Campus hosts annual Shakespeare colloquium
The Florham Campus recently celebrated the 25th annual Shakespeare Colloquium. The event took place Oct. 21 in the Science Building and attracted both students and faculty.
The Shakespeare Colloquium is an annual gathering that features four speakers in a discussion about a different topic related to Shakespeare. This year’s topic was “Shakespeare’s Women.”
This year’s event included improvisation, since one of the speakers was late, and one of the scholars from the audience discussed the topic.
Harry Keyishian, coordinator and professor emeritus of English at FDU, explained how the colloquium started.
“I just decided in 1992 that it would be a good thing teaching Shakespeare, and thought it will be a good thing to bring scholars to campus to enrich the Shakespeare program,” he said. “[It] gives students a chance to meet other professors, besides myself, who are teaching Shakespeare.”
Keyishian said that this year’s topic was of interest to Shakespeare scholars. They wanted to discuss the roles of women and how they were portrayed in the Shakespeare work.
This year’s speakers were June Schlueter, Iska Alter, Denise Walen, Phyllis Rackin and Ellen Barry.
Schlueter, a professor emerita of English at Lafayette College, spoke about how Shakespeare’s female characters were played by men. She explained how productions worked with males in drag. The actors had to dress like women and stuff pads on their chests to play the roles.
Alter, a professor emerita of English at Hofstra University, spoke about the powerful and eloquent female characters in the tetralogy of Henry IV and Richard III. The women were Joan of Arc, Margaret of Anjou, Queen Elizabeth and Eleanor Cobham. Alter spoke about the characters’ fearlessness.
Walen, a drama professor at Vassar College, discussed how female roles were often cut in production. She said that some of the reasons included limited run time, violence, and bad English.
Rackin, a professor emerita of English at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke about the importance of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. She said the Queen of Egypt was a symbol of a woman with political power. She possessed many traits that made her a powerful ruler. She was a skilled linguist, a good fighter and a naval commander. Rackin mentioned that some people threw labels on Cleopatra to discredit her as ruler of Egypt.
Barry, an actress and co-founder of the NJ Shakespeare Festival, discussed and performed her favorite Shakespeare female characters. One of her favorites is Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet,” so she described the character as a young woman who knew about love. Barry mentioned that Juliet has more lines than Romeo.
Keyishian said that this could be his last year working on the program, but the colloquium will continue.
“It’s a wonderful thing Harry has done for the program. He’s been doing it for 25 years,” Schlueter said.
Matthieu Boyd, associate professor of literature at FDU, said Keyishian deserves a lot credit for his teaching.