Professor Michael Cordner




My main research and teaching interests lie in English drama c .1580-1720, theatre, film and television comedy, and the development of the theatre in the UK in the second half of the twentieth century.

All my current work relates to the interaction between scripts and performance and, therefore, seeks to explore performance traditions, historical circumstances, company identities, and reception circumstances, as well as the words committed to the page by individual dramatists.

In addition, I have a powerful interest - as an editor and general editor, as a sceptical critic of mainstream editorial practice in handling dramatic texts, and as a director - in the differing nature of playscripts from different periods, and what they do and do not prescribe about the performances which may be derived from them.

At the heart of all my recent research is a focus on the collaborative nature of the processes by which performances are generated from the work of writers. An indispensable practical accompaniment to this, for me, is regular directorial work on seventeenth-century texts with students. My most recent such production was of James Shirley's 1632 comedy Hyde Park .

Over the last ten years I have become convinced that university exploration of these subjects needs to be more adventurous and experimental in its combination of searching analytical and historical investigation with carefully planned practical experiments and ambitious and sustained dialogue with the world of contemporary theatrical practice. I also came to regret the fact that there was scarcely any significant cross-dialogue between the separate worlds of theatre, film and television studies.

These convictions led to my invention and introduction of the Writing and Performance (Drama/Film/Television) BA and MA degree programmes within the Department of English and Related Literature at York , which have sought to put these principles into practice. Their swift success and popularity with applicants -- gaining Writing and Performance first place, for instance, in the relevant category in The Guardian 's University League Tables in both 2005 and 2006 -- have led to the exciting opportunity to develop this approach yet further in the new Department of Theatre/Film/Television.



I have published five editions (of, in total, seventeen plays by eight dramatists) and am also founder and general editor of Oxford English Drama for Oxford University Press. The series has now published thirty-five collections of plays (from Elizabethan revenge tragedy to J. M. Barrie, D. H. Lawrence, and 'New Woman' plays from c .1900). The remit I set myself was to expand the repertoire of drama available (and at affordable prices), in radically re-edited texts, which would be freshly alert to performance issues and also much more pro-active and thorough than earlier editions in explaining everything likely to puzzle or mislead modern readers.

From that project has grown a series of articles - shaping towards a book - on what seems to me to be the failure of modern Shakespeare editing to make good on its promises to be genuinely performance-friendly. In addition, I am developing a book-length project on the theatre of the 1660s, which will centre on the extraordinary career of Nell Gwyn, as well as planning a sequence of interlinked papers on comic scriptwriting.


I have supervised MA and doctoral work on a wide range of early modern topics, including, most recently, Fletcherian tragicomedy, sexual punning in Jacobean comedy, the representation of prostitution in the early Jacobean theatre, the development of theatrical repertoires in the 1590s, and the history of the reopened playhouses in the 1660s. I have also supervised nineteenth- and twentieth century projects, including on Maeterlinck, Strindberg, and Beckett.


I would welcome PhD proposals on any aspect of English theatre c .1580-1720, on post-Second War British Theatre, and on comic scriptwriting and performance in theatre, film and television.


Selected publications


  • George Farquhar, The Beaux' Stratagem (Ernest Benn, 1976)
  • Sir George Etherege, Plays (Cambridge University Press, 1982)
  • Sir John Vanbrugh, Four Comedies (Penguin Books, 1989)
  • Four Restoration Marriage Plays (Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 'The School for Scandal' and Other Plays (Oxford University Press, 1998)

Recent Articles

  • 'Etherege's She Would If She Could : Comedy, Complaisance and Anti-Climax', in Michael Cordner, Peter Holland, and John Kerrigan (eds.), English Comedy (Cambridge University Press, 1994), 158-179
  • 'Annotation and Performance in Shakespeare', Essays in Criticism , 46 (1996), 289-301
  • 'Repeopling the Globe: The Opening Season at Shakespeare's Globe, London 1997', Shakespeare Survey , 51 (1998), 205-217
  • 'Zeal-of-the-Land Busy Restored', in Martin Butler (ed.), Re-Presenting Ben Jonson: Text, History, Performance (Macmillan, 1999), 174-192
  • 'Playwright versus Priest: Profanity and the Wit of Restoration Comedy', in Deborah Payne Fisk (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre ( Cambridge University Press, 2000), 209-225
  • 'Actors, Editors, and the Annotation of Shakespearian Playscripts', Shakespeare Survey , 55 (2002), 181-198
  • '"To Show Our Simple Skill": Scripts and Performances in Shakespearian Comedy', Shakespeare Survey , 56 (2003), 167-183
  • 'Are We Being Theatrical Yet?: Actors, Editors, and the Possibilities of Dialogue', in Barbara Hodgdon and W. B. Worthen (eds.), A Companion to Shakespeare in Performance (Blackwell, 2005), 399-414
  • '"Wrought with Things Forgotten": Memory and Performance in Editing Macbeth ', in Peter Holland (ed.), Shakespeare, Memory and Performance (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming late 2006)
  • 'Sleeping with the Enemy: Aphra Behn's The Roundheads and the Political Comedy of Adultery', in Michael Cordner and Peter Holland (eds.), Players, Playwrights, Playhouses: Investigating Performance, 1660-1800 (Palgrave, forthcoming 2007)

External activities

Invited talks and conferences

In March 2005 I co-organised, with Professor Peter Holland (University of Notre Dame , US ), a conference on 'Players, Playwrights, Playhouses: Investigating Performance, 1660-1800' at the Huntington Library, California . The proceedings of that conference, which I have also co-edited, will be published by Palgrave in 2007.

Professor Michael Cordner

Contact details

Prof. Michael Cordner
Department of Theatre, Film and Television
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 5228