Dr Rowan Williams, Sir Stanley Wells, Salley Vickers and Dr Paul Edmondson led a four-day study retreat on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Cumberland Lodge, from Tuesday 3 to Friday 6 January.

A distinguished group of scholars and Shakespeare enthusiasts stayed at the Lodge for the sell-out event, which was hosted as part of our educational and cultural events programme.

Composer Nick Bicât and conductor Andrew Parrott were also guest contributors, speaking about the role of music in Shakespearean productions, past and present, including the historic role of the castrati.

Participants explored the spiritual, psychological and literary aspects of the play through guided reflections, study sessions, film screenings, evening readings and a panel discussion, whilst enjoying the hospitality of a three-night stay at the Lodge.

'Appreciate the differences'

Edmund Newell, Principal of Cumberland Lodge, said: “It has been really interesting to spend time looking in depth at Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, from different angles and perspectives. It was a play that Shakespeare most likely intended as a celebration for the end of the Christmas season, so it has been fitting to welcome in the New Year with it.”

He added: “There is a contemporary resonance to the play and gender identity and sexuality are key themes. It’s a rather dark comedy and has given us cause to reflect on the things we laugh at -including, all too often, people’s misfortunes - and the role of comedy in helping us to address issues of identity and to understand and appreciate the differences between ourselves more clearly.

“The opportunity for guests to engage in informal conversation with people of such great knowledge and experience has been wonderful, and we look forward to hosting our fourth annual retreat on A Midsummer Night’s Dream next year.”

Previous retreats at the Lodge in 2015 and 2016 explored The Winter’s Tale and King Lear and next year's will focus on A Midsummer Night's Dream.