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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Visiting prof examines why Shakespeare is relevant today

Douglas Bruster

Although Shakespeare has been dead for four centuries, that doesn’t stop scholars such as University of Texas’ Dr. Douglas Bruster from delving into new discoveries of the Bard’s works.  

Tuesday Bruster held a lecture titled “Shakespeare Today” to celebrate the Folger Shakespeare Library’s First Folio traveling exhibition.  

“The First Folio is the first published collected works of Shakespeare,” said Laura Estill, English professor and editor of the World Shakespeare Bibliography database. “It was published after his death in 1623 and it includes 18 never-before published plays. Altogether it includes 36 of his plays.”

During his lecture, Bruster talked about his research on “Arden of Faversham,” noting that while many scholars agree that certain scenes were clearly written by Shakespeare, there is speculation that other playwrights contributed to other parts of the play.

“What we see in ‘Arden of Faversham,’ however, is this strange kind of hybrid pattern, this dispersed rhyme,” Bruster said. “One of the interesting things about this play is the fact that this dispersed rhyme characterizes every scene of the play. I don’t think it’s an accident, but rather a sign that the same writer is responsible for the whole play.”

Dispersed rhyme is characterized by the sporadic rhyming of words or phrases at the end of nonconsecutive lines. In discovering this odd stylistic literature that pervaded the entirety of the play, Bruster says it’s likely a single playwright, Shakespeare, is responsible for the whole work.

As a result of his findings, it is likely that “Arden of Faversham”will be included with the complete works of Shakespeare.

“I was excited to hear that Dr. Bruster was predicting that the play, ‘Arden of Faversham,will soon appear in editions of Shakespeare’s collected works,” said Karen Davis, philosophy doctoral student. “I think Dr. Bruster’s research reminds us that there is always something more and something new that we can be getting out of old works like Shakespeare.”

Bruster said research in any field, including the humanities, can be beneficial. He said exploring works such as Shakespeare’s plays may help people learn more about language, literature and culture.

“I think that one of the points that Dr. Bruster made very well is that when we understand Shakespeare, we learn more about our own culture and we understand ourselves better,” Estill said. “Learning Shakespeare is not just learning about how to read, but it’s also learning about communication, and it’s about learning about our cultural heritage.”

But for those who are not quite so familiar with Shakespeare or other older literary works, Bruster gave advice on becoming more familiar with literature.

“Oftentimes reading a work can be enriched with a film or a live production,” Bruster said. “Let’s say you read Hamlet and you say, ‘I don’t understand it.’ Go to a performance, watch a filmed production or a Hollywood film, even, and then go back to them and you’ll find that once you know the story, once you know the characters, they become much richer.”

Estill also encouraged students to learn more about Shakespeare, noting there are future film series, workshops and performances available to all students for free.

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