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Shakespeare Festival

Commemorating the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth on 23 April 2014.

Shakespeare Festival

The Centre for Studies in Literature at the University of Portsmouth in collaboration with Portsmouth City Council and the Portsmouth Film Society is proud to offer a series of talks, workshops and film screenings to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth on 23 April 2014.


Wednesday, 23rd April 2014, 5 – 6.45pm, Central Library, Guildhall Square

Dr. Rosie Paice (University of Portsmouth)

'"Shall I compare thee...?": Shakespeare's Sonnets', followed by an informal workshop called 'How to play with sonnets'.

What is the relationship between Shakespeare and his sonnets? Do they confess his love sincerely and, if so, for whom? Or should we read them as self-conscious poetical games? What can understanding something about the Renaissance sonnet tradition tells us about Shakespeare's approached sonneteering? Come along and find out some of the answers!

The best route to understanding the sonnet form is to try to write one! Learn some tricks of the sonneteering trade, and have a go at applying them. Could you be the next Shakespeare...?!

Dr Rosie Paice is a Principal Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Portsmouth, specialising in early modern and romantic period writings. 


Thursday, 24th April 2014, 7pm, Eldon Screening Room, Eldon Building, University of Portsmouth

Screening of ‘Looking for Richard’, introduced by Dr Bronwen Price (University of Portsmouth)

Al Pacino’s documentary follows a group of actors of stage and screen working on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Tickets: £6.00 / 3.00


Wednesday, 30th April 2014, 4.30 – 5.30pm, Central Library, Guildhall Square

Dr Fiona McCall (University of Portsmouth)

‘Merrie England?  Everyday life in Shakespeare’s time’

In Shakespeare's time London was the fastest growing city in the world. It was a bustling, noisy, dirty, dangerous, exciting place to be. The idea of ‘Merrie England’ belies the often brutal realities: during the 1590s England endured both famine and a costly nine-year war in Ireland and an ordinary day might see twenty to thirty people hanged at Tyburn. Witch hunting was at its peak; religious tensions were acute. This talk will consider how study of the historical circumstances of Shakespeare’s time can deepen our understanding of the issues surrounding some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.

Dr Fiona McCall is a lecturer in early modern history at the University of Portsmouth and has lectured extensively on the Tudor and Stuart periods. Her research specialises in the religious and social history of Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her book, Baal’s Priests: the Loyalist Clergy and the English Revolution, was published by Ashgate Press in 2013.


Thursday, 1st May 2014, 7pm, Eldon Screening Room, Eldon Building, University of Portsmouth

Screening of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (2013), introduced by Dr Paraic Finnerty, University of Portsmouth

Writer Julian Fellowes and director Carlos Carlei offer a traditional adaptation of Shakespeare’s epic love story in order to attract new generations of readers / viewers.

Tickets: £6.00 / 3.00


Tuesday, 6th May 2014, 5 – 6pm, Central Library, Guildhall Square

Prof Simon Barker (University of Chichester)

‘Shakespeare, War and Nation’

Shakespeare knew as much about war as he did about love. The England and Europe that he knew were the products of war, and conflict was never far from the mind of the average Elizabethan theatregoer. Simon Barker explores the historical background to Shakespeare’s preoccupation with warfare and also considers the way that his plays have been addressed in more recent times for what they to say about how militarism affects us today.

Simon Barker is Professor of English Literature at the University of Chichester. His many books include War and Nation in the Theatre of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, published by Edinburgh University Press.


Thursday, 8th May 2014, 5 – 6pm, Central Library, Guildhall Square

Dr Katy Gibbons (University of Portsmouth)

'Playing at Politics: Political Questions in Shakespeare's Plays'

A number of Shakespeare's plays explore some political themes that were controversial for his contemporary society - the question of succession to the throne, the position of Catholics in Protestant England, and responses to tyrannical rule. Exploring these themes, this lecture will  argue that the theatre offered a forum for contemporaries to express and explore controversial political issues considered dangerous to discuss in other formats. 

Katy Gibbons is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Portsmouth. Her research specialises in Catholics in post-Reformation England, and England's relationship with the continent.