Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Shakespeare Survey 76

Emma Smith

When Shakespeare Survey began publishing its annual yearbook of criticism, interpretation, and performance in 1948, computer technology was in flux. Transistors were the new invention (1947). The first commercial digital computers, the Z4, were produced in 1950; Grace Hopper, the First Lady of Software, wrote the first computer language in 1953; and the integrated circuit or computer chip was unveiled in 1958. An issue of a Shakespeare journal with the title Virtual and Digital Shakespeares was unthinkable.

It’s been an education to edit volume 76, with its cover still showing a virtual reality production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream mounted using motion-capture and interactive technologies devised by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2021. Contributors to the volume trace the histories of new forms of digital and virtual remediation of Shakespeare, including a reflective analysis of cinema broadcasts of live theatre by its preeminent practitioner John Wyver. John’s ’10 Things I think I know’ will set the framework for the future analysis of this new part film, part theatre genre of performance. Mark Quartley, the RSC’s Ariel in a groundbreaking production using the digital technologies perfected for Golum in The Lord of the Rings films, also reflects on this experience, in conversation with Michael Dobson. Two contributions in particular reflect on the pandemic and the new affordances of online performing: Erin Sullivan and Benjamin Broadribb’s essays preserve and analyse very recent productions on screen in ways that capture the strangeness, and the creativity, of that lockdown moment.

Elsewhere, Peter J Smith writes about Michael Almereyda’s under-appreciated film of Cymbeline, and Peter Holland asks questions about the limits of adaptation. Emily Louisa Smith’s analysis of the curiously Shakespearean world of the SIMS computer game attests to the remarkable elasticity of cultural representations of the canon.

Most of the essays, which have at their core the International Shakespeare Conference held in Stratford-upon-Avon and online in summer 2022, focus on ‘digital’. David McInnis’s take on the ‘virtual’ draws on scholarship about lost plays and the role of imaginative reconstruction in all accounts of the early modern theatre. Robert Stagg and Silvia Bigliazzi take virtual in more metaphorical directions, as they interrogate the methodology of close reading, and of sources and their impact, respectively.

All Survey volumes have, in addition to essays on the theme, contributions on all aspects of Shakespeare criticism: volume 76 is proud to present a range of work by Reiko Oya, Jessica Chiba, Sean Benson, Louise Geddes, Ceri Sullivan, Duncan Salkeld and Hanh Bui. These range across critical race studies, translation, attribution studies, adaptation and Global Shakespeare, and give a flavour of the critically and methodologically inclusive stance of Survey. We encourage submissions from colleagues at all career stages (76 publishes doctoral researchers alongside senior academics) on any aspect of Shakespeare study.

One last point about this volume. After very thin pickings indeed over the last couple of years (James Shaw’s list of performances for 2021 is still much reduced), our performance reviews are coming back to strength. Don’t miss Lois Potter on the Shakespeare productions in London during 2022, and Peter Kirwan’s final dispatch from the theatre world beyond the metropolis. We welcomed two new reviewers, Ezra Horbury (Critical Studies) and Miranda Fay Thomas (on Performance), and Emma Depledge has contributed her review of Editions and Textual Studies.

Do contact the editor (emma.smith@hertford.ox.ac.uk) if you have questions about Survey. As an annual, we operate a yearly deadline of 1 September, but accept submissions on a rolling basis. Our next themed issue is volume 78 (deadline, 1 September 2024): ‘Shakespeare and Communities’ and volume 79 (1 September 2025) is ‘Late Shakespeare’.

Shakespeare Survey 76 Edited by Emma Smith

About The Author

Emma Smith

Emma Smith is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford. She has lectured widely in the UK and beyond on the First Folio and on Shakespeare and early modern dram...

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