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Shakespeare Birthday Lecture: Graymalkin and Other Shakespearean Celts

Andrew Hadfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex and Visiting Professor at the University of Granada. He is the author of a number of works on early modern literature, including Edmund Spenser: A Life (2012), Literature, Travel and Colonialism in the English Renaissance, 1540-1625 (2007); Shakespeare and Republicanism (2005); Spenser's Irish Experience: Wilde Fruyt and Salvage Soyl (1997); and Literature, Politics and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance (1994). He was editor of Renaissance Studies (2006-11) and is a regular reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement.

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“Come, Graymalkin,” summons one of the witches in the first scene of Macbeth. Professor Hadfield will take this up as one example of Ireland’s shadowy but palpable presence in a number of Shakespeare’s plays, including The Comedy of Errors, Henry VI part 2, Othello, and Henry V. This lecture will examine the relationship between Shakespeare and Ireland as both representation and theatrical influence. The lecture will explore the fear that Ireland and the Irish inspired in the English imagination, especially at the end of the sixteenth century and into the early seventieth century long after Irish resistance to English rule had been crushed at the Battle of Kinsale (1601). It will also look at how Shakespeare, established as one of the key figures of English national identity, then helped to establish the nature of theatre in Ireland in the seventeenth century, especially through the work of James Shirley (1596-1666), the outstanding dramatist of the early Irish commercial stage, whose career was shaped by his reading of Shakespeare.

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