Students as Scholars

Esther and Sacha discuss ‘The “Two Hours’ Traffic of our Stage”: Time for Shakespeare’

Authors:

Sacha Crowther, is a level 3 undergraduate in the School of English, University of Leeds and a participant in the Students as Scholars program 2014-15. This is her second article.

 Esther Heathcock, is a level 3 undergraduate in the School of English, University of Leeds and a participant in the Students as Scholars program 2014-15. This is her first article.

Editors: 

Camille Laporte, PhD Candidate, School of English and Students as Scholars mentor

Huimin Wang, PhD Candidate, School of English and Students as Scholars mentor

 

Basic summary of the event:

This year’s British Academy and LHRI lecture took place on the 24th of November, conducted by guest speaker Professor Tiffany Stern, a specialist in the literal physicality of Shakespearean drama. Her talk was called ‘The ‘Two Hours’ Traffic of our Stage’: Time for Shakespeare.

As the title suggests, this lecture was all about time and what it meant to Shakespeare and his audience. Professor Stern was arguing against theorists who believe in a distinction between the Shakespeare we read and the Shakespeare that would have been performed on stage. Instead it was suggested that, due to a lack of accurate measuring devices, time became immeasurable, thus plays could have been anywhere between two and four hours; and the audience would have been none the wiser! Professor Stern found a way to speak authoritatively on a matter which seems at first to have no concrete proof. By reading Shakespeare in the context of literal Renaissance objects (such as the hour-glass, the sundial and the clock), she managed to solidify her considerations and provide a convincing set of arguments.

Our approach to this co-authored blog consisted of exchanging our Students as Scholars forms and comparing our interpretations of the event. In addition, the Q&A was a convenient way for the both of us to  post and compare our responses. Our focus is mainly on what we gained from working together, perhaps more so than concentrating on the lecture content itself; Shakespearean criticism is so abundant that it seemed more appropriate to take a slightly detached look at the lecture instead, for the purpose of this blog

 

  • Why did you choose to attend ‘Time for Shakespeare’?

Sacha: As both my dissertation and core modules focus on Shakespearean drama, it is obviously a field I am interested in. Also, the event was a public lecture, which made it unintimidating and accessible, whilst also being part of the prestigious British Academy series.

Esther: Unlike Sacha, I am not doing any Shakespearian drama this year but enjoyed learning about the Renaissance period in my first year modules. I attended the lecture as an appropriate means of reviving my interest in Shakespeare, and it contrasted with my current modules. The difference in our reasons demonstrates the benefits and variety of the Students as Scholars (hereafter SaS) program. In effect, students can either use it to connect with their current studies or  go to events which contrast with their research.

 

  • Did you find that your interpretations of the lecture differed?

Sacha: Unsurprisingly what we each gleaned from the lecture was very similar; both admiring the methodical way in which Prof Stern conducted her research and finding it enlightening and thought-provoking.

Esther: Our forms were definitely very similar overall, although differences appeared in our responses, relating to some of the more detailed aspects of the lecture. For example, we both responded to Professor Stern’s use of textual evidence but commented on different moments. I particularly engaged with Professor Stern’s reading of The Tempest in which the sandy island itself was related to the sand of the hour-glass, whereas Sacha commented on the way in which characters such as Richard III attempt to control or capture time.

 

  • What was it like to exchange the SaS event forms?

Sacha: As the event was a traditional lecture set-up, whilst there was an opportunity for questions at the end, it was a relatively unidirectional format. Thus it was interesting to interact with another student and to realise that we were both thinking along the same lines.

Esther: It has been helpful to see how someone else on SaS responded to the lecture but also to the actual Students as Scholars forms themselves. I tended to write paragraph answers to the forms, whereas Sacha also listed key points of the lecture. I appreciated the clarity of her form and think I will try a similar bullet point approach to my final Students as Scholars event.

 

  • What moments or points most stood out for you?

Sacha: I enjoyed Stern’s reading of several Shakespearean extracts that took concrete objects and translated them to suggest that time is in fact intangible and subjective. She suggested that time existed only as a fiction within the realm of the theatre. However, this intangibility doesn’t prevent characters from repeatedly attempting to capture and constrain time. Interestingly, Prof. Stern aligned the desire to control time with a desire to control the similarly intangible concept of death. Finally, I had never considered something that Prof. Stern pointed out, that due to the inaccuracy of the time measuring devices she discussed, nothing smaller than an hour could possibly be measured. For Shakespearean audiences, a minute was as elusive as ‘fairy time’.

Esther: I particularly enjoyed the moments when Professor Stern turned to textual evidence, close reading being an intrinsic part of an English degree. But the lecture also reminded me that it is also important to look outside of the text and gather historical and contextual evidence to illuminate readings. The way in which the lecture systematically took each time device and assessed its pros and cons, the likelihood of its use and its implication within the plays was extremely clear and effective. This methodical and careful approach was, for me, the most impressive part of the lecture, and I hope to apply this to my own future research.

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