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Intermedial Shakespeare on European Stages

Final Report Summary - ISES (Intermedial Shakespeare on European Stages)

This two-year research project explored ways in which intermediality has redefined performances of Shakespeare’s plays over the last twenty years in five European countries: the UK, Poland, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. Arguing that digital intermediality (understood as the influence of digital culture and new media technologies) has transformed Shakespearean performance and European theatre in the last two decades, the project described ways in which notions of text and author, time and space, actor and spectator have been redefined and re-established in those stage versions of Shakespeare’s dramas that integrate digital technologies into the performance. It also traced transformations in cultural values and practices related to shifts in staging techniques that are evidenced in intermedial Shakespearean productions. It addressed such problems of contemporary culture as virtual presence and communication, a global information network, and forms of political participation in a digital age.

The research led to:

1. The formulation of a new theory of digital intermediality that is applicable to the study of Shakespearean performance,
2. A description of a unique relationship between intermediality and Shakespeare, which owes a debt both to the structure of the plays and the status of the playwright,
3. A illustrative list of European Shakespeare productions that exemplify the intermedial paradigm,
4. An overview of Shakespearean performances in Europe, situated in their linguistic and cultural contexts,
5. An overview of transformations in contemporary theatre and culture, resulting from digital technologies.

The results of the project have been presented in a book-length study, Intermedial Shakespeares on European Stages (under contract with Palgrave; submission of the final draft in January 2014); eight articles and reviews (further two forthcoming in 2013/2014); contributions to the Global Shakespeares Archive curated by MIT; thirteen presentations at panels, symposia, conferences, research seminars etc.; an international symposium on ‘Intermedial Shakespeares in Europe’ on 18 September 2013 at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama that brought together European researchers and practitioners.

The project indicated the diversity of functions and definitions of Shakespeare in Europe. It examined intermedial performances of Shakespeare as a distinct phenomenon, characterised by such features as new forms of dramaturgy, the expansion of temporal and spatial perspectives, the hyperreality of stage interactions, and the growing involvement of spectators who frequently become participants. The inter-European framework of the projects introduced the developments within Continental theatre into the English-speaking academia. The research revealed the difference between the UK and the Continent in their choice of repertoire and approach to staging Shakespeare. At the same time, the project showed inter-relationships between European Shakespeare productions, emphasising their importance for Global Shakespeare Studies that are increasingly focused on Asia. Moreover, in examining the work of Shakespeare as a playwright writing for the stage rather than an object of philological examination, the project assumed an integrated approach to research and practice as mutually dependent and reciprocal fields. Consequently, the concepts and analyses presented in the research are not only applicable across the disciplines of Shakespeare Studies, Theatre Studies, and Media Studies, but they are equally relevant for contemporary artists working on Shakespeare and new technologies.


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