On January 25th, Lancaster University’s very own Professor Alison Findlay gave a lecture entitled Shakespeare & Love, the first of three free ‘lunchtime lectures’ taking place over the next month at the Dukes Theatre. The lectures themselves are part of the ongoing ‘Season of Shakespeare’, a month of performances, screenings and events taking place in Lancaster between now and March, celebrating the ‘Immortal Bard’s’ work.
In her lecture, Professor Findlay discussed the differing types of love in Shakespeare’s plays, starting with arguably the most famous love story of all time – Romeo & Juliet. She argued that although the play is primarily concerned with the adolescent love affair of the two eponymous characters, there are many other types of ‘love’ present – a variation which extends to Shakespeare’s canon as a whole.
During the 90-minute long talk, Professor Findlay took the audience on a whirlwind, yet by no means basic, tour of Shakespeare and love. She familiarised us with several lesser-known plays, such as The Two Noble Kinsmen, as well as offering new insights on more familiar texts, such as Othello, which will be performed at Lancaster Castle in February and March. She outlined the differences between tragic and tragi-comic love, noting that despite the majority of Shakespeare’s comedies ending with a couple or a set of couples due to be married, we never actually get to experience the marital part of the romance. Indeed, one of Findlay’s own conclusions was: ‘all Shakespeare’s ‘good’ relationships of love are extra-marital’. Antony and Cleopatra were given as one example, Viola and Count Orsino in Twelfth Night another.
Findlay also discussed the problems of love in Shakespeare, using Hermia and Lysander’s calculated and measured detraction of the subject in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a key rhetorical device. She noted that often, lovers in Shakespeare are separated by class distinction, or by age, and that, ultimately, one has to suffer for the sake of love.
For all the discussion of love in the plays, Professor Findlay was rather dismissive of the subject of Shakespeare’s personal love life, covering only one of his famed sonnets, often used by critics to paint the picture of Shakespeare as having had a homoerotic fascination with another man. Instead, she chose to use Stephen Booth’s humorous quote – ‘William Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual,’ which brought a laugh from the audience and reiterated an inalienable truth – that Shakespeare’s work is still, after all these years, open to interpretation.
The remaining two ‘lunchtime lectures’, entitled Shakespeare’s Language and Interpreting Shakespeare, are scheduled to take place on February 19th and February 22nd respectively. Information about further events included in the ‘Season of Shakespeare’ can be found at www.dukes-lancaster.org/lancasters-season-shakespeare.