We were privileged for our Sion College morning on Shakespeare to be welcomed to the Globe Theatre lecture room, amidst their busy schedule of Shakespeare 400 events, and to welcome two exceptional speakers: Graham Holderness and Rowan Williams.
Dr Holderness is Professor of English at the University of Hertfordshire and one of Britain’s foremost Shakespearian scholars. His play ‘Wholly Writ’ was performed at the Globe and at Stratford and his new book on Shakespeare’s religion, The Faith of William Shakespeare, is to be published soon. In his lecture, Dr Holderness spoke about the religious views in Hamlet: heaven, hell and purgatory and particularly Calvin’s understanding of providence. He offered an in-depth reading of the play through this theme.
The morning was punctuated by Shakespeare’s own words performed by two actors, Christina Balmer and John Rowe (a former Horatio to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet) who performed speeches from the plays and sonnets. Particularly moving was the death scene from Lear when Cordelia is reconciled to her father. There wasn’t a dry eye after that.
Rowan Williams academic work is well known to us but he is also a distinguished poet and his play, ‘Shakeshaft’, has just been performed, which tells the story of a meeting between Shakespeare and Edmund Campion. In his lecture Rowan focused on the later plays of Shakespeare, seeing in them the flowering of Shakespeare’s genius. He reflected on the nature of drama and human experience and in the ways in which it can draw us into a greater understanding of ourselves before God.
The morning ended with a conversation between Graham and Rowan about what they had said that morning and questions from the floor.