Dr Ema Vyroubalová, Assistant Professor of Early Modern Literature at Trinity College Dublin, was one of the organisers of “Shakespeare: the Next 400 Years” held at Kronberg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark on the 400th anniversary of his death. Here, Kaitlyn Culliton and Shauna O’Brien give a report on the conference, which is of special interest for its focus on Shakespeare’s contemporary relevance in a global context.
Guest post by Shauna O’Brien and Kaitlyn Culliton (PhD candidates, Trinity College Dublin)
Shakespeare the Next 400 Years, the 2016 conference, commemorated the life and works of William Shakespeare while anticipating the future of his legacy. Academics, artists, theater practitioners, and historians gathered on April 22-24 at the Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark. Known for generations as “Hamlet’s castle,” the site has become a focal point around which Shakespearians from all discourses have met. The organizing committee of Dr Yilin Chen, Dr Ema Vyroubalova, Prof Ryuta Minami, and Dr Yukari Yoshihara under the direction of Teeside University’s Ronan Paterson gathered presenters with a variety of interesting and engaging perspectives.
The conference included such renowned keynote speakers as Alexa Huang, Richard Burt, and Judith Buchanan. From Huang’s discussion on Global Shakespeare and citational theatricality, to Burt’s analysis of Orson Welles’ versions of Othello, to Buchanan’s insights into the archival future of Shakespeare, the keynotes provided a perfect foundation to launch the wide array of perspectives that filled the weekend programme.
Beginning with seminars focused on the impressive setting of the conference itself, the topics moved from Shakespeare’s place in history to his anticipated virtuality; a stimulating compendium, the talks were inclusive of Japanese animation, classroom participation, reproductions and globalization that moved toward an understanding of Shakespeare’s relevance in a contemporary context. Throughout the weekend, audiences could participate in tryptic panel discussions throughout the castle rooms. The seminars were punctuated by twenty-minute lunchtime Shakespeare productions and concluded each day with films, some of which were previously unreleased.
Shakespeare the Next 400 Years took an interdisciplinary turn on the final day, placing the different approaches of scholars alongside those of directors. One of these directors, Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, provided an engaging anecdotal account of the challenges facing theatre practitioners in Iran. In the midst of the weekend’s reflection and celebration, Karimi-Hakak drew attention to the present, reminding audiences of the problematic position that Shakespeare occupies in certain global contexts.
In spite of the intensity of scholarly debate, delegates indulged in moments of celebration. To mark the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the attendees connected online with fellow Shakespearians from universities across the world to toast the works of the bard. Paterson’s introduction and closing remarks stressed the significance of the historic moment and the opportunities that this convergence of Shakespearians from different disciplines could facilitate in the future.