At the Sydney conference, the 2010 Lloyd Davis memorial prize for best postgraduate paper was awarded to Brandon Chua (University of Melbourne), for his paper, “Shakespeare’s History Lesson: Henry VI and the Restoration Crisis of 1679-81”. The runner-up was Megan Murray-Pepper (King’s College, London), with her paper, “ ‘The bogey of the schoolroom’: Shakespeare, Royal Readers and New Zealand Writers”. Congratulations to both Brandon and Megan! And thanks to Book & Volume for donating prizes. For those who missed it, here’s the abstract from Brandon’s prize-winning paper:
John Crowne’s The Miseries of Civil War (1679-80) and Henry VI (1680-1) mark the return of Shakespeare’s first history play cycle to the English stage after an absence of almost a hundred years. Performed during the 1679-81 theatrical seasons, Crowne’s two adaptations of the second and third parts of Shakespeare’s Henry VI were performed in a volatile political climate where mass panic over the discovery of a Catholic terrorist plot triggered waves of public expressions of discontent with the Stuart monarchy, leading to fears of another outbreak of civil war. This paper argues that Crowne’s adaptations function as urgent appeals to historical and literary authority, as Crowne stages a return to Shakespeare’s dramatic portrait of the Wars of the Roses to offer a chilling reminder to English subjects of the dangers of political and civil conflict. The plays deploy historical narrative as a vehicle for moral and civic instruction, but at the same time register a deep anxiety over the right interpretation of historical lessons. This paper contends that Crowne’s revival of Shakespearean history deploys historical understanding to interrogate the didactic and educative potential of both history writing and the dramatic arts in a period of heightened political instability. Crowne’s interrogation articulates wider cultural concerns over the nature of civic education in a public sphere increasingly dominated by political propaganda and party politics.