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2013 Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture

Andrew Hadfield
Graymalkin and Other Shakespearean Celts


How does Ireland stand in Shakespeare's plays?


"Come, Graymalkin," summons one of the witches in the first scene of Macbeth. Graymalkin, however, is not only a witch's familiar, argues Andrew Hadfield. She may also be Irish. Beginning with the fascinating backstory of the cat Graymalkin, Hadfield traces images of Ireland and the Irish in many of Shakespeare's plays, and in the sources upon which he drew. From the anatomically candid side of The Comedy of Errors to the tragic politics of Richard II, Ireland casts a long and changing shadow throughout Shakespeare's work.


This lecture was delivered in the Folger's Elizabethan Theatre on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.


Andrew Hadfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex and Visiting Profesor 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.


The annual Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture is sponsored by the Folger Institute.


Each year, a scholar delivers a lecture on Shakespeare as part of the Folger's celebration of the Bard's birthday. This tradition dates back to the library's founding in 1932 when Joseph Quincy Adams spoke on "Shakespeare and American Culture."


Andrew Hadfield:
Graymalkin and Other Shakespearean Celts

Associated Images from the Folger Collection

Read the transcript

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