When the amazing news, covered on this blog, came through that the remains of Richard III had been found in a Leicester car park, I shouted it upstairs to my daughter before driving off to work. She thought King Richard had been found alive. I instantly imagined him in a fluorescent jacket, working for NCP, lank haired, slightly hunched. It was strangely vivid and we laughed about it. The strange vividness might have been related to the fact of the sudden, uncanny exposure to a real historical life. I was especially affected by the extraordinary discoveries in the days that followed about Richard’s slenderness which only accentuate the bravery he demonstrably showed in battle.
In 2016, which, in Stratford at least, seems to be approaching very rapidly, we confront Shakespeare’s death afresh, but there is a very real sense of course in which Shakespeare is not dead. He is the most played and important of contemporary playwrights. Given his presence in the culture, and most importantly in the deepest experience of those his work really reaches, he is our most important living writer. For those of us involved in the new MA in Shakespeare and Creativity—the Shakespeare Institute of the University of Birmingham, the SBT, the RSC, and the brand-new and stunning new Library of Birmingham—a new educational initiative was needed which really cuts into the life in Shakespeare, as this is found in the academy, in the theatre and beyond. It will study the ways in which Shakespeare HAS come to life in the past, but it will also look for and improvise new ways of bringing him to life in the present. It will involve rigorous academic reflection and writing, but it will also look beyond the horizon of the traditional academic essay, enabling experiments in reflecting on, responding to and renewing Shakespeare in all sorts of other mediums.
Above all, although it will offer a credible and distinctive qualification for academics, actors, directors, writers, arts administrators and others Shakespeare and Creativityl also be a lot of fun.
So, Shakespeare is not dead! Come and join the party!