Michael Dobson

Michael Dobson is director of the Shakespeare Institute at Birmingham University and a series editor of the Arden Performance Editions of Shakespeare’s plays. His essays for the LRB have dealt with many aspects of Shakespeare, from purported portraits to the state of Shakespearean criticism, from editions of the plays to the father-daughter problem in King Lear and in Shakespeare’s lodgings in Silver Street. He has also written about the afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I’s favourites.

However​ dissentious, alienating, confusing and anxious life may have been for most of the English under the Tudors, the period, especially its last two decades, has usually been remembered as an idyllic apogee of national self-definition. By the time Shakespeare and his apprentice John Fletcher co-wrote All Is True (printed as Henry VIII) in 1613, wistfulness for the previous reign was...

Did Shakespeare​ know they were his ‘last plays’? Or his ‘late romances’? The very terms by which scholars habitually refer to Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest, All Is True (Henry VIII) and The Two Noble Kinsmen, all composed between about 1607 and 1613 – between Shakespeare’s 43rd year and his 49th – compound the issue of...

Elsinore’s Star Bullshitter

Michael Dobson, 13 September 2018

I saw​ a great performance of Hamlet this spring, at Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, in a Soviet-era theatre built on a similar brutalist scale to the National in London but with less of its self-effacing eagerness to fit in. Or rather I saw Hamlet not in the Ivan Franko Music and Drama Theatre but under it. The theatre’s ambitious artistic director, Rostislav Derzhypilsky,...

Ovid goes to Stratford: Shakespeare Myths

Michael Dobson, 5 December 2013

Perhaps it was inevitable that Shakespeare’s talent should have been understood in mythological terms from the outset. Even before he published Venus and Adonis (1593) his early plays had revealed an imagination profoundly shaped by Ovid’s tales of the interaction between gods and mortals, and, despite the growing prevalence among his audiences of a neoclassical taste for...

Diary: The Russell-Cotes

Michael Dobson, 23 February 2012

What is the difference between great art and tat? In the theatre, Dr Johnson’s rule of thumb seems adequate: if people are still prepared to revive a play a century after its premiere, it probably matters, whether or not they call it ‘dramatic art’. But it’s trickier with paintings, which have a relationship to the word ‘art’ that baffled me for years. When...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who, at the age of two, had in some fashion to be told that her father had just cut off the head of the beautiful mother who used to lavish affection on...

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Identity Parade

Linda Colley, 25 February 1993

‘I will never, come hell or high water, let our distinctive British identity be lost in a federal Europe.’ John Major’s ringing assurance to last year’s Conservative Party...

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