Spring Conference "Shakespeare-Tage" 2011 in Weimar

Shakespeare’s Shipwrecks: Theatres of Maritime Adventure

The 2011 spring conference of the German Shakespeare Society, organised in association with the European Shakespeare Research Association (ESRA), will take place 28 April – 1 May 2011 in Weimar (Germany).

Shakespearean theatre and drama show a world of maritime experience. Born from an early modern culture of wide-ranging sea adventures, vibrant with the great excitements of con­temporary voyaging, reaching out into the worlds of Mediterranean and transatlantic sea­faring, Shakespeare’s works engage with oceanic spaces as a natural sphere of promise, peril, and temptation. As land-bound creatures, humans generally venture out across the sea in clear defiance of their given place. This is why, according to Lucretius and other ancient thinkers, voyaging is a form of transgression, a primary act of cultural invention which seeks to go beyond the limits imposed on us by Providence so as to venture towards self-determin­ation. Shipwreck is part of this wager, a necessary figure of the risks incurred through all such efforts to shape and forge the future. Between a providential view of catastrophe and the devastations of unaccountable contingencies, Shakespeare’s work pursues a course that steers his characters across spaces of elementary risk which they may never escape.

‘European Shakespeare’ promotes an approach to this phenomenon which comple­ments the critical per­spective from the Stratford side of the Channel with a Continental one. It thus has the sea inscribed in its very definition: as the most obvious and the most basic boundary between Britain and abroad, the sea inevitably crops up when it comes to distinguishing things British from other things, from things elsewhere. In such binary distinctions, the sea tends to be no more than a blank space, the nonentity between two geographical entities. But this radically understates its significance in the cultural and political imagination. According to the song, it is, after all, specifically the waves