Call for Statements 2007

Wissenschaftliches Seminar im Rahmen der Shakespeare-Tage 2007

Shakespearean Soundspaces: Music - Voice - Noises - Silence

In one of his most memorable lines, Shakespeare’s Caliban speaks of the “noises”, “sounds and sweet airs” which haunt the magic island and, with “twangling instruments” or “voices”, wake its dreamers while also putting them again to sleep. Caliban is acting as a local guide, giving comfort to the foreign visitors who respond with terror to the sounds they hear when Ariel plays the tabor and the pipe. In fact, these very instruments belong to the established repertoire of stage fools. So, with the staging of their powerful effects, The Tempest here self-consciously presents the soundscapes of the theatre and explores what impact they have on the actual audience in the playhouse. In many ways, the ear may have been more important for early modern play-goers than the eye, because it used to be auditory rather than visual experience that defined the pleasures – just as the perils – of the stage. When old King Hamlet dies from poison poured into his ears, the tragedy points to the dangers of these organs that open our bodies to the world. Acoustic elements, like singing, howling, groaning, crying, are not regularly scripted; as elements of physical performance, they relate to a space beyond – or perhaps before – the symbolic code of language, a space from which transgressive acts like Lear’s or like Ophelia’s madness gain their noisy energies. By the same token, the acts of silence performed by Cordelia or inflicted upon raped Lavinia disrupt the rules of social discourse and suggest the relevance of hearing. What, then, can music, voices, noises, silence do and how are they used on the stage? What soundscapes are presented in Shakespearean productions, in early modern or in our times, in film or audio versions of the plays? What function does stage music have here and for whom? And what about the sounds of language in a foreign tongue, like the Welsh spoken in Henry VI?

The Shakespeare-Tage 2007 will take place from 20th to 22nd April in Bochum. In this context, our seminar plans to address these and related questions. As critical input for the discussion and provocation for debate, panelists are invited to give short statements (of no more than 15 minutes) presenting concrete case studies, concise examples and strong views on the topic. Please send your proposals (Abstracts of ca. 300 words) and all further questions by 31st October 2006 to the seminar convenors

Tobias Döring   (tobias.doering(at)
Susanne Rupp  (srupp(at)