Category Archives: history

Varieties of Shakespeare open to all

27 April, Sydney.

Varieties of Shakespeare

Next Wednesday the EMLAC (Early Modern Literature and Culture) Research Group and the English Department of the University of Sydney will host an afternoon of presentations discussing all kinds of lively aspects of our favourite dead person.

“You may not have noticed, but Shakespeare died 400 years ago. To commemorate this unfortunate turn of events, the English department is holding a rapid- fire two-hour seminar that will showcase a range of approaches to the man and his work currently being undertaken by people working in and around the Department of English. Come along to hear about everything from Shakespeare in Australia to Shakespeare in Prison; from a history play that he managed to write from beyond the grave, to some of the significances attached to the year of his death: 1616.”

DATE: Wednesday, 27 April

TIME: 12-2pm

PLACE: Room S226, John Woolley Building, University of Sydney


  • Huw Griffiths: “1616 and All That”
  • Kathy French, “Happy Shakespeare”
  • Ursula Potter, “Shakespeare’s Daughters”
  • Kathryn Parker, “Shakespeare in Song”
  • Penny Gay: “Shakespeare in Australia”
  • Anna Kamaralli: “Margaret of Anjou: Shakespeare’s ‘new’ Play”
  • Liam Semler and Claire Hansen: “Shakeserendipity”

Line drawing of Shakespeare. Text: University of Sydney, Shakespeare 400

There will be some light refreshments. All Welcome.

For further information, please contact Huw Griffiths ( or Liam Semler ( Full details here.

23rd April

The precise anniversary of Shakespeare’s death falls on April 23rd.

With remarkable convenience for commemorative purposes, this is also most likely his birthday. I say most likely because, while we have documentary evidence of his death, it was not births that got recorded in 16th century England, but baptisms, so we know that Shakespeare was baptised on Wednesday 26th April 1564, and baptisms usually happened roughly three days after birth.*

For a long time British historians were absurdly pleased about this date because it also happens to be St George’s Day, the commemorative day assigned to the patron saint of England. Odd as it seems, there was actually some fuss around when to commemorate the 300th anniversary of his death, with some suggesting the ‘real’ date would be 4th May, since Britain’s adoption of the Gregorian calendar, with its loss of 11 days, did not happen until 1752.

Printed page showing schedule of performances and text of poem "The Pen and the Sword".
From the commemorative programme of a Sydney fundraising performance. Original held by the State Library of NSW

In Australia the more noteworthy incident was that the 300th anniversary almost coincided with the first time ANZAC day was celebrated, on 25th April 1916. This turned events originally conceived as fundraisers for a Shakespeare memorial into fundraisers for the war effort. It did not dampen the enthusiasm for the events themselves, however. They merely morphed to incorporate the Aussie digger alongside Shakespeare, including patriotic tableaux, and a poem entitled “The Pen and the Sword” by Dulcie Deamer. It’s easy to laugh at the Edwardian jingoism of these efforts, but what comes through is the conviction of the participants that Shakespeare is there to be used – to be used by all, and in whatever way speaks to the needs of that moment. So perhaps not quite so different from our present attitude as we might think.

Shakespeare TwentyScore is not inclined to quibble about specific dates, nor about what kind of uses people find for Shakespeare. If there is one thing Shakespeare certainly learned from, and taught to, the world of theatre he helped create, it is that everything is fair game. We plan to celebrate in every way anyone can think of, and to do it all year.

* Bright yellow book cover showing cartoon of Shakespeare.For a more detailed look at this and other biographical details see Is It True What They Say About Shakespeare? by Stanley Wells. The packaging of this book makes it look dodgy as all get out, but it’s actually extremely solid, and Wells is probably the most venerable scholar of Shakespeare living today. Read Will Sharpe’s amusing review of this book in the Shakespeare Bookshop Newsletter.

The Death of Shakespeare

26 April, Adelaide.

Professors Ian Donaldson and Ian Gadd in a free public lecture at the University of Adelaide on the topic “The Death of Shakespeare”, that will also include a musical performance.

At the time of his death on 23 April1616 Shakespeare was far from a celebrity. Beyond the country town of Stratford where he had been born and now was buried, his death appears to have occasioned little interest or attention. None of his fellow-poets chose to mourn his passing; no gatherings in his honour were held; no contemporary references to his death have survived. Why did the final exit of the man now acclaimed as the world’s most famous writer not attract more resounding applause? How was Shakespeare’s reputation established in the years after his death? How did his fame spread–through Europe, the British Empire, globally?

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Ian Donaldson, University of Melbourne
Response: Professor Ian Gadd, Bath Spa University
Musical Performance: Adelaide Baroque (Emma Horwood, Soprano; Anne Gardiner, Harpsichord; Graham Strahle, Viola da amba; Jayne Varnish, Recorders)
Chair: Dr Lucy Potter, The University of Adelaide

Full details here.

Shakespeare Screenings at the State Library

In conjunction Australia’s Silent Film Festival, the State Library of NSW has a number of screenings of early and popular Shakespeare films coming up.

Friday 15 April: Shakespeare Silent Films performed with a live soundtrack. Tickets $30/$25 Drinks and nibbles from 5.30pm-6.15pm in Dixson Room. Films start at 6.15pm. Richard III (1912) 59 minutes and Bromo and Juliet (1926) 24 minutes

Album cover of songs from film Kiss Me Kate.In addition, there is the Shakespeare and the Silver Screen series, Sundays at 2pm:

10 April – Kiss Me Kate The Cole Porter musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew

17 April – Richard III The Laurence Olivier version

24 April – Chimes at Midnight The Orson Welles version of Henry IV

Tickets via the State Library website.


An important video

Just one month to go until the day itself – 23 April, the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and therefore the perfect time to reflect on what kind of humans we are capable of being. Shakespeare always wrote masterfully from the perspective of the excluded and marginalised in society. While we have no recorded political statements in his own voice, we do have the words of someone who was clear-eyed about the damage that will be wrought when prejudice gains power.

Give a few minutes to listening to Sir Ian McKellen speak the part of Sir Thomas More from the play of that name (a collaborative work from Shakespeare and several other poets). The piece is an apt reminder of what it really means to allow ourselves to be governed by what is worst in ourselves. I think it shows Shakespeare’s exceptional talent for imagining himself into other peoples’ place.

Here is the giddyingly learned Sylvia Morris at The Shakespeare Blog with all kinds of background on this play, its history and relevance.

And here is Harriet Walter with the same speech. Perhaps some Australian actors might like to add their version?

Shakespeare 400 at the State Library of NSW

18 – 23 April, Sydney.

The State Library of NSW (situated in the heart of Macquarie Street, and fronted on the Mitchell Library side by the very grand statue of Shakespeare in the middle of the road, that everyone forgets is there) is holding some Shakespeare 400 events in April.

These include:

  • an exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio and other historic items
  • opening the Shakespeare Room to the public from 18-23 April
  • screenings of classic Shakespeare films
  • a trivia night on 21 April
  • a range of family activities on the 23 April
  • a performance and album launch by Paul Kelly on 23 April

Full details here.

Row of antique books on pillows.
Folios 1, 2, 3 and 4 held by the State Library of NSW

Celebrating Shakespeare at the National Library

23 April, Canberra.

The National Library of Australia is hosting a conversation between two specialists in early modern drama and publication, Professor Ian Donaldson and Professor Ian Gadd.

Professors Donaldson and Gadd are two of the world’s most venerable voices on the role of English literature in shaping our culture. In particular, Professor Donaldson is and editor and biographer of Shakespeare’s contemporary Ben Jonson, and Professor Gadd is an expert in the history of the printing and publishing of books.

This is also an opportunity to hear from Dr Kate Flaherty, the pre-eminent expert on the history of Shakespeare in Australia, who will be chairing the event.

From the website: “To mark Europe Day and the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Emeritus Professor Ian Donaldson, Univesrity of Melbourne, and Professor Ian Gadd, Bath Spa University, explore how the playwright and poet became a global phenomenon.”

In association with The EU Centre for Global Affairs and the Centre for the History of Emotions, Adelaide

2pm start, tickets $15 (refreshments included)

Full details here.

Detail of a page of the First Folio reading 'Finis'.


Queen Margaret visits Ballarat

23 April, Ballarat, Victoria.

Another outing for Margaret of Anjou, previously seen in Perth.

Medieval painting of a woman in ermine and high head-dress.
Portrait of Margaret d’Anjou

A rehearsed reading at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, directed by Kim Durban, and performed by the Third Years of the Arts Academy, Federation University Australia.

Margaret of Anjou, is a ‘new’ play by William Shakespeare, constructed by Elizabeth Schafer and Philippa Kelly. Which is basically the good bits of the three Henry VI plays, and the mad bits of Richard III. Watching Queen Margaret, as depicted by Shakespeare, is to travel along on a roller-coaster ride of a life, if the roller-coaster was made out of filleting knives and scorpions.

Saturday April 23rd at 4pm.

Preceded by a performance of “Shakespeare’s  Songs and Sonnets” at 2.30pm. Students of the Arts Academy will present some favourites of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and a cappella group VOX will sing a selection of songs from Shakespeare.

Entry is by donation, but tickets can be pre-booked.

Full details here.