Women and Shakespeare

S3: E4: Emma Whipday on Shakespeare's Sister, Shakespeare's Domestic Tragedies, and Practice-Based Research

July 23, 2022 Varsha Panjwani/Emma Whipday Season 3 Episode 4
Women and Shakespeare
S3: E4: Emma Whipday on Shakespeare's Sister, Shakespeare's Domestic Tragedies, and Practice-Based Research
Show Notes Transcript

Playwright and Academic, Emma Whipday talks about her play Shakespeare's Sister, her book Shakespeare's Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home, and practice-based research.

For a complete episode transcript, check out http://www.womenandshakespeare.com 

Interviewer: Dr Varsha Panjwani
Guest: Dr Emma Whipday [http://www.emmawhipday.com/]
Research Leads: Ms Brianna Clark & Ms Ms Ariana Pérez
Producer: Mr Tyler Medina-Minerva
Artwork: Mr Wenqi Wan

Varsha:

My loveliest listeners, hello, and welcome to 'Women & Shakespeare'. I'm your host, Dr. Varsha Panjwani and this year I began my Shakespeare course by asking my students a question: if, during this session, we were to somehow conclusively prove that, in fact, all Shakespeare’s plays were written by a woman, how would that affect the perception of Shakespeare in this world? This imaginative exercise led my students to several questions: “would Shakespeare still have the cultural capital that he does if the plays were by a woman?”, “did women even write plays for professional stages in the period?”, “would anyone stage such plays?”, “what would these plays be about?” Questions that Virginia Woolf had asked in the early twentieth century in her essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and Emma Whipday asks in the 21st century in her wonderful play, Shakespeare’s Sister. So, you can guess how excited the students and I were when Dr Emma Whipday agreed to be a guest on this podcast. Emma is Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at Newcastle University is an award-winning playwright and an award-winning academic. So basically, every time she writes something, she wins an award for it. In this episode we will mainly be talking about the play, Shakespeare’s Sister, that I have been going on about and her book Shakespeare’s Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home. Before we begin, I must credit my research leads Brianna Clark & Ariana Pérez who curated questions from fellow students and advised me on many of the topics that are addressed here & Tyler Medina-Minerva was the best producer ever! So,I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as we certainly enjoyed recording it…          

Varsha:

Emma you are so welcome to 'Women & Shakespeare'. I can't tell you how excited I am. I've always wanted to get you on this podcast, but this time my students overwhelmingly voted for you to be on this podcast. So we are all very thrilled to have you.

Emma:

Oh, thank you so much. I'm delighted to be here and I'm a big podcast fan, so it's a ridiculous honor to get to join you.

Varsha:

So I am going to begin with a question that I always start with. When did you first encounter Shakespeare and what was the nature of that encounter?

Emma:

I've been racking my brains to think about the first encounter, because I don't think it was a traditional sort of either reading the play at school, or seeing a full theatrical production. I think it was actually seeing the ballet version to Prokofiev's score of Romeo and Juliet because my mom and my uncle both had backgrounds in ballet, and so I went to the theater to see ballet a lot earlier than I went to the theater to see plays. And so I first encountered Shakespeare as theatrical, but not textual.

Emma:

So I was interested in character relationships, plot movement, and lyricism and expressiveness, but not the language. I think that was actually a really fun and interesting entry point to Shakespeare because it meant that, well, obviously I love the language. That's not what got me excited about his works in the first place. And then I think also my mom had copies of the Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream with Arthur Rackham illustrations in them, that I used to look at the pictures and then gradually start reading the texts around them.

Emma:

So I think I also had this sense of Shakespeare as sort of otherworldly and magical and fantastical in a way that if I'd read any other Shakespeare play, that wouldn't have been quite the same perspective. Then when I was 12, I did a summer school version of the Tempest where I was... I think I was a spirit, and I think I maybe had one line that was stolen from one of Caliban's speeches. I think it was the isle is full of noises. But I got to experience being inside a Shakespeare play before I started close reading Shakespeare, which again, I think has really informed the way I think about the plays. Particularly because it was such a tiny role, so I was just watching the architecture of the play and how everyone else inhabited it, but from the sidelines.

Varsha:

I particularly like the fact that your first introduction to Shakespeare was different kinds of languages, right? Like movement language, pictorial language, and then of course observing. So that's quite unusual, but how exciting.

Emma:

Yeah, absolutely. I do feel like it meant I was maybe slightly behind in terms of appreciating what it is about Shakespeare's language that so much of the literary tradition is obsessed by, because I think I didn't really get obsessed with the language of a Shakespeare play until doing Measure For Measure at A-Level. So A-Level being when age 16 to 17, I was studying specialist english literature exams on Shakespeare. And of course that's a really unusual play to get obsessed with the language. Measure For Measure is... I mean, the things that always come into my head are the unpleasant ways of describing sex. I fell in love with the play, but I think I couldn't have told you at that age why I had. I think it was actually not until post me-too, that I had the language to explain what it was that I'd seen in the play.

Emma:

So the recognition of the way it's exploring how female voices aren't believed to the same extent as male voices, the recognition of how power relationships play into sexual relationships and the, I suppose you could call it the slut shaming, that takes place. I didn't have any of that vocabulary or the understanding around consent that I do and that I feel we as a society now do. But I think I surmised that in it anyway, without being able to say that's what it was. So I think I was aware that it was a strange play to be obsessed by, but it felt like it was doing and saying something really important.

Varsha:

Talking about plays that have important things to say, my students and I are really interested in your play, Shakespeare's Sister, and the title of course alludes to Virginia Woolf's long essay, 'A Room of Ones Own', in which she asks us to imagine that William Shakespeare had a sister, Judith Shakespeare. And she tells us that we should imagine that she wanted to write plays like her brother. Virginia Woolf then charts the fate of this Shakespeare sibling, and your play does this too, even though the journey and fate of your Judith Shakespeare is quite different. So our question is, were you inspired to write this play after reading Virginia Woolf? Or did you always want to write a play about a female playwright in Shakespeare's time, and then Judith Shakespeare provided a ready template as it were?

Emma:

It was definitely the first of the two. So I was studying for my final undergraduate exams at Oxford, and I have to confess that all my literary career up to then as a student, I'd been obsessed with male authors. So Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, EM Forster, and I was in a very male college. So most of the other students in my year doing English were men. I had this sense of this literary canon that I wanted to participate in that was a male canon that I was speaking to a little bit or kind of perched on the edge of.

Emma:

And I'm embarrassed to admit that I just wasn't reading female writers at all. I've read many, many that I love since, but I was so much in that world. Then I happened to read 'A Room of One's Own'. I can still really vividly remember sitting in the big circular library, the Radcliffe Camera at Oxford, and reading this idea of these lost female voices from history, these lost female geniuses, and Woolf's vision of a kind of literary lineage for herself. And it really did change my mind, changed my life, changed the way I thought about myself as a writer and a scholar.

Emma:

Up to that point, I'd done some student theater where I'd adapted classic novels for the stage. So, Sense and Sensibility at that point, and Dracula, just for Oxford garden shows, that sort of thing. But I'd been thinking I'd wanted to go slightly outside adapting. I wasn't sure I was ready to tell a completely new and original story, but in my plays up to that point had been really closely following that architecture of the novels, in terms of plotting and structure. I wanted to leap free from that and try and do something myself. And so I thought, "Oh, well I love this narrative of Shakespeare's sister that Woolf's created. It's doing such interesting, important work. I could just adapt it." And that was my original idea.

Emma:

And then I started thinking about the amount of pressure she puts on the idea of a poet's heart in a woman's body, and the idea that there's something to do with her temperament, her emotional experience, so that it's not just that she's facing exterior obstacles. She also has interior obstacles and so she has to die, but she has to die through suicide, and pregnancy leads to her death. And it seemed to be sort of a story about a woman's body being part of the barrier to being a writer. I didn't want that to be my story. I wanted all the obstacles to be external and societal, and I didn't want sex for a woman to be directly linked to death. I felt like that was reiterating a narrative I didn't want to tell. So that was why I wanted to follow the outline of having Judith run away to London with the players, to try and be involved in the theatrical world, to hit obstacles and to die.

Emma:

But I sort of wanted something different in that middle section, where it was showing both that she was meeting obstacles because of the patriarchal society she lived in, and that there were both other women and other men who wanted to work with her to make work. I didn't want it to be a completely depressing vision of the past. And actually when I was first working on it, I didn't know about any of the female writers of closet drama, from the period.

Emma:

Closet drama is a genre of play where the plays weren't necessarily intended to be performed on the professional stage, but were still written in a dramatic form and could be staged in private performances. So people like Elizabeth Cary, who wrote the Tragedy of Mariam, or Mary Sidney who was translating The Tragedy of Antony and commissioning further plays. And I didn't know about the records we have from church courts about real women who put on real life plays about the lives of their neighbors, and then got called up for libel.

Emma:

I didn't actually know about the female creativity and it was while I was researching and writing and redrafting it, that I realized that this wasn't just a dream of what the past was like, that women were staging plays in the past. And that this was putting that in relation to the mainstream theatrical playhouse world those women wouldn't have had access to. But that actually, it wasn't that idealistic a story. It was a story of things that were really happening then.

Varsha:

Amazing. So Shakespeare's sister is a popular character in fiction, right? Because I'm currently researching the afterlife of Judith Shakespeare and in 1977, the feminist writer, Marilyn French rewrites Judith Shakespeare's story in her novel, The Women's Room. And there are of course, many, many more and recent ones too. So did you read these or were you inspired by these as you wrote your play?

Emma:

I have to admit that I wasn't, that I read the women's room afterwards and was really excited to discover it. And that was when I was reading Doris Lessing's, The Golden Notebook for the first time and I was coming across all these feminist writers who were thinking of themselves again, as part of that lineage, that sort of tradition. But no, I have to admit I was quite ignorant when I first approached it. I felt as if I was the first person to ever discover 'A Room of One's Own'.

Emma:

Obviously I knew it was culturally important, but I suppose I just had a very direct relationship with the text where I wasn't reading criticism, I wasn't reading around it. I was just responding creatively to it. And then it was really exciting to come across other depictions and think, "Ah, I'm one of so many women, so many great women have responded to this." It was exciting to feel that like my play was sort of a little footnote in that greater history. And yeah, I look forward very much to reading your research on that, when it's out.

Varsha:

Well, hardly a footnote, but I love this idea of you responding in the moment to Virginia Woolf's text. So when I read your play, it makes me think of recent bio-fictions, such as Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's play Emelia or Maggie O'Farrell's novel Hamnet. But I'm really interested in the fact that you were a woman playwright and you were writing about a woman playwright. So would you say that you based Judith Shakespeare on other historical characters from the time, or were there elements of autofiction here and autobiography here as well?

Emma:

Well, firstly thank you. I mean, what amazing comparisons. I love what Hamnet and Emelia, what both of them are doing. I think yes is the answer, that I was definitely thinking about various historical figures. So I was thinking about the records of women who were arrested for sex work or for cross-dressing in the periods. I was definitely thinking about women involved in Henslowe's life and household. So Henslowe who ran the Rose Playhouse and also ran a number of brothels in the period, and he kept a diary that allows us to see amazing theatrical records. His daughter, Joan was somehow involved in this world, but the records are sketchy. But she also married Edward Alleyn, or Alleyn, different people pronounce it differently, who was a really significant actor in the period. And it was that theatrical world I was wanting to bring to life in this play.

Emma:

But Judith was probably the character that was least inspired by any historical figure. I think for Judith, she wasn't me, but I can't avoid the fact that there was a strong autofiction element in terms of, she was a young woman attempting to make her way in the world for the first time, she was writing plays, she was navigating questions like, how do you make money as a writer? How do you find community as a writer? And they were all questions that I was insistently asking as well. And I think also just her desire to be in that early modern theatrical world, the Playhouse world. I was doing a Master in Shakespeare and History at UCL at the same time as I was researching that play. And so I wanted to time travel to that world too. I think her hunger to be part of that world was also autofiction for me.

Emma:

I don't know if I'd have answered this question the same way when I was writing it, because I think I saw it as so much she was sort of Woolf's Judith, she was a historical refraction of Shakespeare. I was thinking of them as sort of doubled characters. But now if I look back, I can definitely see the elements of writing my own experience as well.

Varsha:

I love it. It's quite exciting when you are on a journey with your character. So by creating a fictional sister for Shakespeare and thinking about her life, Woolf demonstrates that sometimes women's histories can only be understood through imagination or fiction because there has been a systemic marginalization of women's lives in historical archives and narratives. Would you agree?

Emma:

Yeah, that's a really interesting question. I feel like both are so important in that I feel like women's history, it's becoming more and more prominent and the voices that we can find in texts that might not seem immediately to give us access to women's literary production, that can be a really productive way of engaging with female literary figures from the past. But I also think that because of the gaps in the narrative, imaginative engagement is so important as well, if that makes sense? So just to give some examples, I've been thinking a lot about which trials as a place for female voices and female agencies? And obviously hugely mediated by men, so we only have these voices of women because men are interviewing them, interrogating them, putting them on trial, asking questions that prompt particular answers, writing down their responses, often editing those responses for publication, framing them with their own narratives.

Emma:

So the question as to what we get of those women's literary production and creation is very hard to grasp, but the fact is that those women presumably did not actually sell their souls to the devil in exchange for magic. So they are telling stories. They are engaging in imaginative work. They are speaking. They're taking sort of tropes and stories and narratives that exist in a wider culture, and turning them into their own individual original stories. That is creating literature, right? I can't think of another way of describing what literature is, except for people taking genres and forms that exist and putting their own spin on it.

Emma:

So I feel like it's important to attend to what's there. Of course there are so many female authors who do survive, people like Emilia Lanier, and Mary Sidney, and Lady Jane Lumley, who as a teenage girl, did a really creative translation of Euripides's Iphigeneia. There are all these people we can attend to. But I think across the class structures, we have to look in these other kinds of texts to access these women's voices. But at the same time, I think that imaginative work can also give us a way into those voices and experiences, because they always come to us in so mediated a form anyway then actually imagining into the history is one way of sort of filling some of those gaps and those spaces where we know those voices and performances were, but which we can't access. Does that answer your question?

Varsha:

Absolutely. So we need to be doing both. Looking at the archives, digging through them for women's histories that have been overlooked, but also looking at how mediated those documents are already. And therefore trying to tap into those through reading between the lines and imagining introducing literature. Great. I now want to turn to your book Shakespeare's Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home. So for our listeners who are yet to read the book, could you tell us a bit more about the premise of the book?

Emma:

So Shakespeare's Domestic Tragedies essentially takes a group of plays that are now known as domestic tragedies, although they didn't have that label at the time, that are mostly based on real life English true crimes, relatively recent true crimes. Not all domestic tragedies are true crime plays. So there's one called A Woman Killed with Kindness that's based on fictional discord and unhappiness and death in an early modern household. But the thing that unifies all these plays, and the reason we talk about them under a particular label, is that they all show ordinary non-elite English households as worthy of the dramatic reach of tragedy. A genre that until then was the preserve of stories of great men and occasionally women, Kings and conquerors and heroes.

Emma:

My book takes that genre, that set of plays, and suggests that Shakespeare is both in conversation with the ideas of the home in those plays, and with early modern culture more broadly in terms of what makes a home, what makes a home violent, what makes a home vulnerable. But also that Shakespeare is specifically borrowing theatrical features from those plays. I think the reason that I wanted to write the book was because there'd been some fantastic work on domestic tragedy and that had been part of the feminist criticism that took seriously these kind of private tragedies from the 1980s onwards.

Emma:

And there had obviously been much work on Shakespeare, on the home in Shakespeare, feminist approaches to Shakespeare. But no one seemed to be taking particularly seriously the links between those plays, mainly because Shakespeare is Shakespeare and it's so canonical and often read in terms of high culture and domestic tragedies. They're true crime drama, just as true crime drama is something we still consume today, doesn't tend to be taken very seriously. They're very popular. They're very sensational. They've got a lot of blood and guts and often sex as well, adultery. And of course they deal with things that are private, domestic, often coded as feminine. So they seem to be being discarded in all sorts of ways and not put next to Shakespeare.

Emma:

I suppose also they were very attuned to the early modern street and popular culture. So these stories were being told and sung about on the streets in song, they were being printed in pamphlets. So there was this sense that it was just seen as a very different world to the world of Shakespeare. But I felt that there was a connection and that Shakespeare was borrowing from and transforming elements of these plays, and that actually what he was doing was showing how the private domestic worlds of these plays could be worthy of the dramatic reach of the tragedies at the court, the tragedies of Kings. And that's what I wanted to argue.

Emma:

I feel like the thing that I'd learned from it was that Shakespeare was doing this in three completely different ways. He was borrowing from these plays in three completely different ways. Just to give examples, like one of these was in relation to ideas and conceptions of the home and the household and the roles that people performed within it. So I got very interested in how Gertrude in Hamlet is a wife who might have been adulterous. We don't know if she had sex before her husband's death with Claudius or not, and she might have been murderous. We don't know if she was involved in the death or whether it's a shock to her when Hamlet confronts her and she says, "To kill a king." Is she guilty or is she just horrified when she finally learns that Hamlet knows that his uncle has killed his father?

Emma:

And I was interested in looking at her in a tradition of wives in these plays who were always both adulterous and murderous, and we always knew what they did and we usually knew why they did it. But these women themselves often seemed to not know what they'd done or not be able to fully conceive what they'd done. So there's a particular phrase that comes up in both a true crime play called A Warning for Fair Women, and a later domestic tragedy called The English Traveller. Both women in these plays have sex outside of marriage, they commit adultery. And then they say things like, "I have done I know not what." Or, "I have thought I know not what."

Emma:

And it seemed to me that this kind of deliberate refusal to look at what they'd done, or unable to conceive of what they've done, because it involves stepping so far outside their roles as women, is also what Gertrude's experiencing, but to an even greater extent. She's so far into what we now might call Freudian denial, that we don't know whether she's done what she's accused of doing. I thought that was a really interesting borrowing by Shakespeare.

Emma:

And then in briefer examples, a couple of other things he borrows is an interest in whether women in the borders of the home are sexually vulnerable. So this question about the relationship between the home and the outside world, and the visibility and display of women. And women are often appearing indoor or in balconies in domestic tragedies, also in other Shakespeare plays, such as Romeo and Juliet. In Othello, he has after Desdemona elopes, Brabantio is on display in the balcony as the father of the woman who's eloped. Drawing our attention, not to the woman being sexually vulnerable, but to the way that the woman eloping, the daughter eloping, makes the father's command of the household vulnerable. So he's again, playing on a trope for a domestic tragedy and transforming it.

Emma:

And then finally, the one that I find maybe even most exciting, is he transforms the sound effect when he borrows knocking in the immediate aftermath of a murder from a domestic tragedy, true crime play Arden of Faversham, and also someone being at the door in the immediate aftermath of the murder from another true crime play, London set Two Lamentable Tragedies. And he turns this into the knocking at the gates in Macbeth, which is one of the most famous sound effects in literature. Thomas De Quincey wrote reams and reams trying to get to the bottom of what's going on there. And it seems to me he's attended domestic tragedies and thought, "Oh, if suddenly something horrible has happened in the home and then immediately after that, we hear the neighbors coming, that's terrifying and draws attention to should the home be private? What about when the home becomes violent?" And all these bigger questions that I think Shakespeare is exploring.

Varsha:

Oh, well talking about domestic violence. So one of my students, Kayla Pelton Flavin, was really interested in the staging of these plays that are full of domestic violence. What challenges do they bring? Is there anything about the current practices that you think needs to change as we stage these plays? So Yarit Dor, an intimacy coordinator, was on the podcast too. Would you say that these plays particularly require an intimacy coordinator?

Emma:

Yeah. That's such an interesting question. I feel like I have two different answers for it almost. And one is that I've always wanted to do an exercise in the classroom where I get one student to mime hitting another student. I haven't done it because I feel that you have to do that very safely, and I wouldn't want to take risks. But to do that and ask the watching audience to imagine, firstly, that they're two strangers, then that they're a husband and wife, then that they're a parent and child. And just think about what that framework brings to the way we engage with the violence, the way we feel about the violence.

Emma:

So part of me is thinking it's interesting because the combat requirements, I think there should be a trained combat coordinator, but the requirements in a way are the same for any other kind of violence. It's the framework that we bring to it, the understanding of what these characters are to each other, that makes it feel intimate or shocking or emotive. But at the same time, having said that, I think that's such a good point about what an intimacy coach could bring to it. Because of course I was just talking from the audience's perspective. But from the actor's perspective, if they're imagining themselves into these relationships. We have intimacy coordinators now, and I think that's fantastic to choreograph sex and ensure that sex is choreographed in the same way as violence is choreographed, to be safe and to ensure consent. But intimate violence? That is really interesting in that... I can't speak for actors, but presumably that feels different in an embodied way to remote violence, kind of violence in warfare, violence that's in a completely different context.

Emma:

So I think that's a really interesting question. I do wonder if... I mean, again, I feel I'd have to ask an actor, but I wonder if that would be a really helpful way of conceiving of that intimate violence, that it's coming from a place of vulnerability in the same way as staging sex comes from a place of vulnerability. But it's just that it's a vulnerability that's being abused in these particular ways, because you are vulnerable in your home and you are vulnerable in your family or intimate relationships. So, that's quite a lengthy way of saying actually that question's changed slightly how I think about it. And yeah, I think it would be really interesting to know what intimacy coordinators could kind of bring to that.

Varsha:

Yeah. I think we need much more work on this than we currently do. As you say, maybe in understanding it, maybe asking actors or even theorizing what goes into the staging of these plays. Speaking of that, one of the research methods that you employ regularly is practice as research. So my students wondered if you could explain this way of working and how this methodology tangibly advances research?

Emma:

I think I can only answer for me because practices research is a very wide range of approaches and I don't want to over-claim from what I personally do. I think for me, I'm never trying to find material answers through practices research. What practices research normally enables me to do is ask particular questions of a text that enable me to close read it theatrically, which theoretically we could all do by just reading a play text and thinking about it theatrically. But actually putting plays on their feet, using early modern rehearsal conditions, performance conditions, even if it's just selected conditions, I feel can open up readings that we might not have seen on the page.

Emma:

So just to give an example, I've been working on an essay on Susan, a servant character, a very minor servant character in Arden of Faversham true crime play. She gets unwillingly, kind of unwittingly involved in the murder of her master by her mistress. And this is for the new Bloomsbury State of Play, Arden of Faversham essay collection. I got interested in the question of, could a boy actor who was relatively untrained play Susan easily because she's a character who is being ordered around and used by people on stage, in the same way that a junior apprentice in the theater is vulnerable to just being ordered around and used theatrically?

Emma:

And so I did a workshop where to try and create the relative levels of experience and inexperience without having months to kind of rehearse an early modern acting troop, I rehearsed with all the performers except the performer who happened to be Jenny Richards, early modernist extraordinaire who volunteered to play Susan. So she had no rehearsal, no idea what was happening. She was only given Susan's part, so just her lines and short cues. We wanted to see if could she participate in the scene that's the aftermath of the murder, where the body's being moved and the blood's being cleared up, without knowing what was going on, just having her own lines?

Emma:

And we found that people continually tell Susan what to do. They're always ordering her around, which I had go from close reading the text already, but I was glad to see it playing out in performance. But one thing that I had not spotted from reading it was the fact that Susan has given a stage direction, spoken stage direction when she's told to help clean up the blood by her mistress. And she then has to scrub at the blood and then she has to say that the blood will not be cleaned, the stain won't come out. But what I hadn't noticed was that she has a cue and then she has to scrub at the blood and then eventually say the stain won't come out.

Emma:

So actually what we have is a potentially awkward pause where she has to, or the boy actor playing Susan, has to decide when to speak when they've been scrubbing for long enough to decide that it's a failure. And if they're not quite sure whether they're meant to be speaking or why the sudden silence has fallen, because they're concentrating on cleaning the blood, that kind of lengthens the pause, creates a greater awkwardness, which of course maps onto what's happening in the play. It's a really awkward moment. There's a blood stain on the floor and there are guests at the door. And Jenny actually didn't realize for ages that she was supposed to speak. Because understandably, she just had her cue and she was scrubbing and she looked up and went, "Oh, oh, it's me." And then kind of had to speak.

Emma:

I think silences, pauses are really hard to read on the page, time when people take to do things where everyone else is just waiting. But actually that was quite revelatory seeing it in performance. Obviously that's a really small, specific example, but I think that as a mode of theatrical close reading, practices research can help us to read the text differently and see how the theatrical is part of the meaning making in the plays.

Varsha:

Oh yeah, and my students will attest to it. I go on and on about how silent characters on stage are very, very important. I think what you have made clear is that I should get them more up on their feet and do a sort of similar rehearsal exercise with them. Perhaps that is when they will have to decide these things and go like, "Oh yeah, so much depends on my expression or my pauses or my speaking." So thank you. I'm going to totally borrow that practice as research and use it in my classroom.

Emma:

Oh, I'm delighted to hear that.

Varsha:

Well, a final question before we wrap up. What projects are you currently engaged in and what are you excited about?

Emma:

So I'm currently engaged in a couple of different things. I'm very excited about all of them, so I don't know what order to mention them in. I'm editing an essay collection called Shakespeare/Play for Arden Shakespeare, which is exploring all the different potential meanings of play in relation to Shakespeare and performance then and now, and which is structured around the structure of a Jacobean play. So it has five acts and then it has short playful, provocations forming act breaks. I'm very excited about getting to play with the structure of academic work there.

Emma:

I'm writing the introduction to the new Oxford World Classics, Measure for Measure, and as someone absolutely obsessed with, as you've heard Measure for Measure and consent and public shaming in Shakespeare, I'm just really, really looking forward to getting stuck into that. And then I'm working on a wider research project on families and non-traditional non-nuclear families in early modern culture. So step-families, single mother families, people stuck between families, anything that's kind of causing tension in that patriarchal top down idea of the nuclear family ruled over by the sort of father, husband, master. So yeah, and obviously all those projects are speaking to each other.

Varsha:

We're excited about all of these.

Emma:

Thank you.

Varsha:

So as soon as you write it, please, could you alert us because I can see that students... We're already having these conversations about nontraditional family and consent, of course. So I think these would be very, very useful pedagogically as well.

Emma:

Fantastic.

Varsha:

Emma, it has been absolutely enlightening and wonderful talking to you.

Emma:

Thank you so much. This has been such a treat and I so rarely get to look at my work and look at the reasons I do it like this. So yeah, it's been a very inspiring chat. Thank you.

Varsha:

That was Emma Whipday talking about her play, Shakespeare’s Sister and the importance of recovering women’s histories, and the way in which Shakespeare draws on true crime and popular literature of the period for his domestic tragedies. Next month, I'm excited to host British theatre critic extraordinaire, Lyn Gardner. So dear listeners, adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember to tune in to 'Women & Shakespeare' streaming at Apple podcasts and Spotify. If you want to listen to the podcast with full transcript, head over to our website, www.womenandshakespeare.com. Until then, keep smashing the patriarchy.