Shakespeare's Sense of Character Has Strong "Wellesley Pedigree"

January 3, 2013

Wellesley Professor of English Yu Jin Ko recently co-edited Shakespeare’s Sense of Character: On the Page and from the Stage (Ashgate, 2012). The collection of essays from scholars and dramatists includes an introduction from Ko as well as a contribution from Diego Arciniegas, senior lecturer in the Theatre Studies Program at Wellesley and artistic director of the Publick Theater in Boston.

“The collection grew in part out of a symposium on Shakespeare’s sense of character here at Wellesley that was sponsored by the Newhouse Center for the Humanities,” Ko explained. “So this book has quite a Wellesley pedigree.”

In October 2010, Shakespeare’s Characters on Trial: A Two-Day Symposium of Performance and Criticism featured talks by renowned Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber and director Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater in New York, as well as performances by Tina Packer, founding artistic director of Shakespeare and Company.

“The Symposium was an important step in that it brought scholars and theatre professionals together, face to face, to share in a very spirited dialogue,” Ko said. “The idea for the book and the symposium is something that has evolved over the years simply because I love the theatre and want to see academics and theatre people working together."

As did the symposium, the collection integrates the analysis of both scholars and theater professionals. Essays range from considering specific, major Shakespearean figures like Iago and Hamlet to more broadly contemplating the Bard’s creation of character and discussing theories about how to perform those creations on stage. "I don't want to overstate the case," said Ko, "because cooperation between academia and the theatre is not new.  However, it's also true that there has been mutual suspicion between scholars and people of the theatre since the days of Aristotle. This has partly to do with the fact that scholars and theatre professionals approach drama from different perspectives and therefore use different vocabularies. We are hoping that our book takes a modest step towards building more trust and enabling more collaboration."

Ko edited the collection with Michael W. Shurgot, professor of humanities at South Puget Sound Community College.

The study of Shakespeare’s work remains integral to the study of English literature at Wellesley. The English department requires majors to take at least one course in Shakespeare and typically offers three courses on different aspects of his work each semester, open to majors and non-major enthusiasts alike.