Gemma Miller

Gemma Miller

Gemma Miller is a Lecturer in Early Modern Literature and Culture at King's College London

Location London


  • @SusanMistry Shakespeare was an astute businessman (we know that from the way he invested his money). It is a lovely idea that he wrote for his own pleasure but I suspect that his prime motivation was commercial. The audiences he wrote for came from diverse social backgrounds and the allusions and clever wordplay would not have been appreciated by all. But...

  • @CaroleSpeirs our politicians are master equivocators!!!

  • @SherryWilson There is a fine lying between equivocation and lying. I think it might come down to intention.

  • @BrendanOShea Some scholars believe that there were more prologues/epilogues than we know about. There is evidence that these were detachable from the play itself and thus easily lost. Tiffany Stern's 'Documents of Performance in Early Modern England' is very good on this subject.

  • @VidhyaS There is a whole series of Emma Smith podcasts on Shakespeare. I highly recommend them:

  • @SallyM What about the descendants of Banquo - 'Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none'? Fleance is still out there, somewhere.

  • @KathyB You make a good point about Donalbain. I think Shakespeare deliberately leaves these questions unanswered at the end of the play. It is a little like the chorus at the end of Henry V - all is fine now but more chaos is to come ...

  • @FloydKerrison 'Let's kill all the lawyers' (2 Henry VI, 4.2.75)

  • @TairaSokolova you raise some interesting points here. The soundscape of Macbeth certainly seems designed to create a sense of unease. The inversion of natural imagery is all of a piece with the description of Duncan's horses eating each other in 2.4.

  • @VaridhiGoyal I agree that Jessica treats her father appallingly. The line about his wife Leah's ring really highlights the cruelty of Jessica for me. And of course we don't hear Shylock crying 'O my ducats, O my daughter' - it is the rather unreliable and prejudiced Solanio who reports this.

  • @CyndiSabo-Cook It does seem perverse to name a play after a relatively minor character. I wonder whether it is a deliberate ploy - part of Shakespeare's strategy of blurring the lines between 'outsider' and 'of Venice'?

  • @PaulineAshworth You should try using cue scripts in your rehearsals as an experiment. It will probably descend into chaos but it would give you a new perspective on what you are working on.

  • @TimilyClarke I think that Shakespeare's awareness of 'what keeps the audience engaged' comes from his dual role as actor and playwright. He was unusual in early modern theatre in that he was a playwright-in-residence and a working actor.

  • @RosannaPM The Zeffirelli film is a great way into Shakespeare. My love of Shakespeare was sparked by a magical production of The Winter's Tale at the RSC in 1986 (starring Jeremy Irons). I had a very inspirational English teacher who took a group of students every year to Stratford from Yorkshire. We saw 3 plays in 2 days. The one that really sticks in my...

  • The word cloud has been updated.

  • @PatHarvey Shakespeare is rarely as unambiguous as he seems at first glance. That is one of the reasons directors still want to work with his texts. He leaves so much open to interpretation.

  • @TairaSokolova I agree that R&J has become a cliche. It has taken on a life of its own beyond the bounds of Shakespeare's play. A lot of work would need to be done to dismantle that cliche.

  • @CaitlinD great analysis. I think it is important that we never see Rosaline (although some productions do bring her on during the ball). She is, as you say, a poetic construct - as hollow as Romeo's emotions.

  • @SallyM I have never seen a stage production of R&J that I felt satisfied with. The film versions tend to be so much better, in my experience.

  • @RichardHolt Endgame at a wedding - goodness!!

  • @HelenLewis You raise some really pertinent points here. Rhetoric was one of the key building blocks of grammar school, university and Inns of Court training. Mark Antony's funeral oration is a great example of this in practice. The bible was, as you say, a constant source of imagery, symbolism, allusion and analogy throughout Shakespeare's plays. The language...

  • @PaulOakley Yes, good summary. It sounds like a wonderful template for life - what a shame Portia doesn't practise what she preaches.

  • @VICKIMORLEY when you list the imagery like that it demonstrates just how fluidly Shakespeare moved between different metaphorical ideas.

  • @VICKIMORLEY It is quite remarkable how many plays the companies held in their repertoire and how many different plays they would perform in the space of a week. They must have had incredible memories - a skill learned in their grammar school education.

  • @InekeFioole @TavisReddick The idea of the author as a creative genius working in isolation is very much a post-Romantic construct. Your example of The Simpsons is a great one. Soap operas, comedy shows such as Friends, stand-up routines are also good ways of thinking about collaboration.

  • @RobynO @BarbaraLister Just to add to Barbara's response. There are records that confirm that the Lord Chamberlain's Men performed The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night at the Inns of Court. In fact, The Comedy of Errors went down in Inns of Court legend as 'The Night of Errors'. You can see the documents on the Folger website:...

  • @InekeFioole We are learning more about the collaborative nature of early modern theatre and it seems that some of Shakespeare's plays were simple collaborations (i.e. written by a number of playwrights synchronously - Sir Thomas More, Titus Andronicus, Henry VIII, 2 Henry VI) or revised post hoc (Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus). This...

  • Sorry - Beatrice and Benedick

  • @CaroleSpeirs Yes, good synopsis. I wonder whether the prologue makes the play sound too much like a simple tale with a satisfying outcome, in spite of some collateral damage. When we get to the end of the play, do we maybe feel less satisfaction than the prologue promises. Does the loss of the lovers overshadow the reconciliation of the two houses? And are...

  • @AileenStevenson @HughRobertson Thank you for raising this question. Farmer was one of Garnet's pseudonyms. You can find out more here:

  • @NuriaAmador I like your analysis of the porter as an outsider. 'Comic' characters in tragedies often fulfil this function. Think of the Fool in King Lear - he is the only character to speak truth to power and comment upon the action.

  • @JaynSadler I like your comparison with Much Ado here. The language in the R&J exchange is much less arch and, perhaps, jaded than that of B&B.

  • @AnnaRyan I think that speed is such an important aspect of Macbeth. It seems to hurtle inexorably to its conclusion. The shared lines certainly add to this sense of momentum.

  • @BettyHobbs If you enjoyed this video then I recommend Shakespeare's sonnets. They are packed full of wordplay,

  • @AnnaRyan Yes. LM is very manipulative here.

  • @EmilyPankhurst And not forgetting the ring that his wife Leah gave him. I feel that is an important detail that humanises Shylock.

  • @SusanHarris Macbeth is very different to Hamlet in terms of his preoccupation with earthly rather than heavenly judgement. I like your point about state-sanctioned killing. At the opening of the play Macbeth is being celebrated for his acts of violence - unseaming traitors 'from the nave to th’ chops'. I wonder whether Shakespeare wants us to see this...

  • @NataliaSolovyeva You make a good point. Lady Macbeth does remark to Macbeth in 1.7: 'What beast was’t, then,
    That made you break this enterprise to me?' We never actually see Macbeth suggesting the murder of Duncan - it is LM who first mentions it. I think that these lines suggest that the subject has been raised before the action of the play. So, yes,...

  • @GeraldineMcGill You may well be right about the acceleration of the shift away from the Jacobean model of monarchy. I wonder if the country would have been saved the devastation of the civil wars if the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded.

  • @InésRojas I am so pleased you are enjoying the course. School curricula tend to focus on characterisation, themes etc. There simply isn't time to explore historical context and dramaturgy. We were trying to fill that gap.

  • @CaitlinD I hope you find content that will stimulate your interest and provoke you to consider the plays in new and exciting ways. Good luck with your studies.

  • @DebayanNag I hope that you find the steps on interpretation and performance history of particular interest. Shakespeare's plays may be born of a particular historical set of circumstances (which we explore in this course), but they also are uniquely elastic and ambivalent, making them ripe for adaptation and reinterpretation.

  • @HelenLewis I think your post was coherent. Just a couple of things. Portia does not take any money for her role in the court scene and Shylock's wealth is distributed according to the Duke's command as follows: 'The party ’gainst the which he doth contrive / Shall seize one half his goods; the other half / Comes to the privy coffer of the state'. Antonio...