The name of action: actors of Shakespeare and Shakespearean actors

Convener: Miranda F Thomas (Shakespeare’s Globe and University of Greenwich)


This seminar explores the acting techniques and the actors who have brought Shakespearean drama to life in Europe. It seeks to discuss the history and development of acting styles, methods and approaches from the early modern period to the present day. How do different actors, or acting styles, help to construct the way audiences view Shakespeare, his texts and his characters? Do certain acting styles or techniques help to illuminate Shakespeare’s plays to respective audiences – and how might different acting styles trap a Shakespearean text within a particular historical European theatrical context?

Papers may focus on particular actors such as Will Kempe, Richard Burbage, David Garrick, Tommaso Salvini, Sarah Bernhardt, Laurence Olivier, Paul Robeson, Adrian Lester and Judi Dench. We would also welcome papers which focus on more ‘non-elite’ performances, laboratory, touring and ensemble theatre practices rather than just institutions such as the RSC or Comédie-Française. Papers might also consider acting styles, incorporating voice and projection, accent, gesture, and movement, in addition to early modern theatrical practices such as the use of cue scripts, impersonation, and stock characters.

We invite papers on any of these topics, as well as ones which move beyond such questions, and seek responses which interrogate the very idea of the Shakespearean actor: who they were, who they are, and who they might be in the future.


Please send 150-word abstracts and biographies to before 31 March 2017.