Imagining Shakespeare’s Original Audience, 1660-2000: Book Review


9781137379955The latest volume of Shakespeare Studies, 45 (2017), includes my review of Bettina Boecker’s monograph:

Imagining Shakespeare’s Original Audience, 1660-2000: Groundlings, Gallants, Grocers Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

Here is an extact from the review:

Christopher Norris once noted how A.C. Bradley and F.R. Leavis seem to take on the perspectives of Othello and Iago, respectively, in their reading of Othello. (1) We are familiar with the idea that readers see plays from the point of view of certain characters, but Norris was alert to the way that the characters’ positions are used as a function of criticism. Bettina Boecker’s contention is that critics often see plays from the point of view of certain audiences. Or at least critics imagine Shakespeare’s original audience as they investigate the plays. This imagining can have a profound, and often unacknowledged, affect on Shakespeare criticism.

As this book shows, the way this imagining functions reveals a lot about the processes of reading Shakespeare. Boecker’s task is to read selectively through over 300 years of criticism to examine how Shakespeare’s original audience is imagined. She traces the way that this imagining works in terms of the critics’ arguments and their perspectives on the plays, the institution of the theater, the playwright, and the role of literature more broadly.

In the Introduction Boecker excuses herself from including an account of current thinking on early modern theatergoers, saying that she did not want to write “a Whig history of Shakespeare’s first audiences–from the ‘errors’ of older criticism to the ‘truth’ as uncovered by us, the living” (11). Boecker’s investigation, then, tries to be unpartisan, and is something of a gift for researchers as it leaves a certain amount of work still to be done and thought through. As Boecker states, “every generation of critics since Dryden has credited itself with being in possession of the truth about Elizabethan audiences, regardless of the fact that this truth, at least from the perspective of the later-born observer, has always been a truth with a purpose” (11). Boecker’s task in this book is not to imagine Shakespeare’s original audience once and for all, but to survey and test past imaginings of this audience in Shakespeare criticism.

Find out more about the book.

The journal volume also includes a large section on Forum: Playhouses, Plays, and Theater History: Rethinking the 1580s.

‘Nature Fragile Vessel’ Journal article


My journal article on ‘”Nature’s Fragile Vessel”: Rethinking approaches to material culture in literature’ has been published this week ‘Online First’ and will be in the next issue of Cahiers Élisabéthains: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies.


The notion of fragility is a pervasive one in Western culture. Considering its appearance in early modern texts can help us to understand the history of fragility, as an idea, metaphor and feeling. The relationship between humans and breakable things is used as a metaphor that recognizes human limitations in body or mind. This essay begins with one peculiar instance of fragility from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens before analysing other examples in early modern culture. It ends by making a few tentative propositions regarding the relationships between literature, material culture and the representations of human fragility.

Read the article (open access)

As well as reading the one instance in Shakespeare’s work where the word ‘fragile’ is used, the essay considers other early modern writing and paintings. I’m especially interested in the way that people are described in literature as being fragile like an object, whether that object is a ship at sea, or a fragile vase on the edge of a table.

The essay is partly me working out my next steps in this area for a larger project, as well as being an attempt to negotiate the scholarly field as it relates to material culture and object-studies, the idea of the human, and the (now, not so recent) turn to the study of literature and the emotions. It seems to me that these three areas are highly contested and fraught with different priorities, perspectives, and concerns; but these three interdisciplinary research foci still have huge potential in terms of developing new research methodologies, research impact (outside of academia), and, of course, thinking about our engagement with literature.

I’d welcome any comments. My contact details are on my profile page.

Four Ages of Man (national gallery)

The Four Ages of Man (Valentin de Boulogne)


First published on Cardiff Shakespeare.

A Spotlight on Sŵn Music Festival 2016: Research Report

Creative Economy, Research

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Through my work as the co-ordinator of the Creative Cardiff Research Network, I helped to set up the Festivals Research Group at Cardiff University in the spring of 2016. In the autumn the group worked with Cardiff’s Sŵn Music Festival on a pilot project. The group produced a research survey of festivalgoers, interviews, case studies and a Pop-up Music Museum. This week we launched a report based on this work at an event in the School of Geography and Planning. The afternoon included contributions from researchers, festival organisers (Sŵn, Festival No. 6, and Green Gathering) and Gwilym Evans, the Head of Major Events, Welsh Government.

I wrote the introduction to this report and a section on ‘Engaging Audiences’. It’s been exciting working with this interdisciplinary research group and with industry partners, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The report is available from the Festival Research Group’s webpages.

See the storify of the launch.

Follow the group on twitter @CUFestivals



The Year’s Work in English Studies: Shakespeare


Year's Work

The 2016 edition of The Year’s Work in English Studies contains my review of 2014 work on Shakespeare’s tragedies. The Year’s Work has made ten years’ worth of its Shakespeare reviews available for free to celebrate #Shakespeare400.

This year is my last year as a reviewer for the journal after a 3 year stint. Reviewers often each read around 16+ books and 20+ journal articles per year. I’ve learnt so much (and read so much!), but I think it’s time for someone else to have a go.

Find out more.

Year’s Work in English Studies: Shakespeare


9780226150642The Shakespeare’s section of The Year’s Work in English Studies has now been published online. I have contributed the Shakespeare’s Tragedies part (pp. 81-98) of this section. This Year’s Work covers work published in 2014. The stand-out monograph was Simon Palfrey’s Poor Tom: Living ‘King Lear’.

See the section here.


The Year’s Work in English Studies is the qualitative narrative bibliographical review of scholarly work on English language and literatures written in English. It is the largest and most comprehensive work of its kind and the oldest evaluative
work of literary criticism. The Year’s Work in English Studies does not merely offer annotated or enumerated bibliography entries, but provides expert, critical commentary supplied for every book covered.”


This chapter has four sections: 1. Editions and Textual Studies; 2. Shakespeare in the Theatre; 3. Shakespeare on Screen; 4. Criticism. Section 1 is by Gabriel Egan; section 2 is by Peter J. Smith; section 3 is by Elinor Parsons; section 4(a) is by Elisabetta Tarantino; section 4(b) is by Daniel Cadman; section 4(c) is by Arun Cheta; section 4(d) is by Gavin Schwartz-Leeper; section 4(e) is by Johann Gregory; section 4(f) is by Sheilagh Ilona O’Brien; section 4(g) is by Louise Geddes.

Exciting News: I’m joining the @CU_CreativeCDF team #CreativeEconomy


From the Creative Cardiff Newsletter:

Creative Economy team expands to help build ‘Creative @ Cardiff’ network

For the next six months Dr Johann Gregory and Professor Steve Blandford will be working to develop our growing network of academics and our research plans.

The Creative Economy team has gained college funding to build the ‘Creative @ Cardiff’ network. Dr Johann Gregory from the School of English, Philosophy & Communication will join us part-time from December until June 2016. Professor Steve Blandford, Emeritus Professor at the University of South Wales, will also be advising us on this work.

They will be working to encourage and support more research on the creative economy and to build better links between academics and those working in the city’s creative economy. By developing groups around research themes we hope to encourage more collaboration across the college, and beyond. We also want to raise the profile of the wealth of research activity already taking place in this area.

If you have a suggested theme or area of work which you would like Johann and Steve to develop then please get in touch.

Find out more here:

Photo credit: Flickr – Al Crompton

Ben Jonson’s Foot Voyage Reviewed by @DrJ_Gregory

Editing, Research

The latest issue of Literature & History (2015; 24.2) contains my review of Ben Jonson’s Walk to Scotland: An Annotated Edition of the ‘Foot Voyage’ (Cambridge University Press, 2015):

The text of the foot voyage is a first-hand account of Ben Jonson’s 1618 walk from London to Edinburgh by an unknown companion. This edition also contains essays by the editors, James Loxley, Anna Groundwater and Julie Sanders.

Literature & History is now a SAGE publication:

Shakespeare and the Future of Theory @RoutledgeLit published today


Shakespeare and the Future of Theory, eds. François-Xavier Gleyzon and Johann Gregory, convenes internationally renowned Shakespeare scholars, and scholars of the Early Modern period, and presents, discusses, and evaluates the most recent research and information concerning the future of theory in relation to Shakespeare’s corpus. Original in its aim and scope, the book argues for the critical importance of thinking Shakespeare now, and provides extensive reflections and profound insights into the dialogues between Shakespeare and Theory. Contributions explore Shakespeare through the lens of design theory, queer theory, psychoanalysis, Derrida and Foucault, amongst others, and offer an innovative interdisciplinary analysis of Shakespeare’s work. This book was originally published as two special issues of English Studies.

Find out more here:

Year’s Work in English Studies: Shakespeare (now online)


The Shakespeare section of the Year’s Work in English Studies has now been published online. It includes contributions from

  • Gabriel Egan,
  • Peter J. Smith,
  • Elinor Parsons,
  • Chloe Wei-Jou Lin,
  • Daniel Cadman,
  • Arun Cheta,
  • Gavin Schwartz-Leeper,
  • Johann Gregory,
  • Sheilagh Ilona O’Brien,
  • and Louise Geddes

This chapter has four sections: 1. Editions and Textual Studies; 2. Shakespeare in the Theatre; 3. Shakespeare on Screen; 4. Criticism. Section 1 is by Gabriel Egan; section 2 is by Peter J. Smith; section 3 is by Elinor Parsons; section 4(a) is by Chloe Wei-Jou Lin; section 4(b) is by Daniel Cadman; section 4(c) is by Arun Cheta; section 4(d) is by Gavin Schwartz-Leeper; section 4(e) is by Johann Gregory; section 4(f) is by Sheilagh Ilona O’Brien; section 4(g) is by Louise Geddes.