Hamlet’s Beard: Shakespeare and the History of Gender

Wednesday 13 April

Event date: Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 6.30 PM


Derby Cathedral, 18-19 Iron Gate, Derby, DE1 3GP

(Starting at 6.30pm)

Event summary

In 2014 the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester put on Hamlet with Maxine Peake in the title role. Although this cross-casting felt like a novelty, Victorian Hamlets were often women and, in one reading, the prince was born a girl. On the other hand, Shakespeare’s own Hamlet, like his author and like Richard Burbage, who played him, had a beard. Later Hamlets were generally clean-shaven, however, even when the other young men in the play wore whiskers. When and why did Hamlet lose his beard? Has he ever regained it? And what does that story reveal about shifting ideas of gender, as well as changing interpretations of the play, during four hundred years of performance on the stage?

Organised to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, this is the first event in the new University Cathedral Lecture Series. The talk will be delivered by Professor Catherine Belsey.

About the speaker

Catherine Belsey is a visiting professor in English. Her interest in the theory and practice of the discipline has led most recently to A Future for Criticism (2011), just as it prompted her first book Critical Practice (1980, 2002). In between, she has published The Subject of Tragedy (1985), Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture(1994), and Culture and the Real (2005), as well as four books on Shakespeare and one on Milton.

She has consistently aligned herself with innovations in criticism and, as Chair of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University, she played a part in international efforts to prevent English from sliding into nostalgia. She believes that even the most difficult theories can be made accessible and is author of Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction (2002). Professor Belsey is a Fellow of the English Association and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

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This event is free to attend but booking is essential.

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