'Look with thine ears': A Century of Shakespearean BBC Radio Adaptation.

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Literature, Drama and Creative Writing


This doctoral project examines radio productions of Shakespeare's plays, focusing on BBC adaptations from 1922 to the present. It examines the different ways these adaptations transform a play text intended for the stage into radio, not only through words but also non-verbal sound systems, such as effects, music, microphone positioning and stereo sound. It also carries out 'close listening' of the adaptations, comparable to the way play texts are examined by close reading. It then analyses how these respond to the rhetorical and aural aspects of the original works. The project demonstrates how radio adaptations, being solely verbal and aural, preserve part of the authentic contemporary experience of going to hear, rather than see, a play, and shows how they constitute a vital, hitherto critically neglected resource for analysing the rhetorical mechanics of Shakespeare's plays and for reassessing the aural dimension and experience of the originals. The project locates the BBC adaptations within the wider critical history of Shakespeare reception, and studies a tradition of Shakespearean performance that has been virtually inaudible to academics. In addition, this project has already led to the BBC digitising productions that have only been held on quarter inch tape until now, a format that degenerates over time. Therefore it is helping to preserve what could otherwise become a lost Shakespeare archive.


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