This month sees the publication of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (Cambridge University Press), edited by Professor Stanley Wells and Dr Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the second book published by an academic press to address the Shakespeare authorship question. The first was Diana Price’s Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography (Greenwood Press, 2001), recently re-published in an affordable paperback edition. Twelve years on, and following James Shapiro’s Contested Will, orthodox Shakespearean scholars have written an accessible academic text putting forward their side of the argument.
On April 26th at 6.30 BST, I’ll be discussing Shakespeare Beyond Doubt with Professor Wells and Dr Edmondson in a free global webcast organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. If you’d like to know what we have to say to each other, you can register by clicking here (you’ll be sent a link to the webcast). This is separate from my live event at Stratford Literary Festival earlier in the afternoon. In this event, at 4.30, Professor Wells and Dr Edmondson will be discussing my book, The Marlowe Papers, with reference to the lives and works of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Both events promise to be very interesting indeed.
On the afternoon of Friday 26th April I’ll be appearing at the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival alongside Professor Stanley Wells and Dr Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to discuss the works and lives of Shakespeare and Marlowe. Those of you thinking this might turn into a bun flight will be happy to know tea and cake are included in the ticket price.
Details and ticket booking here: http://www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk/event/shakespeare-and-marlowe
The Marlowe Papers – London reading
On Sunday Sept 30th, Ros Barber will read from and talk about The Marlowe Papers. The event will be held in the wonderful historic setting of the excavated footings of the original Rose Theatre, not far from The Globe on the south bank of the Thames. Ros will read from The Marlowe Papers and talk about her re-imagined life of the Elizabethan poet and playwright.
This is the only reading in London this year since the sell-out launch event at the British Library in May. Critically acclaimed verse novel The Marlowe Papers, written entirely in iambic pentameter, was joint winner of the Hoffmann Prize 2011. Described as ‘a striking performer of her own poems’, this promises to be a powerful reading in the spot where Kit Marlowe’s plays were first performed in London and is not to be missed.
“This is the most complete Marlowe I’ve ever encountered.” – Will Self
“Ros Barber’s work is exquisitely honed in meter and metaphor — she makes the iambic pentameter sound as if she just invented it. Her voice is an instrument of creativity, intellect and emotion. Her performance at Pure Poetry was one of the most memorable I have seen in fifteen years.” – Patience Agbabi
“Wonderful poetry, incorporating fantastic imagery, and an accomplished direct stage manner.” – John Agard
“Ros Barber doesn’t read so much as put her whole personal, emotional creativity into sharing her words. From the outset the audience were transfixed. For me, it was a whole new experience in the immediacy of a creative mind connecting with people.” – Andrew Fitch, “Booktalk”
Organised by The Marlowe Society: contact them for details/tickets.
Sunday 30th September
Conference: Other Voices Other Times
Title of Paper: Resurrecting Marlowe
The Marlowe Papers (Sceptre, 2012) is the fictional autobiography of sixteenth century playwright Christopher Marlowe and is a novel written entirely in blank verse. In this presentation I will share the processes that led to its construction over a four year period and which facilitated the development of an authentic voice for the protagonist and the creation of a believable and inhabitable Elizabethan world.The following questions will be addressed. How does one ‘become’ Marlowe and speak – in a way that seems genuine – from the perspective of a four-hundred-year-old dead man? How does one develop a vocabulary and tone that sounds authentically Elizabethan whilst staying within the readable confines of contemporary English? What decisions were necessary to strike the right balance between authenticity and readability? What was learnt etymologically from the process of weeding out anachronisms in the text? What level of research is necessary? How are gaps in historical knowledge filled for modern readers through a first person narrator to whom such detail needs no description, being the background of everyday existence?
The Marlowe Papers resurrects Marlowe in more than one sense, not only appearing to bring him back to life so that he can tell his own story, but taking the line that his apparent death in Deptford was staged in order for him to escape capital charges of atheism and heresy, fleeing to a life of exile abroad, with his subsequent writing appearing under the pen-name William Shakespeare. How does a construction of Marlowe that didn’t die at Deptford differ from the conventional construction of one who did? And how does one overcome the massive act of hubris that becomes apparent when you realise you must write not only as if you are Marlowe, but as if you are the author of the greatest works of literature of all time?
Venue: Bath Spa University
Time: 11am (conference 9am – 5pm)
On 30 May 1593, celebrated young playwright Christopher Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl in London… or did he re-invent himself as one William Shakespeare?
Award-winning poet Ros Barber discusses her enthralling and hugely acclaimed new verse novel The Marlowe Papers with Shakespearean scholar Bill Leahy and writer Will Self.
When: Tue 29 May 2012, 18.30 – 20.00
Where: Staff Restaurant, British Library
Price: £6 / £4 concessions
Book tickets here: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/events/event130838.html
Saturday 1st October
Forest Row Festival
Venue: Garden Room, Community Centre
At this event, Ros will be giving a sneak preview of ‘The Marlowe Papers’, a fictional autobiography of the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe, due to be published by Sceptre in 2012. As the Forest Row Festival states, “This promises to be a particularly special literary highlight and not to be missed.”
Go to the Forest Row Festival website for details of how to get to the venue.
During the fifty years from its writing to the closure of the theatres in 1642, there was no play more popular than Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. No Shakespeare play could compete with it. No play of the period was more often revived, or proved more consistent box office. This season’s spectacular production of Doctor Faustus at The Globe helps you understand why. Spectacular, you ask? Have I not seen the mixed reviews? Indeed I have, and I was prepared to be disappointed. I can only conclude that the authors of one or two sniffy reviews in the broadsheets got the posh seats (too distant from the action) and were expecting this tragicomic confection to come out a shade darker.
Marlowe, deeply scholarly and fascinated by questions of theology, nevertheless understood theatre like no other dramatist of his era, and in Doctor Faustus, fused depth and spectacle into the most profound theatrical magic. The magic of this production – in a play centred on the pursuit of magic – is most magnificently experienced as a groundling, where misdirection combined with a more limited perspective means the ample use of trapdoors is easily missed. We are as shocked as Faustus to find Mephistopheles calmly standing at the front of a stage that was previously empty.
I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since I passed my DPhil viva (oral examination, for those of you not familiar with academic lingo) three and a bit weeks ago. But maybe it’s okay that it’s taken me ages to get round to it. Since I became a Proper Academic* (*there are provisos here) I’ve been in a real kick-my-shoes-off-and-do-nothing mood. It’s a very unfamiliar feeling. For four and a half years now, I’ve felt driven to be at that desk every day from 8am (sometimes earlier), and had to be physically dragged away from it – usually after 6pm – by family members, concerned I should eat, drink, mingle with normal human beings, remember what daylight looked like etc.
I’m exaggerating, but not much. A writer friend of mine (who after all, knows all about obsession) calls my study “my burrow” (it is, essentially, underground – and as I’ve probably mentioned before, I work in the dark). Several times during my PhD (I use these terms interchangeably because few people outside academia are familiar with ‘DPhil’) she tempted me out of my burrow with the offer of lunch at my favourite restaurant, only, she said, because she was worried I would otherwise start growing hair on my paws.
After six months of stalling, I have finally gone public with the short interview I did on my PhD research. It was posted today on Carlo Dinota’s Marlowe Shakespeare Connection, and is now publicly listed on YouTube. I find the YouTube thing a little scary. I’ve seen YouTube comments. A lot of those people are very angry, and many of them can’t spell.
I’m not unaware of the emotive power of this issue, and how very upset some people get at the very thought one could seriously entertain the idea that our friend from Stratford didn’t write the plays attributed to him. I have taken four years to consider my approach to this, and several months to sit on this short video largely on the basis that that on the day in question I didn’t have professional hair or make-up. But since just before Christmas, I’ve had the video quietly embedded in my Research page to see if anything bad happened. Seems the sky didn’t fall in. So I have succumbed to private persuasion and released it into the wild.
I might as well; bigger things are on their way. In the next couple of months I will be the first of four Sussex postgraduates this year who will be filmed presenting their research as part of a University pilot scheme. The 20-30 minute film will, I’m told, be hosted on the University of Sussex website. It’s a complicated business, involving multiple cameras and all kinds of gadgetry. I’m currently re-designing my Globe presentation on Keynote (borrowing a Macbook on campus) and will need two days’ rehearsal before filming starts. Exciting, though. Looks like a lot of good things are kicking off in 2011. This time around, I’m definitely going to put a little more effort into the hair and make-up.