Shakespeare Bulletin special issue: Eco-Shakespeare in Performance

Martin, Randall, and Evelyn O’Malley, eds. Eco-Shakespeare in Performance. Shakespeare Bulletin 36. 3 (Fall 2018).

Collected papers on a variety of Shakespeare performances produced in outdoor spaces and/or with ecological themes at the fore. Using methodologies that include close reading, theatre review, narrative criticism, ethnographic study, and ecofeminist analysis, these articles consider both the potential and the challenges presented by ecodramaturgical performances of Shakespeare’s works. 

---. “Eco-Shakespeare in Performance: Introduction.” 377-390.

Introduces the themes broached by this special issue of Shakespeare Bulletin, including consideration of why Shakespeare’s works in performance are particularly apt for ecodramaturgy and ecological thinking.

Conkie, Rob. “Nature’s Above Art (An Illustrated Guide.” 391-408.

Analysis of an “outdoor, winter, promenade, ecodramaturgical, student production” of King Lear at LaTrobe University, with consideration of the reciprocal effects between the environment and the production.

O’Malley, Evelyn. “’To weather a play’: Audiences, Outdoor Shakespeares, and Avant-Garde Nostalgia at the Willow Globe.” 409-427.

Examines ethnographic audience feedback from a series of outdoor performances of two Shakespeare plays at the Willow Globe, with particular attention to the impact of weather as an embodied aspect of the performance and audience experience.

Minton, Gretchen E. “’the season of all natures’: Montana Shakespeare in the Parks’ Global Warming Macbeth.” 429-448.

First-hand analysis by the dramaturg of an apocalyptic, climate-change themed production of Macbeth by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, which was performed in 61 different locations. This article follows the production from concept through site-specific performances in a variety of environments.

Salazar, Rebecca. “A Rogue and Pleasant Stage: Performing Ecology in Outdoor Shakespeares.” 449-466.

Analysis of an outdoor production of Hamlet in an old-growth forest park in Fredericton, New Brunswick, with attention to how the living environment co-produces meaning in performance. Also considers the performativity of “nature” in legislated green spaces as a counterpart to theatrical performance.

Kammer, Miriam. “Breaking the Bounds of Domesticity: Ecofeminism and Nature Space in Love’s Labour’s Lost.” 467-483.

Dramaturgical study of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and of a 2009 Shakespeare’s Globe production. Considers the way in which the playtext and performance subvert conventional associations of the feminine with passivity and domestic space, positioning “wilderness” as a space for female resistance to patriarchal authority.

Hamilton, Jennifer Mae. “Constructing Dying and Death as an Eco-Political Concern in Performances of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Sarah Kane’s Blasted.” 485-500.

Draws from King Lear and from Sarah Kane’s adaptation, Blasted, to examine the erasure of death as a central ecological concern, arguing that the plays—and adaptation more generally—create a space to reconsider the specific ecopolitics of issues such as death.

O’Dair, Sharon. “Afterword.” 501-510.

Reflecting on the essay cluster in this special issue, considers the potential and challenges of ecodramaturgy in practice, and comments on the magnitude of changes to theatre practice that will be required to fulfill the intellectual and practical sustainability envisioned by ecodramaturgy.


Brayton, Dan, and Lynne Buckner. “Introduction: Warbling Invaders.” Ecocritical Shakespeare. Eds. Lynne Bruckner and Dan Brayton. Ashgate, 2011. 1-12.

Posits questions about why Shakespeare’s works might be useful to the project of ecocriticism, with consideration of the challenges ecocriticism poses to traditional Shakespeare studies of nature and the non-human.

Brayton, Dan. Shakespeare's Ocean: An Ecocritical Exploration. University of Virginia Press, 2012. 

From cover blurb: "Brayton demonstrates Shakespeare's remarkable conceptual mastery of the early modern maritime world and reveals a powerful benthic imagination at work." 

Egan, Gabriel. “Introduction: Babbling of green fields.” Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism. Routledge, 2006. 1-16.

Brief historical survey of significant critical interpretations of “nature” in Shakespeare’s work, with a call for further critical engagement that relates Shakespeare’s “nature” to the escalating climate crisis.

Egan, Gabriel. “Ecopolitics/Ecocriticism.” Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism. Routledge, 2006. 17-50.

Historical survey of the parallel development of industrial sciences and ecological movements, alongside further analysis of how these political changes are reflected in critical engagement with Shakespeare’s works. Includes some discussion of the relationship between ecocriticism, feminist criticism, and critical race theory as streams of criticism that are interested in the ideology underlying Shakespeare criticism.

Egan, Gabriel. “The Rise of Ecocriticism.” Shakespeare and Ecocritical Theory. Bloomsbury, 2015.

Survey of the emerging field of ecocritical scholarship on Shakespeare, with a focus on monographs published on the subject.

Estok, Simon C. “Doing Ecocriticism with Shakespeare: An Introduction.” Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 1-17.

Defines “ecophobia” as a fear and hatred of nature, a destructive ideology that intersects with other forms of social oppression, and proposes that ecocriticism must therefore be intersectional, engaged with social activism, and interdisciplinary in its approach—beyond the “thematic and symbolic readings” that have characterized many ecocritical literary studies. Engages with various texts by Shakespeare scholars that theorize (or resist theorizing) ecocriticism since the late 1990s.

Estok, Simon C. “Dramatizing Environmental Fear: King Lear’s Unpredictable Natural Spaces and Domestic Places.” Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 19-32.

Close reading of environmental language and imagery in King Lear, linking the unpredictability of ecological elements such as the weather to fears about the unpredictability of character or the self.

Kammer, Miriam. “Shakespeare as Ecodrama: Ecofeminism and Nonduality in Pericles, Prince of Tyre.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 32.1 (2017). 29-48.

Ecofeminist reading of Pericles’ engagement with the ocean as a figure of ecological entanglement. Especially of interest is the article’s analysis of how various stagings of place and geography can unify the plot and message of a play with multiple locations.

Leggatt, Alexander. “Shakespeare and the Indifference of Nature.” Shakespeare / Adaptation / Modern Drama: Essays in Honour of Jill L. Levenson. Eds. Randall Martin and Katherine Scheil. U of Toronto P, 2011. 183-197.

Literary analysis of the movement from pathetic fallacy to ironic or indifferent natural settings over the span of Shakespeare’s plays. While Cymbeline is not addressed directly, some of the attention to contradictory descriptions of landscapes and weather in other plays may be useful in interpreting any inconsistencies in the described settings and weather in Cymbeline.

Mentz, Steve. “Tongues in the Storm: Shakespeare, Ecological Crisis, and the Resources of Genre.” Ecocritical Shakespeare. Eds. Lynne Bruckner and Dan Brayton. Ashgate, 2011. 155-172.

Suggests that the generic dexterity and self-reflexivity of Shakespeare’s works “model a mutable system” for rethinking narratives about nature, catastrophe, and change, which the current ecological crisis requires. Suggestive for Cymbeline’s romance narratives, and its self-conscious theatricality.

O’Dair, Sharon. “Is it Shakespearean Ecocriticism if it isn’t Presentist?” Ecocritical Shakespeare. Eds. Lynne Bruckner and Dan Brayton. Ashgate, 2011. 71-85.

Largely a historical account of the debates over presentism in both history and Shakespeare studies, arguing that Shakespeare studies invite presentism as a beneficial and necessary perspective, especially since it is necessary to continue addressing present-day performances. Concludes with the challenge that Shakespearean ecocriticism must also engage with discourse, policy, and activism beyond the stage and page.


Contexts for Ecodramaturgy

Arons, Wendy, and Theresa J. May. “Introduction.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 1-10.

Defines ecodramaturgy and its main concerns, including addressing the material-physical ecology of theatre-making, issues of the global/local, sustainability practices, and the way in which nature and related concepts are in themselves performative.

Chaudhuri, Una. ‘“There Must Be a Lot of Fish in That Lake’: Toward an Ecological Theater.” Theater, vol. 25, no. 1, 1994, pp. 23-31.

Locates the “anti-ecological” drives of theatre in the legacy of 19t-century humanism; the problem being that ecology is used mainly as a metaphor, erasing its material and political realities. Challenges theatre-makers to consciously work against the tendency of Western art to consider nature as raw material for metaphor and/or resource.

D’Zmura, Anne Justine. “Devising Green Piece: A Holistic Pedagogy for Artists and Educators.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 169-180.

Describes a semester-long workshop class culminating in an ecodramatic performance directed by the author and a group of students. Discusses the creation of the collectively authored text, which drew on folk tales from the student’s various backgrounds, and the creation of sustainable, “green” set and costume designs.

Garrett, Ian. “Theatrical Production’s Carbon Footprint.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 201- 210.

Surveys current sustainability initiatives across the theatre industry, with discussion of some of the practical and artistic considerations that influence these efforts. Concludes with a list of preliminary suggestions for making theatre productions more sustainable.

Kershaw, Baz. “The Theatrical Biosphere and Ecologies of Performance: A Biological Microcosm and the ‘Theater of The World.’” New Theater Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 2, 2000, pp. 122-130.

Meditations on the challenge of making theatre actively ecological, as opposed to simply discussing ecology in the abstract. By comparing Victorian glasshouses and a 1990s scientific experiment which created a glass-enclosed “biosphere,” this paper shows how ecology is aestheticized and commodified in the theatre, rather than critically engaging with actual ecologies.

May, Theresa J. “Greening Theater Studies: Taking Ecocriticism from Page to Stage.” Interdisciplinary Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2005, pp. 84-103.

Through the analysis of various texts and performances, this article traces the move of ecological theatre from simple thematic engagements with a play text to a critical and politicized mode of performance.

--. “Radical Empathy, Embodied Pedagogy, and Climate Change Theatre.” Howl Around 20 April 2016.

May argues that ecotheatre offers embodied cognitive experiences needed to call forth the radical shifts in imagination for comprehending and feeling the urgency of the climate crisis.

--. “The Fifth Wall: Climate Change Dramaturgy.” Howl Around 27 April 2016.

Ecodramaturgy expands our framework for understanding the climate crisis beyond human-focused social sciences, and towards a necessary geophysical and ‘“atmospheric consciousness.” 

--. “Tú eres mi otro yo – Staying with the Trouble: Ecodramaturgy & the AnthropoScene.” The Journal of American Drama and Theatre 29.2 (Spring 2017). 1-18.

Examining José Cruz González’s Harvest Moon (1994) through the lens of Donna J. Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the ChthuluceneMay shows how González’s play exemplifies Haraway’s “tentacular thinking” and “sym-poiesis”of creaturely life, as well as ecodramaturgy’s vision of a future in which “humans and non-humans inhabit the ambiguities and contingencies of relentless transition.”   

McConachie, Bruce. “Ethics, Evolution, Ecology, and Performance.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 91-100.

Drawing from the work of evolutionary ethicist John Dewey, argues that art is a fundamentally embodied and pragmatic practice that can mobilize ethical, ecological action.

O’Shea, Meg. “Bikes, Choices, Action! Embodied Performances of Sustainability by a Traveling Theatre Group.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 137-146.

Recounts the author’s experience of a performance by a Canadian touring company that travels by bicycle. Discusses the flaws in performative sustainability practices that overlook or erase a number of socioecological issues (eg: moralizing organic food consumption without considering food insecurity). 

Standing, Sarah Ann. “Earth First!’s ‘Crack the Dam’ and the Aesthetics of Ecoactivist Performance.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 147-157.

Analysis of an activist art performance protesting the Glen Canyon Dam, and the possibilities of politicized public performance.

Sweeting, Adam, and Thomas C. Crochunis. “Performing the Wild: Rethinking Wilderness and Theater Spaces.” Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism. Eds. Karla Armbruster and Kathleen R. Wallace. Virginia UP, 2001, pp. 325-340.

Positing theatre not as a space, but a temporal action, this paper argues that nature and wilderness spaces are inherently theatrical, in that they are legislated spaces in which concepts of “wilderness” and “nature” are collectively performed. Of particular interest for outdoor productions.

Thompson, Ayanna. “(How) Should We Listen to Audiences?: Race, Reception, and the Audience Survey.” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Performance. Ed. James C. Bulman. OUP, 2017. 157-170.

Interrogates the underlying assumption in audience response surveys that spectators are homogenous, especially in relation to racial identity. Also addresses how studies of and methods for gauging audience response have been significantly underdeveloped or dismissed, and proposes further engagement as a way of advancing conversations about race in theatre.

Ecodramaturgy and Shakespeare

Bruckner, Lynne. “Teaching Shakespeare in the Ecotone.” Ecocritical Shakespeare. Eds. Lynne Bruckner and Dan Brayton. Ashgate, 2011. 223-238.

Reflections on pedagogical possibilities for teaching Shakespeare and ecology in innovative ways that move beyond the classroom, with examples from the author’s teaching practice. Analyses a 2008 Quantum Theatre production of Cymbeline in a park environment which the author used as a case study of anti-pastoralism for a course, and discusses how Shakespeare can be used as a vehicle for environmental education.

Brokaw, Katherine Steele and Paul Prescott, "Shakespeare in Yosemite: Applied Theatre in a National Park." Critical Practice 31.4 (Winter 2019). 15-28. 

Written by the co-founders of Shakespeare in Yosemite, this paper places the company's first production in context with the emerging field of eco-criticical theatre, and the tradition of free outdoor Shakespeare performance in the United States. The article also discusses the potential for ecological thinking and activism available in Shakespeare performance.

Cless, Downing. “Ecodirecting Canonical Plays.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 159-168.

The author’s reflections on directing four canonical plays while positing the notion of ecohubris as a driving force of anti-ecological action in the plays. Mostly a thematic study of the plays in question, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, without direct consideration of more material aspects of ecodramaturgy.

Conkie, Rob. “Reverie of a Shakespearean Walker.” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Performance. Ed. James C. Bulman. OUP, 2017. 231-249.

Recounts the author’s experiences with mobile and/or site-specific Shakespeare stagings, and argues that walking adds an important, embodied engagement with the play material that is both affective and intellectual. Discusses the importance of the embodied theatre experience, and especially the role of embodied pleasure, for audience’s responses to the production.

Martin, Randall. “Epilogue: Shakespeare and Ecology in performance.” Shakespeare and Ecology. OUP, 2015. 166-172.

Expanding from the monograph’s dual historical and presentist focus on Shakespeare and ecology, the epilogue positions performance as a site of potential for bringing ecological thinking to large-scale audiences. Concludes by analyzing the ecocritical suggestions of a post-apocalyptic 2006 RSC production of The Tempest.

Miller, Justin A. “The Labor of Greening Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Readings in Performance and Ecology. Eds. Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 191-200.

Recounts the author’s experience of converting to sustainable theatre production practices during a Michigan State University run of LLL. Explores the logistical considerations and challenges of sourcing sustainable materials, reducing energy and material waste, and defining what “green” means in practical terms. Also includes a list of additional resources on sustainable theatre practices.

Schultz, Ray and Jess Larson. “Staging Sustainable Shakespeare: ‘Greening’ the Bard While Advancing Institutional Mission.” Performance on Behalf of the Environment, ed. Richard D. Besel and Jnan A. Blau. Lanham, NC: Lexington Books, 2013. 211-34.

Presents a detailed practical account of a “green” production of As You Like It, conceived as a sustainability initiative at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Through creative interdisciplinary costume design and scenography, the production reused and repurposed materials found on campus and contributed by the community to marry high production values and aesthetics with environmental responsibility. Total cost: $850.  


Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous.

Through accounts of his participatory anthropological research in various cultures around the globe, the author argues that magic—in traditional practices, and perhaps in cultural and artistic practice—can be understood as the recognition of “multiple intelligences,” or the agency of ecological forces beyond the human.

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter.

Counters anthropocentric epistemologies by positing the agency of non-living matter. The book’s political aim is to reframe an ethical engagement with the more-than-human world in which the vitality of all things living and not complicates the assumption of their otherness and disposability.

Clark, Timothy. Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. Bloomsbury, 2015. 

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Prismatic Ecology.

Using the eponymous prism conceit, each chapter of this book discusses an underacknowledged aspect of ecology beyond “green” (beyond biology). This includes examinations of the ecologies of death, decomposition, metals, cold, and radiation, but also of concepts such as queerness, nihilism, the sublime, and unnaturalness.

Haraway, Donna J. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene.

Drawing from philosophy, cultural analysis, and creative storytelling, the author interrogates the ethics of “staying with the trouble,” or kinship with a damaged planet. Reconfigures human relationships with the more-than-human world as an entangled, ethical practice of making-with (sym-poiesis) rather than self-making (auto-poiesis).

Lowenhaupt, Anna, et al. Arts of Living on A Damaged Planet.

Divided into two sections, respectively examining monstrosity (symbiosis and ecological entanglement) and haunting (ecological memory), this collection brings together an interdisciplinary range of responses to ecological crisis. Collectively, these essays call for what contributor Donna Haraway calls “art-science-activisms,” or multi-disciplinary ethical practices for engaging with and surviving climate change.

Morton, Timothy. Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Co-existence. Columbia UP, 2016.

Traces the “strange loops” from the origins of anthropogenic climate change to current manifestations of ecological grief. Argues that acknowledging and healing the devastation of climate change equally requires making room for playfulness and more-than-human joy.

Shotwell, Alexis. Against Purity

Analysis of purity politics in environmental discourse and intersecting political areas such as systemic homophobia and colonial violence. Concludes by appealing to a combination of speculative fiction and activist futurity discourse as a means of imagining ethical ways forward.

Contexts for Cymbeline

Crapanzano, Patrick. “Making the Good Life: Cultivating Green Citizenship in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.” The Good Life and the Greater Good in a Global Context. ed. Laura Savu Walker. Lexington Books, 2015.

Griffiths, Huw. “The Geographies of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.” English Literary Renaissance 43.3 (2004). 339-58.

Examines the firmly located settings of the play through the contested status of Great Britain's nationalism and borders in Jacobean London, around the time Shakespeare wrote Cymbeline.

Heinz, Eric. “Imperialism and Nationalism in Early Modernity: The ‘Cosmopolitan’ and the ‘Provincial’ in Cymbeline.” Social & Legal Studies 18.3 (2009). 373-96. 

Kahn, Coppélia. “Paying Tribute to Rome.” Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women: Feminist Readings of Shakespeare. Routledge, 1997. 160-70.  

Discusses the nationalist struggles in Cymbeline, between British independence and submission to Rome, as they relate to the contested masculinities in the play. 

Martin, Randall. “Women and Poison.” Women, Murder, and Equity in Early Modern England. Routledge, 2008 123-54. 

Discusses the phenomenon of Early Modern murders committed by women using poison, with attention to ithe methods and circumstances of these poisonings. Examines the cultural implications of witchcraft, as well as the subversion of women's domestic roles, especially in relation to food and caretaking, in their use of poison. Useful historical context for contextualize Cymbeline's Queen and her malicious interest in poison.

--. “Biospheric Ecologies in Cymbeline. Shakespeare and Ecology. Oxford, 2015. 112-33.

Mikalachki, Jodi. “The Masculine Romance of Roman Britain: Cymbeline and Early Modern English Nationalism.” Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (1995). 301-22. 

Analysis of Cymbeline as emblematic of the anxieties around gender and nationalism in Roman Britain: mainly, the expulsion of rebellious women from positions of power, and the installation of a strict, Roman model of masculinity as the head of the nation.

Thorne, William Barry. “Cymbeline: ‘Lopp’d Branches’ and the Concept of Regeneration.” Shakespeare Quarterly 20.2 (Spring 1969). 143-59. 

Overview of the play with attention to genre, its relation to folk narratives, and the theme of regeneration on the natural, national, and familial scales.

Warren, Roger. Shakespeare in Performance: Cymbeline. Manchester, 1989.