2015
  • ‘“Her lute flonge in a corner”: Instruments as domestic objects of femininity on the early modern stage’, Panel – ‘Objects of Femininity on the Early Modern Stage’, Renaissance Society of America Meeting, Berlin, 2015
  •  ‘Touching lutes in early modern England, Conference – ‘Objects of Early Modern Literature’, Queen Mary, University of London, 2014
  • ‘Notation errors and musical skill in printed music book paratexts’, Conference – ‘Error and Print Culture, 1500-1800’, Balliol College, Oxford, 2014
  • ‘Robert Armin on Shakespeare: The Two Maids of More-Clacke’, Conference – ‘Shakespeare 450’, Société française Shakespeare, Paris, 2014
  • ‘Sensing music in and around the early modern playhouse’, Seminar – ‘Shakespeare and the Senses’, Shakespeare Association of America Meeting, St. Louis, MO, 2014
  •  ‘What was early modern musical skill?’, Seminar – ‘Researching Skill’, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013
  • ‘Exploring kingship through musical spectacle in Richard III’, Globe/Leeds Conference – ‘Shakespeare, Music and Performance’, Shakespeare’s Globe, London, 2013
  • ‘“I know the lute” / “I know thee, lute”: Musical instruments as domestic objects on the early modern stage’, Conference – ‘Materialities of Urban Life in Early Modern Europe’, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 2013
  •  ‘Music and court spectatorship: The case of The Winter’s Tale at the 1612-13 Christmas revels’, Conference – ‘Spectatorship and the Making of Early Modern Courtly Space’, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, 2012
  • ‘Exploring notions of musical ‘skill’ in the early modern theatre’, ‘Crossroads’ Conference – ‘Networks, Communication, and Exchange in the Early Modern World’, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, 2012
  • ‘“Offring at an inward part out of their owne nature”: Fantasy, Engagement and Singing Characters in Early Modern Drama’, Conference – ‘Britgrad: British Graduate Shakespeare Conference’, The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford, 2012
  • ‘Early Modern Commercial Drama and the Creation of Delight’, Seminar – Cambridge Interdisciplinary Early Modern Seminar’, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, 2011 (with Hannah August)
  • ‘Seeing Music in Antony and Cleopatra on the Early Modern Stage’, Globe/London Renaissance Seminar Conference – ‘The Senses in Early Modern England, 1485-1668’, Shakespeare’s Globe, 2011
  • ‘“I see no instruments, nor hands that play”: Seeing Music on the Early Modern Stage’, ‘Crossroads’ Conference – ‘Space in Early Modern Europe’, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, 2011
‘“The sweet resounding of whose pleasing straines, / Delightes the sences, captiuates the braines”: The dramaturgical role of music in The Winter’s Tale’, Conference – ‘Work in Progress’, Birkbeck, University of London, 2011



Journal articles

Peer-Reviewed book chapters