Holger Schott Syme

Associate Chair, Drama; Professor of English; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor
Deerfield Hall, Room 1045, 1535 Outer Circle Mississauga, ON L5L 3E2. Jackman Humanities Building, Room 905, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8
905-569-3737

Campus

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Early Modern English literature, especially drama
  • European theatre history
  • Modern and contemporary performance
  • German theatre and dramatic literature
  • History of the book

Biography

Holger Syme is a scholar and teacher of theatre history and dramatic literature, with particular expertise in early modern English theatre and modern and contemporary European performing arts. He has published widely on early modern theatre and drama, including his first book, Theatre and Testimony in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge 2011), a co-edited collection on the Queen’s Men (Ashgate 2009), the theatre-historical introduction in the most recent edition of the Norton Shakespeare (2015), and essays in Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Survey, The Review of English Studies, Theatre Survey, and many edited collections. For the Norton Shakespeare, he also edited Edward III and The Book of Sir Thomas More. His most recent publication is Theatre History, Attribution Studies, and the Question of Evidence (Cambridge 2023). For most of the past decade, his research has been focussed on modern productions of old plays, and he is working on a major book project about "Shakespeare in Berlin, 1920-2020,” based on extensive original archival work in Germany, the UK, and the United States.

He also occasionally works as a theatre director, and has translated and/or adapted a number of plays, including Ödön von Horváth’s Kasimir and Karoline, the premiere production of which (Crow’s Theatre/Howland Company) won two Dora Mavor Moore Awards in 2020.

Publications

Books

Theatre History, Attribution Studies, and the Question of Evidence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023).

Theatre and Testimony in Shakespeare’s England: A Culture of Mediation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012; paperback 2014).

Locating the Queen’s Men, 1583-1603: Material Practices and Conditions of Playing, ed. Helen Ostovich, Holger Schott Syme, and Andrew Griffin (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009).

Editions

Textual editor, Edward III, by William Shakespeare and Others, The Norton Shakespeare: Third Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2015).

Textual editor, The Book of Sir Thomas More, by Anthony Munday, Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, William Shakespeare and Others, The Norton Shakespeare: Third Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2015).

Articles

“The Jacobean King’s Men: A Reconsideration,” Review of English Studies 70 (2019): 231-51.

“Pastiche or Archetype? The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the Project of Theatrical Reconstruction,” Shakespeare Survey 71 (2018): 135-46.

“A Theatre without Actors,” Theatre Survey 59 (2018): 265-75.

“Three’s Company: Alternative Histories of London’s Theatres in the 1590s,” Shakespeare Survey 65 (2012): 269-89.

“(Mis)representing Justice on the Early Modern Stage,” Studies in Philology 109 (2012): 63-85.

“The Meaning of Success: Stories of 1594 and Its Aftermath,” Shakespeare Quarterly 61 (2010): 490-524.

“Unediting the Margin: Jonson, Marston, and the Theatrical Page,” English Literary Renaissance 38.1 (2008): 142-71.

“The Look of Speech,” Textual Cultures 2.2 (2007): 34-60.

“Becoming Speech: Voicing the Text in Early Modern English Courtrooms and Theatres,” Compar(a)ison: An International Journal of Comparative Literature, I/2003 (published 2007): 107-24.

Chapters in Books

“Book/Theatre,” Shakespeare/Text: Contemporary Readings in Textual Studies, Editing and Performance, ed. Claire M. L. Bourne (London: Arden Shakespeare/ Bloomsbury, 2021), 223-44.

“A Sharers’ Repertory,” Rethinking Theatrical Documents in Shakespeare’s England, ed. Tiffany Stern (London: Arden Shakespeare/Bloomsbury, 2019), 33-51.

“The Theatre of Shakespeare’s Time,” The Norton Shakespeare: Third Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2015), 93-118.

“Marlowe in his Moment,” Marlowe in Context, ed. Emily C. Bartels and Emma Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 275-84.

“Thomas Creede, William Barley, and the Venture of Printing Plays,” Shakespeare’s Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography, ed. Marta Straznicky (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 28-46.

“‘But, what euer you do, Buy’: Richard II as Popular Commodity,” Richard II: New Critical Essays, ed. Jeremy Lopez (London: Routledge, 2012), 223-44.

“Locating the Queen’s Men: An Introduction” (co-authored with Helen Ostovich and Andrew Griffin), Locating the Queen’s Men, 1583-1603: Material Practices and Conditions of Playing, ed. Helen Ostovich, Holger Schott Syme, and Andrew Griffin (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009; ISBN 0754666611), 1-23.

“Conjuration e Coniuratio: Testi e Congiure nel Julius Caesar di Shakespeare,” Cospirazioni, Trame: Quaderni di Synapsis II, ed. Simona Micali (Florence: Le Monnier, 2003), 173-86.

Other Contributions to Books

20 entries in The Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia, ed. Patricia Parker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming 2018) (c. 3,500 words).

“General Bibliography,” The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al., second edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 3381-3407.

Other Publications

Trauma and Tolerance,” program note for Nathan the Wise, Stratford Festival, May 2019

Review of Eoin Price, “Public” and “Private” Playhouses in Renaissance England (London, 2015), Early Theatre 20 (2017): 173-76.

Creative Appropriation,” Intermission Magazine (online), 13 April 2017; 3,010 words.

King Lear at the Stationers, Again,Los Angeles Review of Books, 18 December 2016; 11,879 words.

The Text is Foolish: Brian Vickers’s The One King Lear,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 6 September 2016; 9,838 words.

The Ivory Twitter,” The Walrus (online), 16 June 2016; 2,531 words.

Euer Theater ist viel besser, als Ihr denkt,” Nachtkritik.de, 2 October 2015; 1,334 words.

“Theaterbrief aus Toronto,” Junge Bühne 8 (2014), n.p.

Soulpepper: Requiem for a Dream,” The Charlebois Post – Canada, 11 November 2012.

Imaginary Targets,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 5 November 2012.

“How Shakespeare Could Write Shakespeare,” op-ed in the Montreal Gazette, 1 November 2011, p. A21.

“Why is Shakespeare still so Popular?” Interview for the University of Toronto “Behind the Headlines” series

Producer, Performing the Queen’s Men    
(Educational multimedia tool developed with the support of a U of T Instructional Technology Courseware Development Grant, funds from the “Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men” SSHRC Research Creation Grant, and a McMaster Teaching and Learning Project Grant). Launched January 2009.

Frequent blog-posts on disposito

Text Interviews

“Volksbühne, la fine di un grande teatro di provincia? Intervista a Holger Syme,” Altrevelocita.it, in Italian and English, 14 Sept 2017.

“Much Ado about William,” U of T Magazine, Summer 2016.

“In Conversation with Holger Syme – Adaptor & Director of The Howland Company’s upcoming workshop production of Casimir and Caroline.” inthegreenroom.ca, 18 Nov. 2015.

“Why is Shakespeare still so Popular?” University of Toronto Behind the Headlines Series, June 2009.

Broadcast Interviews

“Holger Schott Syme - Theatre and Stage in Shakespeare’s Time,” Speaking of Shakespeare 29 (11 Feb 2021)

Gegenprobe - Das Theatertrio,” Episode 1 (23 Nov 2021), Nachtkritik.plus and Literaturforum im Brecht-Haus Berlin

"The first English playhouse? Holger Syme on the new archaeological discovery of the Red Lion,” A Bit Lit 57 (6 July 2020)

Shakespeare: 400 Years.” The Agenda with Steven Paikin, TVO. 26 August 2016.

Is Shakespeare Unrelatable? Central Time, Wisconsin Public Radio (NPR). 14 Aug 2014.

Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous,Arts.21, Deutsche Welle (TV), 17 Sept 2011.

Work in Progress

Books 

Shakespeare in Berlin, 1920-2020
This monograph, based on extensive archival work, charts the development of Berlin’s theatre landscape over the past 100 years through the lens of nearly 400 Shakespeare productions, from the establishment of the city in its modern boundaries in October 1920 and Leopold Jessner’s Richard III to the closure of all theatres during the COVID-19 pandemic and Christian Weisse’s Hamlet, with a particular focus on how successive generations of German avant-garde theatre makers turned to works of classical drama to reinvent their medium. (In progress; planned completion by December 2025; c. 130,000 words.)

The Theatre of Shakespeare’s Time: A Revisionist History
A major new account of the business of playing in early modern England, including chapters on the competition between playing companies in London; the (hitherto unappreciated) diversity in the architecture of playing spaces; the relationship between public and court performance; the importance of ensembles and the (critically exaggerated) roles for stars; the limited importance of indoor playhouses until the 1620s; and the significance of critically neglected playwrights such as Chapman, Dekker, and Munday.

Doing the Classics
A major, multi-disciplinary, international, and comparative study of the place of theatrical “classics” in contemporary performance practices and repertories in Germany, the UK, the US and Canada; the project will involve a major research-creation element. (In progress, with multiple research trips to the UK, Germany, and Austria, and many blog posts developing the parameters of the project.)

Education

BA, University of Oxford
AM, Harvard University
PhD, Harvard University

Administrative Service

Associate Chair, Drama.
Chair, Department of English and Drama (UTM), 2011-16 and 2020-21.