Voice and Voice in Shakespeare’s World, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, February 20-21, 2020

The reception of Shakespeare’s plays reflects the history of the interpretation of his dramatic language. Playwriting implies cohesive textual and physical structures through which words resonate, that is why a play can never be taken as a definitive text; on the contrary, it stands for the precarious nature of the theatrical word which changes as it is voiced in performance or as it becomes the voice of linguistic, cultural, historical or political stances. For these reasons, the conference will take into consideration material aspects related to performance: much as the Shakespearean text is peppered with words that are now archaic and with familiar words whose original meanings have changed, so too the means of stage representation also undergo constant change, change inflected by the shifting behaviours animating the social world outside the theatre. This admission is hardly shocking: all participants in a production (translator, actors, directors, scholars?) are trying to make it speak, which means that they must speak for it, by it, and that it will speak in their present voices. The role and functions of oral/aural aspects of Shakespeare’s dramatic language will -also and necessarily- be part of our investigation: linguistic perspectives have recently taken a fresh look at ‘speech-related’ written genres, and have offered important clues as to the historical use of language as face-to-face interaction. Possible issues to be tackled include: the discovery of dialect in the early modern period as a question of cultural authority conveying both the perception of the ‘Other’, and the definition of a national ‘Self’; the idea of alternative Englishes, defined by their value or status relative to other English dialects (including the King’s English); material traces of orality in objects of writing on stage; the performative representation of different accents and their cultural and ideological impact; the question of original pronunciation; linguistic, literary and performative multilingual interaction between the native tongue and its dialectal variants, or with foreign languages.


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