Shakespeare and the Closure of Theatres

deadline for submissions: 
January 22, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Gabriel Egan / De Montfort University
contact email: 

A one-day international online conference on 22 April 2021

The English Research Institute at De Montfort University in Leicester, England, is running a one-day international conference to reflect on closure of theatres in Shakespeare's time and our own.

It is well known that the theatres of Shakespeare's time repeatedly had to close as part of sensible precautions against the spread of the most serious communicable disease of the day: the plague. To stop the disease spreading, early moderns had to practise social distancing; without it a playgoer might bring home from the theatre more than just new ideas and ways of speaking.

We welcome papers on a range of responses to the closures, including those by writers (Shakespeare and others), playgoers, patrons, and civil and state authorities, some of whom welcomed and some lamented the loss of public theatre. Papers might explore topics such as:

* The turn to narrative poetry and other forms
* Provincial touring
* Actors having secondary careers
* Surreptitious performance and/or unlicensed venues
* Reading drama versus playgoing
* The representations of disease in the drama
* Parallels between closures then and now
* The exigencies of amateur performance
* The guild system and the furlough
* The proper limits to state control of fun

Other topics connected to Shakespeare and the closure of theatres are equally welcome. Abstracts of 200-300 words should be sent to Gabriel Egan <>, Siobhan Keenan <>, and Deborah Cartmell <> by 22 January 2021 for consideration by the conference committee. Decisions will be announced by 29 January 2021. It is expected that a selection of papers will be published following the conference.