On Saturday 20th May, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe Theatre in London will play host to an eerie candlelit reading of work by writer, poet and satirist Thomas Nashe, 450 years on from his birth in 1567. It will be the culmination of a day’s intellectual investigation into his body of work led by academics from Newcastle and Sussex universities.
Nashe was a major figure in late Elizabethan literature whose work broke new boundaries and whose novel The Unfortunate Traveller took the English language in bold new directions.
He collaborated with Christopher Marlowe on Dido, Queen of Carthage and almost certainly with Shakespeare on the first part of Henry VI; wrote shocking pornographic poetry that was read alongside the work of writers of erotic verse such as Marlowe, John Donne and Richard Barnfield; and a ground-breaking satirical novel, The Unfortunate Traveller.
Terrors of the Night is Nashe’s unsettling and disturbing exploration of nightmares. Nashe speaks in a variety of voices as his speaker tries to understand whether humans are surrounded by demons, witches and ghosts, or whether these are real terrors unleashed by the devil in his futile struggle with God.
The script has been adapted by Kate De Rycker, a research associate in Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics. It will be the first time that Nashe’s text, which had a huge influence on the development of prose and drama in the age of Shakespeare, has been read aloud by candlelight.
Kate said: “Nashe was a real stylistic innovator, and Terrors of the Night is one of his most experimental works. It’s not just a text about dreams and what they mean, its structure has a dreamlike quality, like an Elizabethan stream of consciousness.
“By adapting this prose-text into a performable script, we’re continuing in the spirit of experimentation that Nashe would have appreciated: what is it like, we’re asking, to hear these words read out loud?”
First time in 400 years
Project lead Professor Jennifer Richards, from Newcastle University, said: “Thomas Nashe's prose is chatty and colloquial. He wrote in the common idiom of his times and in doing so, was highly influential on the dramatists of the 1590s, Shakespeare included, and even on how we write today. I am delighted that we will be able to hear Nashe's prose for the first time in 400 years.”
This event is part of an AHRC research project into Nashe’s work by Professor Richards of Newcastle University and Professor Andrew Hadfield of the University of Sussex. They are currently leading a team of international scholars to produce an authoritative new edition of Nashe’s work, which has not been properly edited since the First World War. The edition will be published by Oxford University Press in 2021/2.
Tickets for Terrors of the Night are still available.
Adapted with thanks from a University of Sussex press release.
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