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What Was Shakespeare Really Like?

A lecture series to mark the 90th birthday of Professor Sir Stanley Wells, C.B.E.

Stanley Wells Cropped

The world's leading Shakespeare scholar, Professor Sir Stanley Wells, turns 90 in May, and, as Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, he is marking the occasion with a series of four new public lectures, which will be available to enjoy online over the coming weeks. 

Sir Stanley has devoted his career to the study of Shakespeare's plays and poems. He first became interested in Shakespeare when he was a school-boy through the sonnets, and through an inspirational school teacher, Mr Large. 'I read the Fool in King Lear', said Sir Stanley, who was also inspired by seeing great acting, especially that of Sir Donald Wolfit. 

I've written about Shakespeare; I've edited Shakespeare; I've taught him; thought hard about him; I've also enjoyed the plays a great deal in the theatre; I've toured the world because of him. Shakespeare has been central to my life both for work, and for pleasure.

— Professor Sir Stanley Wells

But what about the man behind the works? Most Shakespeare scholars shy away from asking what we might learn about the artist from the art, but Sir Stanley's experience demonstrates that appropriate questions can be asked, and answered. His series of four lectures, 'What Was Shakespeare Really Like?' set forth the personality and sensibilities of Shakespeare as far as they can be discerned through a lifetime of reading and studying his works. 

These four lectures represent a culmination of my work. Seeking his personality through the work is not easy, and it's been something of a challenge, but I hope I've risen to that challenge in a way that people will enjoy.

— Professor Sir Stanley Wells

The talks move effortlessly from Shakespeare's life and background in Stratford-upon-Avon, to the entrepreneurial world of London and its emerging professional theatres; from Shakespeare's plays as they were perhaps first conceived in his imagination, through the processes of writing them, and them being bodied-forth on stage. 

Throughout his distinguished and unparalleled career, Sir Stanley has been writing and speaking about Shakespeare for as wide an audience as possible, and these lectures are being made available for anyone who would like to learn more about Shakespeare, deepen their existing knowledge, or to appreciate the depth of Sir Stanley's own.

The lectures will be made available to listen to on our What Was Shakespeare Really Like page, as follows:

23 April: What manner of man was Shakespeare?
Introduced by Professor Russell Jackson, University of Birmingham

30 April: How did Shakespeare write a play?
Introduced by Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.

7 May: What do the Sonnets tell us about Shakespeare?
Introduced by Professor Lena Orlin, Georgetown University, and Trustee of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

14 May: What made Shakespeare laugh?
Introduced by Professor Michael Dobson, Director of The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.