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Summer 2003
Will Power
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A.R. BRAUNMULLER didn't start out to be one of the world's most renowned Shakespeare scholars (among numerous other books and articles, he is co-editor of two exhaustive volumes of Shakespeare's complete works, The New Cambridge Shakespeare and The Complete Pelican Shakespeare). When he entered Stanford as an undergraduate, his goal was to become an aeronautical engineer. But, the intercession of "an inspiring Shakespeare teacher" changed the course of his life, and Braunmuller ended up completing his university education with a dissertation on the works of Shakespeare's contemporary, the poet and playwright George Chapman, and a Ph.D. in English from Yale.

The bookshelves lining the walls of his Rolfe Hall office attest to his passion and brim with hundreds of editions of Shakespeare — copies of individual plays published by Arden, Norton, Folger, Oxford, and the Riverside, Cambridge and Pelican complete editions. Slipped in amongst them are volumes by the likes of English dramatist Christopher Marlowe, satirist John Marston and, of course, Chapman.

One might wonder what there is fresh to say about Shakespeare, but Braunmuller is quick to point out that there's always room for new interpretation.

"The introductions and annotations in the first Pelican edition (published in 1957) came from another era, when scholars didn't talk, for instance, about sex, politics or gender issues," he says. "These [editors] were fuddy-duddy white guys."

Now, half of the plays in the Pelican are edited by women, and, says Braunmuller, Shakespeare scholarship has changed over the years to become "much more conscious of performance," and to give more attention to "the structure, architecture and various staging possibilities of the plays — as well as the historical context of Shakespeare's work." In newer editions of Shakespeare's plays, Braunmuller notes, readers may find discussions of a certain actor's performance or interpretations of a character. This makes perfect sense, since one thing that virtually all Shakespeare scholars agree upon is that his works were meant to be seen, not read.

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