By Claire Oxford
On the 400th anniversary of his death, Shakespeare is alive and well at Kenyon. To commemorate this date, generally agreed upon as April 23, 1616, several members of Kenyon’s faculty, led by Tessie Prakas, visiting assistant professor of English, and Adele Davidson, Charles P. McIlvaine professor of English, have organized a series of events and an exhibition dedicated to celebrating the bard.
“I think those of us who are responsible for teaching Shakespeare just wanted to highlight this important anniversary,” said Davidson, who has taught numerous Shakespeare courses in Kenyon’s English department. “There’s a tradition, and it may be a little stronger in Europe than here, of celebrating the author’s death date as well, [when] the author enters the immortal and they become their text. That’s being celebrated worldwide as well this year, and we wanted to join in the spirit of that.”
Davidson and Prakas spearheaded the organization of this commemoration, titled “Shakespeare 400,” and have engaged a variety of students and faculty in their programming.
HIKA, a student-run literary magazine, will be running a sonnet competition in Shakespeare’s honor through spring break for a prize. Employees at the Greenslade Special Collections and Archives, such as Abigail Miller, college and digital collections archivist, researched and pulled a variety of materials from the Special Collections for a Shakespeare 400 exhibition.
The exhibition opened on Feb. 17 and will be open for the remainder of the semester. Several English professors have hosted and will be hosting film screenings of various Shakespeare-based movies such as Othello and Love’s Labour’s Lost with discussions afterwards.
On top of these events, Prakas is hoping to coordinate with The Billy Shakes Project to perform a couple of the bard’s plays later this semester closer to his actual death date, with the goal of having one play performed outdoors.
Other events include “Shakespeare’s Kitchen,” a cooking event coordinated by Prakas featuring early-modern recipes, a screening of The Kenyon Sonnet Project, a film of various members of the Kenyon community performing Shakespearean sonnets, and a panel with speakers discussing the theme of “World Shakespeare” — or Shakespeare’s presence and productions on a global scale.
On March 1, Davidson and Prakas will be giving a talk on the Shakespeare 400 exhibition during common hour at the Archives. It features an eclectic range of objects and texts on display — from campy, kitsch Shakespeare memorabilia, like a plastic bust and a Shakespeare action-figure, to a facsimile of the first comprehensive folio of Shakespeare’s work published after his death in 1623. An entire case is dedicated to different editions of Shakespeare’s work, highlighting the variations of the printed text.
Liam Horsman ’17, co-editor of HIKA and a student employee at the archives, helped research and organize the library’s Shakespeare exhibition. Horsman enjoyed working with Davidson and Prakas, especially when the two were poring over different centuries-old folios of Shakespeare’s works and debating which version of the text was printed in these respective books.
“It was amazing to see these two Shakespeare scholars go really, really deep into like looking at this one line,” he said.
“Our goal here is to make this a community event as far as possible” Prakas said. “In the same way that we were talking about these texts as being fundamentally theatrical as well as literary, this is an occasion that is supposed to be participatory in the same way that a performance of Shakespeare would be.”