Shakespeare and the Sea: Call for Papers

Lucy Dale's picture
Call for Papers
October 31, 2022
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Literature, Maritime History / Studies, Theatre & Performance History / Studies

Conference Date: Friday 8 September 2023 - Saturday 9 September 2023

Location: National Maritime Museum / Online

Keynote speakers: Professor Steve Mentz (St. John’s University) and Professor Emma Smith (University of Oxford).

Across Shakespeare’s plays, the sea’s agency can be felt shaping plots and characters’ lives. In addition, images of wild, deep, and boundless seas, even in landlocked plays, give expression to characters’ passions, suggest matters concealed from view, and provide a vocabulary for notions of transformation and sublimity.

The first play of Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) is The Tempest, meaning that the first scene in the first printed collection of Shakespeare’s stage works opens with a ship dashed by a violent storm and a depiction of human relations transformed by that storm. It is a sign of things to come.

Over the past four centuries, Shakespeare’s seas have been staged in theatres across the world and provided inspiration for artworks both textual and visual; and further, Shakespeare’s plays have themselves been taken to sea - read and performed aboard ships traversing the world’s oceans.

The growth of the Blue Humanities as a critical field is drawing deeper and more meaningful connections between art and the oceans, attending to the ever-evolving ways in which humans perceive and interact with the maritime world and, in particular, illuminating our impact (and reliance) on the seven-tenths of the globe covered by water. Shakespeare’s plays are ripe for re-examination through a nautical lens, and most especially at the unique moment that marks 400 years since the publication of the First Folio. 

Held in London at Royal Museums Greenwich, this two-day hybrid conference will take place on 8–9 September 2023. For those attending in person, the conference offers a unique opportunity to discover the material culture of maritime history offered by the museum, as well as a chance to explore the Tudor and Stuart Seafarers gallery along with the majestic Queen’s House, home to one of the three surviving ‘Armada Portraits’ of Elizabeth I.

We invite scholars from a variety of fields – history, literary studies, art history and others – to submit papers exploring any aspect of Shakespeare and other early modern dramatists’ relationship with the sea, including:

  • The Thames in early modern drama and as a site of early modern drama
  • Performing and reading Shakespeare at sea
  • Shakespeare’s seas on stage
  • Representations of and responses to Shakespeare’s seas in film, visual art, and literature
  • Shakespeare’s maritime knowledge or inspiration
  • Shakespeare’s maritime ecology
  • Shakespeare’s seafarers
  • The metaphorics of Shakespeare’s seas
  • Shakespeare’s islands, coasts and port cities
  • Shakespeare’s voyages in relation to colonialism and empire

Please send a proposal (max. 300 words) together with a short biography (max. 100 words) to Lucy Dale ( by 31 October 2022. We anticipate being able to offer bursaries to postgraduate speakers.

Conference Organisers: Lucy Dale (Royal Museums Greenwich), Anjna Chouhan (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust), and Laurence Publicover (University of Bristol)




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Lucy Dale

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