Island in a pocket: Shakespeare's history of the world

Presented by Professor Simon Palfrey, Oxford University

They say there’s but five upon this Isle; we are three of them.  
If the other two be brained like us, the State totters.  

In this one-off lecture Simon Palfrey offers a new vision of Shakespeare’s history of the world. It is an epic journey from prehistoric beginnings to a conflict-torn imminent present. An empire’s fall may weigh no more than a dropped handkerchief: and a dropped handkerchief no less.

We dive deep into pasts as we are rushed into futures. Crises come fast. Distances shrink, and we find the sudden emergence of the new. The plays become audacious experiments in world-making. This also means experiments in making humans. Shakespeare takes nothing for granted, not even the fact of humankind. We see where things come from; more importantly, we see where they go. We live amid consequences: and we are responsible for them too. This is Shakespeare’s great subject. Another way of putting it is this: here is our unfinished tale of origin.

 I think he will carry this island home in his pocket and give it his son for an apple.
And sowing the kernels of it in the sea, bring forth more islands.

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