David Bevington

David Martin Bevington (born May 13, 1931) is an American literary scholar. He is Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and in English Language & Literature, Comparative Literature, and the College at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1967, as well as chair of Theatre and Performance Studies.[1] "One of the most learned and devoted of Shakespeareans,"[2] so called by Harold Bloom, he specializes in British drama of the Renaissance, and has edited and introduced the complete works of William Shakespeare in both the 29-volume, Bantam Classics paperback editions and the single-volume Longman edition. He also edits the Norton Anthology of Renaissance Drama, an important anthology of Medieval English Drama,[3] as well as a forthcoming edition of the complete works of Ben Jonson, due out ostensibly on Feb. 29, 2012, but conceivably as late as June of that year.[4] Bevington's editorial scholarship is so extensive that Richard Strier, an early modern colleague at the University of Chicago, was moved to comment: "Every time I turn around, he has edited a new Renaissance text. Bevington has endless energy for editorial projects."[5] In addition to his work as an editor, he has published studies of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and the Stuart Court Masque, among others, though it is for his work as an editor that he is primarily known.

Despite his formal retirement, Bevington continues to teach and publish. Most recently he authored Shakespeare and Biography, a study of the history of Shakespearean biography and of such biographers,[6] as well as Murder Most Foul: Hamlet Through the Ages.[7][8]



Early life and education

David Bevington was born to Merle Mowbray and Helen Bevington née Smith, and grew up in Manhattan, and from age eleven, North Carolina. After attending Phillips Exeter Academy from 1945-8, before it was co-educational, he graduated from Harvard University cum laude in 1952, before entering the navy that year, and becoming a lieutenant junior grade before his leaving in 1955.[citation needed] He saw much of the Mediterranean, though neither Israel nor Turkey.[citation needed] Upon his return to Harvard, he pursued an M.A. and Ph.D., receiving them respectively in 1957 and 1959.[citation needed] Surprisingly, he was well into the graduate process before settling on the Renaissance; he had intended to study the Victorian until a Shakespeare seminar convinced him otherwise.

Teaching and fellowships

During the doctoral process, he was a teaching fellow at Harvard, and his title changed to instructor when he was granted the final degree, a post he held until 1961, when he became Assistant Professor of English at the University of Virginia, then Associate Professor in 1964, and Professor in 1966. In 1967, he was a visiting Professor at the University of Chicago for a year, and joined the faculty as Professor in 1968. In 1985 he was appointed to the Phyllis Fay Horton distinguished service professorship in the humanities, a post he has held continuously since that time.

In 1963, he served as visiting professor at New York University's summer school; in 1967, he again filled that capacity at Harvard's summer school, served as such at the University of Hawaii in 1970, and a final time in 1974 at Northwestern University.

In 1979, Bevington was honored with the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.[9] The Quantrell Award, for which students of the college nominate their instructors, is considered among the highest accolades the University of Chicago confers, and the most treasured by the faculty.

Bevington served as senior consultant and seminar leader at the Folger Institute in Renaissance and 18th-century Studies from 1976–77 and 1987-88. He has had two Guggenheim fellowships, first in 1964-65, and again in 1981-82. He was a senior fellow at the Southeastern Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies during the summer of 1975. He was appointed the 2006-2007 Lund-Gill Chair in Rosary College of Arts and Sciences at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.

Bevington devotes Autumn and Winter quarters to a two-part History and Theory of Drama sequence.[10] Until recently, this was co-taught with actor/translator Nicholas Rudall. It is now co-taught with Drew Dir, dramaturge for the resident Court Theatre (Part 1), and Heidi Coleman, who is Director of University Theatre, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Theater and Performance Studies and a senior lecturer in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago (Part 2).[11] The first quarter spans drama from Greek tragedy and comedy, to Shakespeare (or rather, to the Renaissance). The second quarter begins with Ibsen's A Doll's House and ends with the postmodern, including Beckett's Endgame and the work of Pinter and Caryl Churchill. For midterms and finals, students either write a paper critically analyzing a single play, or else perform scenes from plays relevant to the course, though not necessarily those read in class. Bevington requires, from those opting to perform, a reflection paper analyzing the challenges of staging the scene.

Bevington has also taught Shakespeare: Histories and Comedies, surveying such plays as Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure, though Bradin Cormack, a younger early modern colleague at the University of Chicago, has taught the course recently.[12] He also previously taught "Shakespeare: Tragedies and Romances," but that course is now taught by his colleague, Richard Strier. He usually spends Spring Quarter with B.A. theses he is advising, and the corresponding students, or else travelling. However, he has been known to sign up for introductory-level courses in subjects vastly different from his own (such as Greek, or the Natural Sciences).

When possible, Bevington opts to teach class in the large Edward M. Sills Seminar Room, which features a large, oval table accommodating several dozen, rather than in a more traditional classroom in which all the students might face a lectern.[13] He feels this format fosters greater participation and discussion among students, and goes out of his way to encourage the sharing of ideas and opinions. However, because so many students elect to take his popular classes, the room at times becomes overfull.

He has taught a number of other courses:

  • Shakespeare at the Opera (with Philip Gossett)
  • Skepticism and Sexuality in Shakespeare
  • The Young Shakespeare and the Drama that he Knew
  • Shakespeare in the Mediterranean
  • British Theatre (in 2003, during the London study-abroad program the English Department offers every Autumn)
  • Renaissance Drama (which pairs five Shakespeare plays with five other plays)

Memberships and honors

Bevington was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985,[14] and a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1986. [15]

He belongs to a number of academic organizations:

Personal life

David and Margaret Bronson Bevington née Brown ("Peggy") were married on June 4, 1953. Peggy taught primary schoolchildren at the Laboratory School adjacent to the main quadrangles for many years. They live several blocks from the University of Chicago's main campus, and throw a light soirée for his students once per quarter. Many students fondly recall discussing such things as the feminist implications of Measure for Measure over melba toast and coffee. They have four children: Stephen Raymond, Philip Landon, Katharine Helen, and Sarah Amelia. Bevington self-identifies as both a Democrat and "lapsed Episcopalian." [17] Bevington's adamant support for exercise is demonstrated in his use of the bicycle as a means of transportation, and when that is made impossible by snow or rain, in his insistence on walking—not driving—the requisite distance to campus, despite his being among the most senior members of the faculty. He notably also takes public transportation whenever he travels from his Hyde Park home to downtown Chicago. Bevington is left-handed and a concert violist, who continues to perform in various ensembles, including a quartet involving faculty and students from the university. He enjoys chamber music and opera, and owns a restored pre-World War I Steinway grand piano.

Selected bibliography

Although the following does not boast of being complete, it includes the vast majority of Bevington's publications sorted into three lists: books he has authored, plays/anthologies thereof he has edited, and anthologies of scholarly essays he has edited (with or without a co-editor).



As Editor of Drama

Bevington's extensive bibliography as an editor comprises mainly the Shakespeare canon and will, in the coming year, come to include a complete Jonson. The bulk of his work has been with David Scott Kastan in the 29-volume Bantam series, which was originally published in 1988 and was reissued in 2005, and his own complete Shakespeare, which is continually reissued. However, Bevington has worked on a handful of plays for other publishers, though nearly all are within the scope of the English Renaissance. Bevington has notably maintained a single, conflated text in all of his editions of King Lear, a revisionist choice criticized by some scholars (including the abovementioned Richard Strier, who insists his own students read the Quarto and Folio texts separately).

Bantam Classics

The Bantam Classics series, self-touted as "The most student-friendly Shakespeare on the market," is different from, for instance, Bevington's Oxford and Arden editions of Henry IV and Troilus and Cressida (respectively) in not so much scholarship, but intended audience. A high-school student finds Bantam straightforward, on the whole, because its glossary explains all words that might be obscure or different in meaning from their present use. The latter two, however, assume an audience already somewhat versed in the idiomatic dialect of Elizabethan England.

In addition to the many individual volumes listed below, there have been collected anthologies of Shakespeare plays. A few of these Bantam anthologies contain plays that are unavailable from Bantam in their solo form. The anthologies are as follows:

  • Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth
  • Four Comedies: The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night
  • The Late Romances: Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest
  • Three Early Comedies: Love's Labour's Lost, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Three Classical Tragedies: Titus Andronicus, Timon of Athens, Coriolanus
  • Measure for Measure, All's Well that Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida (Note: Although not indicated as such in the title, the three plays contained herein are considered Shakespeare's 'problem plays,' and frequently grouped together as such.)

Furthermore, Bantam has published Bevington's edition of Shakespeare's sonnets and other poetry.






The Longman complete Shakespeare is unique because, unlike the Oxford, Riverside, Norton, or Arden (and the less impressive Pelican), it is edited by a single scholar. It furthermore contains certain obscure plays, such as The Two Noble Kinsmen, that the Bantam series simply couldn't market. Its poetry selection is moreover wider than that of the Bantam series, containing the substantial work outside the sonnets.

Revels Plays and Student Editions

Although two separate entities, both series are published by Manchester University Press. David Bevington is a general editor of the Revels Plays.

The Sourcebooks Shakespeare

The Sourcebooks Shakespeare is a series that includes an audio CD to enrich the otherwise purely textual experience. The CD contains more than 60 minutes of audio narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi and includes version of key speeches from historical and contemporary productions. They are published by Sourcebooks, and Bevington serves as advisory editor for the series.


Comedies and Romances:



David Bevington's work as editor of drama includes several individual plays and anthologies not tied to any larger series. The Oxford, Cambridge, and Arden editions are significantly more scholarly than the Signet and abovementioned Bantam plays; that is, the scholar assumes the reader to be somewhat versed in Elizabethan English such that the glossaries focus more about mythological and cultural references than mere syntax. They are recommended for graduate students and undergraduates with something to prove.

Other scholarship

As editor

  • Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet, Prentice Hall Trade (1968)[18][19][20]
  • An Introduction to Shakespeare, Scott, Foresman (1975)[21]
  • Shakespeare: Pattern of Excelling Nature, Associated University Presses (1978)[22][23]
  • Henry IV, Parts I and II: Critical Essays, Garland (1986)[24]
  • The Politics of the Stuart Court Masque, with Peter Holbrook (Cambridge University Press, 1998)[25]

As contributor

  • 'Bring Furth the Pagants': Essays in Early English Drama (University of Toronto Press, 2007)[26][27]


  1. ^ http://taps.uchicago.edu/nuts_and_bolts/program.shtml
  2. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0226044793/
  3. ^ http://english.uchicago.edu/graduate/british/Faculty/bevington.htm
  4. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0521782465
  5. ^ http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/99/990517.ryerson.shtml
  6. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0199586470/
  7. ^ http://harvardmagazine.com/commencement/2010-centennial-medalists
  8. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0199599106
  9. ^ http://www.uchicago.edu/about/accolades/quantrell.shtml
  10. ^ http://english.uchicago.edu/courses/undergrad_autumn09.pdf
  11. ^ http://directory.uchicago.edu/details/41519692H
  12. ^ http://english.uchicago.edu/courses/undergrad_winter10.pdf
  13. ^ http://timeschedules.uchicago.edu/view.php?dept=ENGL&term=80
  14. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. http://www.amacad.org/publications/BookofMembers/ChapterB.pdf. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Public Profile: Dr. David M. Bevington". American Philosophy Society. http://www.amphilsoc.org/public-profile/523A8685-56F9-DD11-82D8-0013724C588C. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  16. ^ library.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/s6-I/4/410.pdf
  17. ^ Gale Reference Team. "Biography - Bevington, David M(artin) (1931-)." Contemporary Authors Online (Biography). Thomson Gale, 2005. Web. 11 Jan. 2010.
  18. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0133723755/
  19. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=vkVBAAAAIAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  20. ^ http://product.half.ebay.com/Twentieth-Century-Interpretations-of-Hamlet_W0QQtgZinfoQQprZ1584170
  21. ^ https://libcat.uchicago.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?session=E26C2K7556893.14572&profile=ucpublic&uri=full=3100001~!42051~!2&ri=7&aspect=subtab15&menu=search&source=~!horizon
  22. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Gdd2keIlJscC&printsec=frontcover&dq=david+bevington&lr=&ei=7iBlS_HpLpasNaCw2NIN&cd=23#v=onepage&q=&f=false
  23. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0874131294/
  24. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0824087062/
  25. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0521031206/
  26. ^ http://www.amazon.com/reader/0802091075?_encoding=UTF8&ref_=sib_dp_ptu#reader_0802091075
  27. ^ http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Bring-furth-the-pagants/David-M-Klausner/e/9780802091079/?itm=58#TOC

External links

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