ASU professors to delve into Hamlet as part of month-long Shakespeare celebration

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but this month the state of Arizona is savoring a fresh perspective on some of Shakespeare's most popular works.

As part of its effort to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the beloved playwright's death, Folger Shakespeare Library is hosting an exhibit at the University of Arizona featuring an original copy of the First Folio, the book that preserved 36 of Shakespeare's plays (18 of which had never been printed before).

In addition to the open exhibit, which runs from Feb. 15 to March 15, a lineup of discussions, competitions and performances are scheduled throughout the month.

On Wednesday night, two ASU professors and one UA professor will present their thoughts on three different publications of "Hamlet" at a panel discussion at the UA library titled "The Texts of Hamlet: 'The Good, the Bad, and the Folio.'"

The panel will also be live-streamed at Hayden Library from 6 to 8 p.m. for students and faculty interested in learning more about the different versions of Hamlet and how their variations alter the wording and meaning of the text.

Ian Moulton, faculty head of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication in the College of Letters and Sciences, has been involved with planning the event since preparations started last year. During the panel, he will be presenting a section titled "A Fair Copy of Foul Papers," which will include his thoughts on the Folio text as well as how it still manages to speak to modern audiences.

"Shakespeare's language is phenomenally rich," Moulton said. "We still read it in the original 400-year-old language because it's very complex. It's going to be more work to read Shakespeare than something that was written six weeks ago, so the question you have to ask yourself is, 'What do you get out of this?' What I've always found is I get an awful lot."

Moulton said the takeaway of "Hamlet" lies not only in its global cultural significance but in its timeless relevance.

"Shakespeare is fun," he said. "His plays are based on stories that resonate with our culture — basic life-things like falling in love, losing a parent and being ambitious. They're full of action. ... The stories and characters are great and engaging."

The UA has been chosen to exhibit the traveling FIRST FOLIO, the book that “gave us Shakespeare.” In honor of the FIRST FOLIO Arizona Illustrated visits a book binder who is recreating the First Folio with his own hands, a crumhorn consort who plays the music of Shakespeare’s time and an UA Arizona Repertory Theatre director who is preparing his actors to perform two plays from the First Folio. Produced by Mitchell RileySee this incredible book at the UA's First Folio exhibit from February 15 to March 15 at the Arizona State Museum.Tune to Arizona Illustrated Sunday at 6:30pm on PBS 6.

Posted by Arizona Public Media on Friday, February 12, 2016

Moulton was approached to help organize the event because of his academic experience analyzing medieval texts, as well as his position on the advisory board of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The other two panelists, UA professor Frederick Kiefer and ASU professor Bradley Ryner, were also selected based on their long history of work studying drama.

Kiefer has been teaching Elizabethan and Jacobean drama at UA since 1973. In his section of the panel, titled "What's Wrong with the First Folio?," he plans to look at the small but significant differences between the texts and how editors can subtly alter the original meaning.

"I think one thing that the audience will take away is the knowledge that (Shakespeare's) plays, in many cases, do not exist in only one version," he said. "It's useful to realize that there's more than one Hamlet, and we don't know which of the Hamlets is closest to what the original audience would have seen."

The chance to collaborate with UA and provide ASU students an opportunity to participate in the panel was exciting for Jennie Duvernay, the communications director for ASU libraries.

"We were really excited for (UA) because we knew what an important opportunity it was to host the First Folio," she said. "They wanted to make sure the students at ASU had the opportunity to view and participate in the event as well."

Not only will the event be live-streamed for free in room C6A at the Hayden Library, but participants from ASU will also be able to ask questions and participate in the discussion at the end of the panel.

For more information about the event, visit its website.

Related Links:

ASU Theatre and Shakespeare Club keeps theater alive with 'Much Ado About Nothing'

ASU Theatre and Shakespeare club focuses on the classics


Reach the reporter at skylar.mason@asu.edu or follow @skylarmason42 on Twitter.

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