History Anew: SUU Student Recasts Shakespeare
November 19, 2010
History is just that: said and done. Though we can learn from it, we can't do much to change it.
Yet, at the recent Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference in Toledo, Ohio, Southern Utah University student Kirstin Bone did just that with new theories about the Bard. And though she shared the stage, this SUU senior undoubtedly stole the show with her research paper, "Geoffrey Chaucer: The Forgotten Fool."
After her formal presentation, Bone participated in a question and answer session that was supposed to be shared with two other scholars. Though the other two presenters were on stage, the audience was singularly interested in Bone's work, and at day’s end, Bone went home with the M. Rick Smith Memorial Undergraduate Prize – the conference’s top honor – and a fair amount of notoriety among the nation’s Shakespearean scholars.
Given that her subject matter covered two men whose lives have been dissected thousands of times in scholarly papers around the globe, the originality of Bone’s ideas were impressive and very surprising.
That’s saying a lot considering the mission of the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference is to spotlight papers that “investigate the gaps, lacunae, indeterminacies, omissions, silences and ‘undecidabilities’ in the work of Shakespeare and/or his contemporaries.”
Bone’s premise: Chaucer, the poet laureate under England's Richard II, is completely absent in Shakespeare's works, which were written about 200 years after Chaucer. “It is strange,” according to Bone, “for someone that important to be missing from Shakespeare’s plays.” She explains, “Shakespeare was usually very careful to make his historical plays accurate.”
Bone explains that Henry IV, who had Richard II killed and usurped the throne, had Chaucer's works edited and sometimes even deleted in an attempt to tarnish the image of the previous king. In fact, Chaucer himself somehow mysteriously "disappeared" shortly after Henry IV took the throne. Therefore, Bone postulates, “Shakespeare might not have been aware of Chaucer's importance – or perhaps even his existence.”
Bone first had the idea while reading Shakespeare's play about Richard II and wondered why Chaucer did not make an appearance. She asked several scholars, but none of them had even asked the question before.
Bone's curiosity, coupled with her love of theatre, led her to investigate the idea further and the rest is, well, a whole new history.
Of her experience at the conference, Bone says she felt right at home. "It was basically all Shakespeare, all day, for three days. I just got to nerd out with other people that share my same love of Shakespeare."
That those people were some of the nation’s most notable scholars didn’t faze Bone, who soundly represented herself, her ideas and the entire SUU community.
She explains, "Most of the people there were from the east coast, and none of them had even heard of SUU. So for me to go out there and present something so interesting, it really made an impression on them. Those people expect great things out of SUU now."
Though she has set a high bar, Bone is confident in her future, thanks to an encouraging response at the Ohio conference. "I like to set high expectations for myself, just so I can beat them. If you don't push yourself, what's the point of being here?"
Back on campus, Bone plans to finish her undergraduate degree and continue on to graduate school, where her experience at the conference should prove very helpful.
An aspiring director, Kirstin Bone, a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, has previously served as a dramaturge on the Theatre Arts and Dance production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours’ Lost and will be the associate director on the department’s upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie. Her future plans include graduate school and ultimately becoming a professor of Shakespearean studies.
Bone’s conference and travel expenses were funded in part by SUU’s Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Program and the SUU Honors Program. Both organizations seek to support students in the real world application of their studies.