Shakespearean Drama and the Early Modern European Stage


Lukas Erne (University of Geneva)

Ton Hoenselaars (Utrecht University)


English itinerant players toured northern and central Europe from the 1580s well into the seventeenth century. Their repertories consisted of numerous plays from the London theatre, by Shakespeare and his London contemporaries. Dozens of the plays from the continental European theatre circuit with a direct connection to the London theatre world have survived. They include translations and adaptations of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (in various forms), Thomas Middleton’s Revenger’s Tragedy, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Thomas Dekker’s Old Fortunatus, as well as Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet. Countless other continental texts – frequently in German or Dutch – are also of interest since they are based on the same source materials as Shakespearean drama (Soliman and Perseda, Old Fortunatus, The Beautiful Sidea [The Tempest], The Beautiful Phaenicia [Much Ado about Nothing], and Julius and Hippolyta [Two Gentlemen of Verona]).

Many of these plays have received modern reprints, and some have been translated (or back-translated) into English. Also, many of the documentary sources relating to this theatre activity have been made available. Nonetheless, awareness of these fascinating continental materials among Shakespeareans remains low.

The present ESRA conference meets in one of the prominent places where English players performed four centuries ago. Gdansk is, therefore, the ideal locus for a re-examination of the form and context in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries first reached northern and central Europe, and left valuable traces that may still teach us much about the plays and the theatrical cultures of which they were a part.

This seminar solicits papers about any aspect of Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists on the Continent, in early modern English, Latin, German, Dutch, or any other language. We welcome contributions devoted to the plays themselves, their relationship to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, their place within early modern continental European theatre, the companies that performed them, as well as the linguistic, theatrical, institutional, historical, and broader cultural circumstances in which they were produced. It is hoped that new theoretical approaches to theatre and performance, translation and adaptation, editing, and cultural exchange in a European context will lay the groundwork for an overdue revival of research interest.


Please send 250-300-word abstracts and biographies to and before 31 March 2017.