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Lecture will unveil the arrival of Shakespeare’s works in NZ

Lecture will unveil the arrival of Shakespeare’s works in New Zealand

The arrival of the only First Folio of Shakespeare’s work in New Zealand is the subject of the University of Auckland’s Alice Griffin Shakespeare Fellow 2014.

Dr Emma Smith of Hertford College, Oxford University, will describe how a copy of the First Folio was gifted by the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey in the late 19th century. The folio is in care of Auckland Libraries and is the only one in the country, one of just three in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only 228 remaining copies in the world.

“I want to discuss that particular copy, what we can learn about its immediate readers, and what its home in New Zealand says about the global reach of Shakespeare in colonial times and since,” Dr Smith says.

Early readers of Shakespeare encountered almost half of his works for the first time in 1623 with the First Folio. It contains 36 plays including The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Twelfth Night.

She will discuss how readers engaged with this ‘big book’ and its individual plays, using manuscript annotations and other evidence to understand what it was like to read these works in such a large format. Whereas most studies of the First Folio have been concerned with its production, this lecture looks at reception and about the way the book engages, and sometimes bewilders, its readers.

“People have enjoyed different things about Shakespeare at different historical periods,” Dr Smith says.

“We used to think Shakespeare was a moral teacher who could show us how to behave or help us understand other humans; at times we have found that his plays have particular insight into politics and the nature of public life; some critics have felt his characterisation is uniquely human and humane; many scholars now enjoy the fact that the plays seem to ask questions rather than answer them, and so are dynamic and continually reinterpretable.”

Dr Smith says she’s been drawn to Shakespeare because of the intensive contemporary and historical conversation about his works and what they might mean.

“I like the fact that almost everyone has heard of him and there are always more opinions and more versions of the plays than any single person could ever get to grips with.”

Dr Smith is the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare, and co-author of 30 Great Myths About Shakespeare. She has written a series of Guides to Criticism of Shakespeare’s plays and numerous scholarly articles on topics such as “Hamlet and Consumer Culture” and “Was Shylock Jewish?” She is currently Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at Oxford University and is a regular podcaster on Shakespeare.

Dr Smith’s lecture will be held on Thursday 3 April at the Old Government House Lecture Theatre at 6.30pm.

The Dr Alice Griffin Fellow lecture was established thanks to the generosity of Mr John Griffin, President of Blue Ridge Capital in New York. The Fellowship brings experts in Shakespearean Studies to the University of Auckland and allows Faculty of Arts’ students to benefit from their teachings. A public lecture is given by each visiting fellow.

Mr Griffin's donation to the University's Faculty of Arts established the scholarship in the name of his mother Dr Alice Griffin who held a PhD from Columbia University, served as associate editor and drama critic for Theatre Arts Magazine, and taught modern drama at the City University of New York.

Alice Griffin's ten books on theatre include Living Theater, Understanding Tennessee Williams, Understanding Arthur Miller, and Understanding Lillian Hellman. The latest of her four books on Shakespeare is Shakespeare's Women in Love.


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