A Lunchtime Lecture with Helen Cooper

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The final talk in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s lunchtime lecture series was delivered by Professor Helen Cooper this Wednesday past. Professor Cooper, the chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University – a post originally created for C.S. Lewis -, discussed her latest monograph, Shakespeare and the Medieval World.

In the video below, Helen discusses how the project came to be.

For me, listening to Helen was a delightful experience, not only for a hardened student of medieval and renaissance literatures, but also for a wide-eyed fan of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chaucer, Middle-English Romance, and the drama of the 16th- and 17th-centuries. The goal of the talk, as outlined by Professor Cooper, was not necessarily to refer us to every instance of a medieval influence in the plays of Shakespeare, but to call our attention to the memes and themes that permeate the first six centuries of the last millenium. Professor Cooper showed the way in which different writers represented history, legendary history, and fiction in various mediums throughout the centuries.

If I had to offer a critique of the book, it would be of the Arden imprint rather than of Helen herself. Arden it seems, in an effort to maintain consistency among all of their volumes, extends the ‘Shakespeare and…’ formula to Shakespeare and the Medieval World. Such a title, I think, does severe damage to the true spirit of the book, which is to link up rather than separate Shakespeare from medieval literatures.

Professor Cooper was also kind enough to be interviewed for the Shakespeare Bookshop Newsletter, the entirety of which can be read by clicking here. To subscribe to the quarterly Shakespeare Bookshope Newsletter, please send an e-mail to bookshop@shakespeare.org.uk.

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