Representing Disability in Shakespeare’s World – The ESRC Festival of Social Science

The ESRC Festival of Social Science is an annual celebration of social sciences, which will take place in 2020 on 7-15 November across the UK. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, this year FoSS will be an all-digital event and, as every year, will provide fascinating insights into leading social science research and how it influences our lives. In the afternoon of Monday, 9 November, a FREE event created in collaboration between the Civil War Petitions Project and the Royal Shakespeare Company will explore social representations and attitudes towards disability in the 17th century and today.

Using insights from history and disability studies, this event will draw from Shakespearean England to explore social representations and attitudes toward disability in the context of military life, then and today.

Charity table painting from St Nicholas Church, Alcester, Warwickshire.

It will feature a brief talk by Professor Andrew Hopper to introduce a video produced by actors from the RSC and two freelance actors with disabilities. The production includes a series of video monologues of extracts from Shakespeare’s plays, as well as dramatised petitions that survive from wounded soldiers applying for the first state military pensions during Shakespeare’s day and the years immediately afterwards. Some of these will be drawn from the Civil War Petitions project. Although most petitions in the production (as in the archives) will concentrate on physical injuries, the soldiers’ and their communities’ struggles with emotional and mental difficulties as a result of war will also be evident.

The video outputs and recited petitions will be accompanied by discussion from experts including an academic from the Shakespeare Institute, early modern historians, disability studies scholars, representatives from arts and military organisations, and the actors themselves. In doing so, insights and critical reflection on contemporary representation and attitudes toward disability, as well as equality and social support for those with disability, will be provided.

As well as providing illuminating and entertaining dramatization of petitions to the non-expert audience, we hope that this event will create fruitful discussion about the various similarities between difficulties people with disabilities faced then and continue facing today when applying for help, and how the attitudes have (or have not) changed over the centuries. Therefore, as well as providing some commentary from the aforementioned event participants, the audience at the event will also be invited to participate in this discussion.

The tickets for this FREE event are now available. These can be acquired via this Eventbrite page here. If you are unable to access this link, please copy and paste this address into your browser: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/representing-disability-in-shakespeares-world-tickets-121856029665 .

The video production is directed by Hal Chambers and edited by Assad Zaman. Actors featured in this production are Ben Caplan, Philippa Cole, Andrew French, Amanda Hadingue, Greg Haiste, Vicky Hall, Avita Jay, Dyfrig Morris and Guy Rhys.

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