Shakespeare’s Literary Lives: The author as Character in Fiction & Film
Sunday 12th March 2017, 3 pm
Paul Franssen (1955) is a lecturer in older English literature at the English Department of Utrecht University. He has written many articles on the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, co-edited scholarly volumes of articles on Shakespeare and War (Palgrave, 2008) and Shakespeare and European Politics (Associated University Press, 2008), and has recently published a monograph on Shakespeare as a literary character, entitled Shakespeare’s Literary Lives (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
On 23 April 2016, we celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (1564-1616). Dr. Paul Franssen will speak about the genius of Shakespeare. After a brief biographical introduction, he will first address Shakespeare’s rise to canonical status, both in the UK and on the Continent, particularly the Low Countries. Finally, he will investigate Shakespeare’s current fame, and ask what is its basis? Is it a coincidence that he is an English writer, while English is the world language (for wholly unconnected political reasons)? Or is his reputation due to something inherent in his plays, in particular, and if so, what? In exploring these questions, the talk will also cover ideas such as John Keats’s notion of Shakespeare’s “negative capability,” that is to say, being able to live with uncertainty and to represent both sides of a conflict with a large degree of empathy. This concept will be illustrated with practical examples from plays such as Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice. Knowledge of these plays, and of Shakespeare’s work in general, though an advantage, is not absolutely necessary to follow the lecture.