‘Look with thine ears’: A Century of Shakespeare’s Plays on BBC Radio

Smith, Andrea (2022) ‘Look with thine ears’: A Century of Shakespeare’s Plays on BBC Radio. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Shakespeare and the BBC are two cultural titans of the UK. In the century since the broadcaster was formed, its radio stations have aired more than four hundred different productions of his plays. Yet there has been no substantial research into these broadcasts, leaving a large gap in the history of British Shakespearean performance. This thesis addresses that gap.

It challenges assumptions about the nature of the BBC’s radio broadcasts of Shakespeare’s plays, reassessing them as dramatic productions rather than poetry readings, and as entertainment rather than education. This thesis shows they are a unique genre: in terms of Shakespearean performance they are alone in presenting the plays without visuals, while as radio drama they function under different constraints to works written specifically for the medium.

Radio listeners engage with these plays in a different way to theatre or film audiences: they are not passively watching but actively participating in creating the production through their imagination. To do this, they are led by the texts, meaning more emphasis is placed on Shakespeare’s words than in any other medium. However, this thesis does not just examine the words spoken in these plays but their whole sound, uncovering a wide range of approaches to performing Shakespeare in audio only. These productions provide an entirely different way of engaging with Shakespeare’s works, providing new insights into how production can affect our perceptions of the plays.

In addition, this thesis charts the impact of technological, institutional and wider cultural changes on radio productions of Shakespeare’s plays. In doing so, it is of value not just to those working in Shakespeare studies but also to media historians. Together with the comprehensive appendix listing all Shakespeare’s plays broadcast on BBC radio, it presents a detailed investigation in its own right as well as providing the building blocks for further academic exploration.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2022 18:04
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2022 18:04
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/89999

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