Shakespearean Thinking Lectures

This is a special page associated with my Easter Term 2017 lecture course ‘Shakespearean Thinking’. Anyone can look at the page — it’s not private — but only those attending the lectures are encouraged to post comments here.

It will serve three purposes. First, it will include a summary of the course and any other information that becomes relevant (including handouts from the lectures). Second, it will allow people to ask questions about things I have said or omitted to say. Third, it will allow us to gather a collection of quotations and ideas for the final lecture.

These lectures will introduce the different kinds of thinking that feature in Shakespeare’s work, from the impulsive to the contemplative, and from the generic to the unique. They will raise questions about which thoughts we should attribute to Shakespeare, and which to his characters, and when it’s really appropriate to describe them as thoughts at all. Each lecture will focus on a variety of specific examples, and will aim to be relevant to a wide range of Shakespeare’s works.

The four lecture titles are as follows:
1. Fast and Slow Thinking
2. Thinking in Groups, Thinking Alone
3. Atypical Minds
4. Who’s / Whose Thinking?

The final lecture asks a question in which I hope the audience will participate by providing examples. Can we identify moments where we seem to be reading Shakespeare thinking, either in the sense that we are in the presence of his particular views, intellectual habits, or emotional tendencies, or something like that? This seems a difficult thing to do. What form might the evidence take? The alternative to catching Shakespeare thinking is catching characters thinking in distinctive and perhaps surprising ways. We can keep an eye out for these too, at the same time.
      I would like anyone attending the lectures, and spotting something in their reading this term that might be pertinent to the final session, to post a comment here. I have to approve comments in this blog, but will do so promptly. Please chip in!

Update, May 8th

Here are the handouts from the first two lectures:

And here are a couple of suggestions I’ve received in answer to the request for possible signs of ‘Shakespeare thinking’ for / as himself.

(i) One person suggested that Sonnets 135 and 136 make the name ‘Will’ so prominent that, even if we allow for some game-playing, they must evoke a personal voice and point of view: ‘Make but my name thy loue,and loue that still, And then thou louest me for my name is Will‘. I like this idea: hiding in plain sight.

(ii) Another suggested that when Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet calls down ‘a plague o’ both your houses’, he is speaking as if from outside the play, voicing a sort of revulsion at the violence and loss and waste. I like this idea too: Mercutio’s ‘Queen Mab’ speech suggests he has an affinity with the world of imagination, and a capacity to step outside the world of the fiction.

Update, May 20th

The course is now finished. Here are the handouts from the last two lectures:

I didn’t get any more suggestions from those attending the lectures. I suspect that what seems to me like a flexible interactive medium seems very slow-moving to those who are more tech-whizzy.

E-mail me at rtrl100[at]