At Teaching Shakespeare 2014, participants and faculty will take a deep dive into Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, undertaking an intensive study of the intellectual, pedagogical, and theatrical challenges of the plays, as well as becoming acquainted with digital resources that can be employed to better engage and resolve them within the classroom.
The similarities and differences between the plays in genre, theme, and structure, as well as the variety and relative depth of the characters that inhabit them, make this an excellent juxtaposition. Young love as it unfolds both with and without parental constraint; gender norms and gender deviance (Twelfth Night's Viola is one of Shakespeare's most famous cross-dressed heroines); the Elizabethan understanding of fortune and fate (as when ships sink or stars cross); master-less men and social unrest (both plays feature riotous youths who are expelled from the community); desire and the limits of its representation on the all-male stage; fools, balls, madmen, fencing matches, and the nature of Elizabethan entertainment; and the surprisingly small difference between Shakespearean comedy and tragedy are all up for consideration by all of us.
The Folger's unparalleled collection of material on the early modern period in Europe (1500-1750) is a cornerstone of the participants' experience. Therefore, the plays have been selected for the variety and significance of related research projects that the collection can support. For example, the Library owns copies of the first and second quartos of Romeo and Juliet, which participants can study for similarities and differences. The Library also has copies of two of the sources for Twelfth Night: Novella novamente ritrovata d'uno innamoramento (Venice, 1535) and Gl'Ignannati (Venice, 1565). Also included are page-by-page views of 218 of the Folger's pre-1640 quarto editions of Shakespeare's works. These rare sources will provide teachers with fresh and specific ways to allow their students to learn both from and about Shakespeare's print history and culture. The Folger's Curators of Art and Manuscripts will also introduce participants to those collections, where very different kinds of contexts and genealogies are awaiting study.
Teaching Shakespeare 2014's home is the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where participants will be summer fellows, with full access to the Reading Rooms and the collections. Participants have the opportunity to explore the plays with an exceptional faculty of scholars, performance professionals, and experienced secondary school teachers. Institute days are packed with lectures, small group seminars, informal work sessions, sessions with actors and teachers, individual independent research, and perhaps a lunchtime colloquium. Visiting scholars are also part of the Institute scene, as one or two sessions per week on specific topics are led by visiting scholars.