Shakespeare: Sources and Adaptation at Cambridge University

September 8, 2011

Alun Thomas (Cardiff University) and Johann Gregory (Cardiff University) will be in Cambridge this weekend to present their paper “Playing with Precedents in Shakespeare: Expectations in Richard III and Troilus and Cressida (abstract below).

Johann Gregory will also be chairing the session on Shakespeare and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Historical, theatrical and literary precedents set up audience expectations for those in the know. Many audience members, for example, would be aware while watching a play about Julius Caesar that he was assassinated. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, audiences who had read Chaucer would know that Cressida apparently breaks her faith in past versions; if audiences had seen the Admiral’s Men stage Cressida as a leper, then they might expect her to meet a similar fate in the King’s Men’s production too. The tension of expectation is epitomised in Richard III in the figure of Queen Margaret. As some of the audience would know, by the time of the events of the play the real Margaret was dead; the Margaret we see onstage is both an anachronistic and unhistorical character. The first part of this paper engages with the historical expectations which are deliberately unfulfilled in Richard III and examines how the ghostly onstage presence of the dead Margaret unsettles the boundaries of historical drama. The second part addresses literary precedents in Troilus and Cressida, focusing on the figure of Cassandra who – as a prophesier – thinks she knows what is to come; it seeks to draw some conclusions about the relationships in the play between the promise of the characters, audience expectations and the potential for dramatic failure.

They will be speaking as part of the Cambridge Shakespeare conference:

Shakespeare: Sources and Adaptation 

(9-11th September, Cambridge University)


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