September 9, 2015 Facebook Twitter Linkedin

It was an enthusiastic invitation from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology that brought King’s Modern Languages Chair, Dr. Paul Werstine, to China.

The tenured professor, whose literary specialty is Shakespeare, was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Beijing university for a two week period, from June 12 - 22, 2015, and lecture about the works of Shakespeare.

While visiting the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, Dr. Werstine focused on four of Shakespeare’s tragedies; Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear.

“I figured this is probably their only Shakespeare course, and so why don’t I give them what is regarded as kind of the absolute centre of the Shakespeare canon if they are going to have only one Shakespeare course,” said Dr. Werstine.

The class of second year English students could not have better received Werstine’s selected material for his guest lectures.

“The students were quite delightful. I mean there is no question about it. They were attentive, and there were always questions. I got probably a half dozen questions each morning and each afternoon. They were well-formed questions. They had thought about them, they stood up in class and they asked these questions and they knew what they were talking about when they asked them, and I was quite delighted.”

While teaching at the university, Dr. Werstine was treated to the English department’s annual drama festival, which for the first time included four of Shakespeare’s plays.

“They had The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet as the plays they were putting on,” recounts Werstine.

The four Shakespeare plays, performed by second year English students, were impressive, as they used minimal dialogue to act out Shakespeare’s famous works.

Professor Werstine was asked to participate as a judge in determining the most successful production of the Shakespeare component of the festival. “My job was to stand up and make comments about the productions after they were all over.”

“I really enjoyed the productions. They cut the plays down so that there was very little dialogue, but they kept the shape of the play. The Romeo and Juliet was especially impressive for the kind of sizzling connection between the Romeo and the Juliet that they were able to project on stage using very little of Shakespeare’s language. They actually won the award for the most successful production.”

The enthusiasm for an arts professor to visit China was surprising, but well received.

“It’s the first time, I think, that any Chinese University had indicated an interest in having someone from the Arts at King’s come over. We have well established relationships with many Chinese Universities, and universities in other countries, regarding business courses and programs, but this was the first time that anybody had indicated any interest in the Arts.”

During his time in Beijing, Dr. Werstine travelled around the city, taking in its rich history and culture.

“It really was like a vacation. I went there and taught, I taught four classes a day, but besides that, I didn’t have any other responsibilities and then on the weekends before and after I did my teaching, they took me touring around some of the big sites like the Forbidden city, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, and so it really was, it felt like a vacation, and they bought me theses wonderful meals, and put me in these splendid hotels, so they were just absolutely terrific. I can’t say enough about what great hosts they were. They were just terrific.”