Scholars take stage to debate play that may or may not be work of Shakespeare

University’s internationally known Shakespearian scholar Eric Rasmussen moderates first-ever meeting of dueling scholars

1/31/2014 - By: Natalie Savidge
Eric Rasmussen Eric Rasmussen, internationally known as one of the most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, is a University Foundation Professor and chair of the English Department. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, he hosts a debate between two scholars on the origin of a potentially long-lost Shakespeare play.

"To be or not to be - that is the question" is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the "Nunnery Scene" of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, two international Shakespearean scholars will be asked if another play, Double Falsehood, is "to be or not to be" the work of Shakespeare.

For several years, Tiffany Stern of Oxford University and Brean Hammond of the University of Nottingham have been engaged in a vigorous scholarly debate over the issue of whether Double Falsehood, discovered in the 18th century, was written by the Bard.

University of Nevada, Reno faculty member and renowned Shakespearian scholar Eric Rasmussen, along with fellow University English professor Ashley Marshall, will moderate a discussion with these scholars on a topic that has caught the attention of international media. 

"For several years now, their debate has been carried out entirely in print," Rasmussen, with world-wide Shakespeare connections, said. "I'm thrilled to have them meet for the first time, at the University of Nevada, Reno, for a face-to-face debate."

Whereas Hammond is a leading advocate of Shakespeare's authorship and has edited the play for the Arden Shakespeare series, Stern has published detailed arguments that the play is a forgery. 

Rasmussen, known for his ability to make Shakespeare interesting and relevant to students today, said he will not take a side in the debate, but looks forward to hearing their opposing views and how they defend them.

"We all work in teams," Rasmussen said. "Even Shakespeare was known to have collaborated with others on his plays, but viewpoints on this particular play vary greatly."

Rasmussen has written and edited 50 scholarly books, the majority of which are about Shakespeare. He has successfully garnered numerous grants and fellowships, has received the University's highest award for teaching excellence, the F. Donald Tibbitts Distinguished Teacher Award, the top teaching award for the entire Nevada System of Higher Education, the Regents' Teaching Award, and was selected last year as a Foundational Professor. 

The program includes a performance by two top University student actors Tara Brown and Wesley Gaines McNair. Directed by Rob Gander, chair of the University's Department of Theatre and Dance, they will present passages from the play Double Falsehood in scenes reminiscent of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. 

The event begins at 7 p.m. and is held in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's Wells Fargo Auditorium. It is sponsored by the Hilliard Endowment and the University's Department of English, with free parking available on floors 3-5 in the Brian J. Whalen Parking Complex.


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