What IS-A WSC?

By:  Sydney Vollmer, ARB Intern

rackham-title-1ISA, a much friendlier acronym than another “IS” we know, stands for the International Shakespeare Association. Why wouldn’t the world have an ISA? It’s one of those organizations I always assumed exists, but in that unspoken sort of way. As it turns out, I was incorrect, as this organization is very much established.

The idea was conceived during a World Shakespeare Congress (more on that in a bit) held in Vancouver in 1971. Since then, the organization has evolved with the mission of:

Offer[ing] an opportunity for individuals and institutions to join together to further the knowledge of Shakespeare throughout the world… The ISA’s central commitments are to advance the education of the public by furthering the study of Shakespeare’s life and work by such means as the Trustees determine, including by:

  • Organising, holding, and promoting participation in the World Shakespeare Congress and disseminating the learning from that event;
  • Offering advice and assisting in the establishment of national or regional Shakespeare associations. (WSC 2016).

wm-shakespeareCurrently at the head of the organization is Dame Judi Dench. Most will recognize her for her roles as an actress including: M in the James Bond series, Hecuba in the 1996 film production of Hamlet, Mistress Nell Quickly in the big screen adaptation of Henry V, and Titania in the 1968 film rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her most recent role of note was in the drama/biography, Philomena, in which she played the movie’s namesake who searches for her son she was forced to give up as a young woman. Still active in films, Dame Dench also has her hands full with ISA and its putting on of the International Shakespeare Conference and the World Shakespeare Congress.

Every two years, ISA puts on the International Shakespeare Congress. This event is highly exclusive as you must be a Shakespeare scholar to receive an Merry Wivesinvitation. Though the event should take place every two years, this year ISA is hosting the WSC in its stead. The next ISC will take place in 2018 at the University of Birmingham

The World Shakespeare Congress (WSC) first took place in 1976 in Washington during America’s celebration of the bicentennial. Since then the event has been put on every five years. This year, the events will take place between July 31 and August 6—half of the events will take place in Stratford, and half will take place in London. Only members of ISA are allowed to purchase entry to the weeklong event, which itself costs £375. Though it nearly costs a pound of flesh to partake in the festivities, all delegates will receive:

  • Free entry to the Shakespeare Birthplace houses during normal opening hours
  • Exclusive entry to New Place between 5:30pm and 7:00pm on Monday 1 August
  • Exclusive entry to Shakespeare’s Birthplace between 5:30pm and 7:00pm on Tuesday 2 August
  • Extended opening hours at the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive on Saturday 30 July, Monday 1 August and Tuesday 2 August

Early bird registrants (ended February 1st) received:*

  • A WSC 2016 welcome pack
  • A space on a coach for travel from Stratford-upon-Avon to London on Thursday 4 August 2016
  • Entry to Plenary Sessions in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London
  • Entry to Panel Sessions in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London (please note that some panels may require registration)
  • Participation in one seminar or workshop in either Stratford-upon-Avon or London (for which participants must register in advance). To see the latest list of confirmed seminars and workshops, please visit the WSC2016 news feed
  • The opportunity to audit seminars (other than that in which you are participating)
  • Attendance to both of the Welcome Receptions – in Stratford-upon-Avon this will be at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and in London at the British Library

*The website was unclear as to whether or not delegates registering after the Early Bird period would also receive these privileges, but it seems likely that they will.

richard-iiiThe panels and seminars they offer have a wide range of topics revolving around Shakespeare. From acting and writing to the understanding of historical context, there is something for every Shakespeare lover. At this year’s Congress, there will be at least six representatives from the United States leading seminars, which seems like a large percentage considering the number of countries partaking in the event.


To learn more about our own commemoration of Shakespeare, give us a call at 513.556.1959, email us at archives@ucmail.uc.edu, or follow us on the web at http://www.libraries.uc.edu/arb.html, especially on our Shakespeare Quadricentennial page: