Transcript of Celebrating Shakespeare Speakers: Marie-Louise Ayres (M), Mr Sem Fabrizi

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S: Thank you, Marie-Louise, and thank all of you for being here at the National Library, for it invited me. So I should start saying ... or quoting from Romeo and Juliet, saying ‘your patient ears attend’. You might find even strange that myself, representing the European Union, and Italian by origin, stand before you to declaim about the merits of the great English playwright, Shakespeare, but I ask you though I may be fortune’s fool, who better to withstand the gaze of controversy of Shakespeare than a representative of the European Union? Certainly the European Union and Australia have one common thing at least, we are both used to controversy. Certainly Mark Twain is reputed to have said that so far as anyone actually knows or can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon never wrote a play in his life. And I look at Professor Donaldson here ... as we know his work has been variously located to Devare, Bacon, Marlow, Stanley, Manners and many others but most noble sirs, ‘that which I shall report will bear no credit, would not the proof so nigh.’ I can even add that in some part of Italy, even someone claiming that Shakespeare was an Italian one. According to Professor Martino Luvara, Shakespeare was not born in Stratford on Avon but in Messina in Sicily as ... it’s true ... as Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza which is a translation of Shakespeare. Fleeing Sicily from the whole inquisition, the family moved to London and changed the name to Shakespeare and the rest is history.
So Shakespeare might be or may be not English but the plays or whoever wrote them have been performed all over Europe and the first translation of them were produced in French and German. According to one source the complete translation began by August Wilhelm von Schlegel, and finished by Ludwig Tieck in 1833, became the master work of German languages establishing Shakespeare as the third German greatest author after Goethe and Schiller. So I think I can claim that Shakespeare was definitely a European, and European Union is proudly to remember all great playwright from all over member state, and I think we should also say that Miguel Cervantes, another great European, died on April the 22nd, 1616, one day before Shakespeare. Certainly many would say that the European Union and Don Quixote have also a lot in common.
So, ladies and gentlemen, this is not certainly a case for a lecture on European Union polices but I can certainly say that European Union is promoting ... to promote cultural diversity and cultural diplomacy part of our message and as Federica Mogherini, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, noted only last week, cultural diplomacy is an integral part of our common foreign policy and Europe is a culture superpower to shape the whole world. So I therefore thank the European Union Centre of the University of Adelaide, Jane in particular, and the National Library for joining forces to bring together two great events, the commemoration of the death of Shakespeare on 23rd April 1616 and the celebration of Europe Day, the official day which is May the 9th ... 9 of May 1950 when the then Foreign Minister of France, Robert Shuman, made the famous declaration inviting Europeans to pull together for this fantastic journey that European Union is.
So in conclusion we can say, or I can say, that Shakespeare’s work is as relevant today as it was 400 years ago, and in these troubled days for Europe will be even too natural to say to be or not to be European, this is the question. And as a committed European my reply will remain yes. Thank you.
J: Thank you, Ambassador, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. My task is simply to introduce the speakers slightly more formally, however, as you all have access to their CVs on our website, I will be very brief because we want to hear from them and not from me. So as I introduce the speakers I would ask them to join me here on the stage. Our keynote speaker is Emeritus Professor Ian Donaldson, he is simply—and it is no exaggeration—he is Australia’s greatest literary scholar and it is a great privilege to have him with us today. His international reputation is unparalleled having chaired the faculties of English at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, and held the Regius Chair of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh University—which is the world’s oldest chair in English language and literature—and of course here at the ANU he created the Humanities Research Centre in 1974, an initiative which has been replicated in many universities around the world since that time, and notably of course under his own leadership at the University of Cambridge in 2001.
Now, as Ian joins me on the stage I have to add that he is of course the world’s authority on a very close friend and fellow playwright of William Shakespeare, that is Ben Johnson, and it is reputedly a fun night out on the town with Ben that might have caused Will’s untimely death. So I think Ian Donaldson has a special responsibility for today’s event. Ian.

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