Dobson, Michael 1960–

views updated

Dobson, Michael 1960–


Born September 28, 1960, in Bournemouth, England; son of Derek (a schoolteacher) and June (a schoolteacher) Dobson; married Nicola Jane Watson (a professor), September 5, 1987; children: two daughters (twins). Education: Oxford University, B.A. (with first-class honors), 1982, M.A., 1985, D.Phil., 1989. Religion: Anglican.


Office—School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, 30 Russell Sq., London, WC1B 5DP, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and educator. Freelance tutor, 1984-87; Christ Church, Oxford, England, lecturer in English, 1986-87; Indiana University—Bloomington, assistant professor of English, 1989-93; University of Illinois—Chicago, assistant professor of English, 1993-95; Roehampton University, London, England, professor or Renaissance drama, 1996-2005; Birkbeck College, University of London, England, professor of Shakespeare studies, 2005—; British-American Drama Academy, London, England, academic director of the Shakespeare Programme. Harvard University, visiting research fellow and tutor, 1987-89; Northwestern University, visiting assistant professor, 1991-92; Peking University, visiting professor, 1999. Regular guest on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio programs.


Modern Language Association, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, English-Speaking Union, Shakespeare Association of America, Malone Society, Society for Theatre Research, British Shakespeare Association.


Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize, Oxford University, 1981; Outstanding Academic Book for 1994 citation, Choice, 1994, for The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1789; award for outstanding reference work, American Library Association, 2001, and Bainton Prize for best reference book in sixteenth-century studies, 2001-02, both for The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare; Outstanding Academic Book for 2004 citation, Choice, 2004, for England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy; Leverhulme Trust fellowship, 2005-07; grants from British Acadmy, American Council of Learned Societies, UIC Humanities Institute, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies/Clark Library, American Philosophical Society; Society for Theatre Research; University of Surrey Roehampton.


The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1789, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1992.

(Editor) Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, Wit at Several Weapons, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1994.

(And researcher and actor) The Divorce Trial of Henry VIII (play), performed in Chicago, IL, 1995.

(Editor, with Stanley Wells, and contributor) The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001, revised edition, 2005.

(With Nicola J. Watson) England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor, with Stanley Wells) William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night ("New Penguin Shakespeare" series) Penguin (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor) Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today: The Actor's Perspective, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

The Complete Oxford Middleton, edited by Gary Taylor, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2007.

(And presenter) This Green Plot (radio program), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio 3, 2007.

Contributor to books, including The Appropriation of Shakespeare: Post-Renaissance Reconstructions of the Works and the Myth, Harvester-Wheatsheaf (Hemel Hempstead, England), 1991; The Official Commemorative Album for the Millenium edited by Keith Ryan, [London, England], 1999; Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre, edited by Stanley Wells and Margreta de Grazia, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2000; Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre, edited by Deborah C. Payne, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2000; Elizabeth: The Exhibition at the NationalMaritime Museum, edited by David Starkey and Susan Doran, National Maritime Museum (London, England), 2003; Oxford Encyclopaedia of Theatre and Performance, edited by Dennis Kennedy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003; Shifting the Scene: Shakespeare in European Culture, edited by Balz Engler and Ladina Bezzola Lambert, University of Delaware Press, 2004; Queen Elizabeth I, Past and Present, edited by Christa Jansohn, Lit Verlag, 2004; Shakespeare's Adaptability, edited by Tina Krontiris, Ergo (Athens, Greece), 2005; Shakespeare, Memory, and Performance, edited by Peter Holland, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2006; Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 99, Gale (Farmington Hills, MI), 2006; Redefining British Theatre History: Playwrights, Players, and Playhouses: Investigating Performance, 1600-1800, edited by Michael Cordner and Peter Holland, Palgrave, 2007; and Behind the Scenes: The Hidden Life of Georgian Theatre, 1737-1784, edited by Stephanie Pickford, [London, England], 2007.

General editor, with Gail Kern Paster, of the "Palgrave Shakespeare Studies" monograph series, Palgrave Macmillan. Member of editorial board, Great Shakespeareans, Continuum Books. Contributor of articles and reviews to scholarly journals and periodicals, including Shakespeare Survey, Around the Globe, Performance Research, Shakespeare Bulletin, Essays in Criticism, Feit & Fictie, Shakespeare Jarbuch, Renaissance Drama, London Review of Books, Shakespeare Quarterly, Times Literary Supplement, Theatre Notebook, Renaissance Quarterly, Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research, American Historical Review, Victorian Studies, Modern Philology, and the Literary Review. Member of editorial board, Shakespeare Survey, and Shakespeare Quarterly. Contributor to the CD-Rom Editions and Adaptations of Shakespeare on CD-Rom, Chadwyck-Healey (Cambridge, England), 1995.


An English literature professor, Michael Dobson has written a study of Shakespeare's influence on society after his death, and edited The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. The former work, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1789, which was expanded from his doctoral dissertation, studies the ascendancy of Shakespeare's reputation from the late seventeenth century, when he was still considered an "artless rustic," until a century later, by which time he was lauded as the ideal poet.

However, Halio asserted that this does not paint the complete picture of Shakespeare's posthumous influence on English culture. Specifically, he and other critics have noted Dobson's decision to ignore the bard's impact on literature itself. Dobson, wrote Halio, harbors a "thinly veiled bias against the preeminence that Shakespeare has long held in literature—a bias fashionable among a number of revisionist critics today." Brian Gibbons similarly noted, in his Review of English Studies article, that Dobson "does not deal with Shakespeare's influence on serious creative writing." Instead, the author focuses on culture only in "socio-political terms, attributing great significance to populist stereotypes" and, in terms of literature, only addresses direct adaptations of Shakespeare's work. Of these adapters of Shakespeare, wrote Gibbons, Dobson "provides a great deal of information, but they were far from being the only show in town."

While Dobson's The Making of the National Poet is ambitious in scale, his role as general editor of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare was even more so. This reference work, which he edited with Stanley Wells, competes with the respected Oxford Shakespeare, published in 1999. Many critics felt Dobson's book did an admirable job of addressing virtually all aspects of Shakespeare's works. More than three thousand articles in this companion discuss everything from plots and characters to Elizabethan theater, biographies of important Shakespearian critics, actors, and other figures related to the bard, publishing history, and scholarly analyses, all well-supported with maps, photos, and illustrations. While Times Literary Supplement contributor Keith Brown had some reservations about the "slightly laid-back feeling" of the book that left the impression "that just a little more effort could have loaded every rift with quite a bit more ore," he conceded that no one reference on Shakespeare could cover everything and that "this is still a book library committees ought to want." A Booklist contributor asserted, too, that The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare is "a necessity for academic and public libraries."

Dobson collaborated with Nicola J. Watson to write England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy. The book focuses on the memorable Queen Elizabeth I of England by emphasizing how the Queen has been remembered through various mediums, from drama, poetry, fiction, and film to historiography and even propaganda. "England's Elizabeth is an encyclopedic cultural history, extensively illustrated with thirty-one black and white images and thirteen color plates, which begins with Elizabeth's death in 1603 and proceeds more or less chronologically through the centuries up to the present," wrote Martha Tuck Rozett in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England. In the course of their book, the authors discuss such issues as how some sought to use Elizabeth's powerful image and memory for their own purposes and how others worked to suppress the reality of Elizabeth for a more favorable public image to foster unity among the people. "Combining their expertise in Renaissance drama and the novel respectively, Dobson and Watson challenge the assumptions and expose the anxieties underlying a vast collection of literary, artistic and commercial representations with imagination, precision and irreverent wit," wrote Susan W. Ahern in Renaissance Quarterly. Ahern went on to note: "This book will appeal to a general audience, as well as to feminists, cultural historians, and art, literary, and film critics."



American Historical Review, April, 2004, David Loades, review of England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy, p. 604.

Booklist, January 1, 2002, review of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, p. 771.

British Heritage, July, 2003, Bruce Heydt, review of England's Elizabeth, p. 58.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 2003, B.E. Brandt, review of England's Elizabeth, p. 147.

Contemporary Review, February, 2002, review of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, p. 125; March, 2003, review of England's Elizabeth, p. 190.

Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Neal Wyatt, review of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, p. 68.

Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, annual, 2006, Martha Tuck Rozett, review of England's Elizabeth, p. 217.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2003, review of England's Elizabeth, p. 223.

Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 2004, Susan W. Ahern, review of England's Elizabeth.

Review of English Studies, May, 1995, Brian Gibbons, review of The Making of the National Poet, p. 273.

Shakespeare Quarterly, winter, 1994, Hugh Grady, review of The Making of the National Poet, p. 475.

Sixteenth Century Journal, summer, 2004, Christopher Martin, review of England's Elizabeth.

Times Literary Supplement, September 21, 2001, Keith Brown, "To Such Perusal," pp. 5-6.


Birkbeck University of London Web site, (September 7, 2007), faculty profile of author.

About this article

Dobson, Michael 1960–

Updated About content Print Article