Monday, August 20, 2012

Why "Shakespeare Unbound"?

Shakespeare characters from James Christensen's
"All the World's a Stage"
Over time Shakespeare’s characters and plays have achieved a life of their own. They don't depend much upon a knowledge of Shakespeare's life and times, nor do they thrive only within theatrical performance or literary study. 

At large in the public domain, Shakespeare’s creations simultaneously invoke and transcend tradition. Independent of their creator, their time period, or the educational gate keepers of culture, they live on in various forms and animate new modes of expression.

Hamlet-themed cake
Hilary Rose Cupcakes
Today, networked communication and new media provide conditions for another renaissance -- perhaps one to rival the European Renaissance which Shakespeare typified. Like that earlier period, this is a period fraught with novelty and uncertainty, excitement and chaos. 

Shakespeare’s creations, unbound, alive, and responsive to the present moment, provide continuity with artistic and cultural patterns of the past while serving as both platform and license for experimentation and discovery.
Henry VIII and Gloriana
Second Life Shakespeare Company
(CC license - Flickr - Inacentaurdump)

We can productively explore our brave new digital world and Shakespeare’s works simultaneously, using the one to understand the other.

As we do so, we find that the traditional ways of studying Shakespeare have a hard time sitting still within the limits of print and the parameters of analytical prose. Shakespeare invites not just analysis, but response, creation, and engagement with others who continue to draw inspiration from his legacy.

That's the theme of this blog, and the approach that I take with my students.