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Name: Ella Hawkins

PhD: Shakespeare Studies

Thesis Title: The significance of Jacobethanism in 21st-century costume design for Shakespeare


Thesis Description:

My research focuses on costume design for Shakespeare. More specifically, I explore how and why Elizabethan and/or Jacobean (‘Jacobethan’) styles are used to communicate ideas to modern audiences.

The period of Shakespeare’s lifetime has long proven popular as an onstage setting for the playwright's works. Only one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays has any clear textual basis for this setting, however (The Taming of the Shrew). The widespread, longstanding interest in emphasising the plays’ early modern origins through performance gives a revealing insight into how Shakespeare and the period of his lifetime live on in our modern cultural imagination. Identifying and investigating several distinct approaches to representing the Jacobethan era in design (including the ‘authentic’ reproduction of surviving historical garments, direct visual references to specific Elizabethan icons [Elizabeth I and the ruff], and the use of early modern styles to separate fantastical spaces in the plays from their real-world counterparts), I consider the intentions and implications surrounding specific UK Shakespeare productions staged since 1997. I introduce new insight from personal interviews with relevant practitioners alongside close analysis of each production’s adapted Jacobethan costumes, and consider the appeal and impact of these garments in relation to ideas around nostalgia, cultural tourism, authenticity, fantasy, and tradition. 


Supervisors and Institution(s):  Studying at The Shakespeare Institute (part of the University of Birmingham), supervised by Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall and Prof. Michael Dobson




  • 'The Taming of the Shrew (review)', in Shakespeare Bulletin (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming 2020).
  • Introduction, 'Shakespeare, Performance, and Performativity', The Shakespeare Institute Review 4 (The Shakespeare Institute, Spring 2019), pp. 3-5.
  • 'Telling the Story of Hamilton in the 21st century: the Layering of Historical and Modern Aesthetics through Costume Design', in Dueling Grounds: Revolution and Revelation in the Musical Hamilton, eds Mary Jo Lodge and Paul Laird (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2019).
  • 'Appendix 1: A True Discourse, the principal English festival book of the 1625 wedding, including two addresses at Canterbury by John Finch', in The Wedding of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, 1625. Celebrations and Controversy, eds Marie-Claude Canova-Green and Sara Wolfson (Brepols Publishers, forthcoming 2019).
  • 'Resource Pack', Leeds Meets Shakespeare (University of York, September 2018).
  • 'The Tempest (directed by Gregory Doran for the Royal Shakespeare Company; designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis), the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom, 28 November 2016' (Review), in Studies in Costume & Performance 2.2 (Intellect, September 2017), pp. 171-174.
  • 'Making Shakespeare great again'The Birmingham Brief (21 September 2017).





Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Gave a public-facing talk titled 'Shakespeare: A Ruff History' at Shake it Up! A Shakespeare Festival for Shoreditch (Shoreditch Town Hall, 24 August).
  • Attended the 2019 British Shakespeare Association conference in Swansea, and participated in a seminar titled Shakespeare Performance and the UK with a paper titled 'The Significance of Staging the ‘National Poet’ in Elizabethan-Inspired Costumes'
  • Participated in a one-day symposium titled Thinking Costume Lab in Prague, organised to coincide with the 2019 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space
  • Presented a paper titled 'The Evolving Significance of Ruffs and their Place in 21st-century Costume Design for Shakespeare' at Culture Costume & Dress 2019, held at Birmingham City University
  • Continued a long-term placement with the Victoria & Albert Museum's Theatre and Performance Department. During this placement, I have assisted with the development of a major new exhibition due to open on the site of The Theatre (1576-98) in Shoreditch, London (see The StageThe Guardian, and MOLA for recent press coverage) as well as leading three sold-out tours around the museum based on my PhD research (titled Shakespeare and the Evolution of Elizabethan Costume) and advising on the design of a new statue of Shakespeare (due to be installed in Shoreditch in 2019). I have also assisted with the planning and running of a festival celebrating Shoreditch, Shakespeare, and The Theatre (titled Shake it up! A Shakespeare Festival for Shoreditch, 23-24 August 2019) as part of this project.


  • Presented a paper titled 'Riffing on Ruffs: The Adaptation of Elizabethan Aesthetics in 21st-Century Costume Design for Shakespeare' at Critical Costume 2018, held at the University of Surrey
  • Created a KS1 teaching resource pack as part of a project titled Leeds Meets Shakespeare
  • Presented a paper titled '"Authentic" underwear at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: practice as experiment, re-enactment, and research' at the Twentieth Annual British Graduate Shakespeare Conference at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Winner of the University of Birmingham's 2018 Three Minute Thesis competition (video above)
  • Attended the 2018 Shakespeare Association of America conference in Los Angeles, and participated in a seminar titled The Subject of Elizabeth(s) with a paper titled ‘Original practices’ design at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: a new perspective
  • Continued a long-term placement with the Victoria & Albert Museum's Theatre and Performance Department.



  • Began a long-term placement with the Victoria & Albert Museum's Theatre and Performance Department
  • Attended the 2017 Blackfriars Conference at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, and participated in a seminar titled Early Modern Staging Conditions: Audience Focus with a paper titled ‘Original Practices’ Shakespeare: Escaping to a Lost Reality?
  • Co-Chaired the New Researchers' Network's fourth annual symposium, 'Marking Time', and presented a paper titled 'Bridging the gap of time: Developments in Jacobethanism through the history of stage and costume design for Shakespeare'.
  • Presented a poster titled 'Developments in Jacobethanism through the history of stage and costume design for Shakespeare' at the University of Birmingham's 2017 Research Poster Conference. Winner in the College of Arts and Law category of the competition. 
  • Gave a public-facing talk titled 'Design for Shakespeare across the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections' at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as part of a series of events titled Research Conversations
  • Received a Cultural Engagement Award from Midlands3Cities for my work as Research Advocate for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (see below)
  • Presented a poster titled 'Developments in Jacobethanism through the history of stage and costume design for Shakespeare' at the 2017 Midlands3Cities Research Festival
  • Presented a paper titled 'Developments in Jacobethanism through the history of stage and costume design for Shakespeare' at the Nineteenth Annual British Graduate Shakespeare Conference at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Became Co-Chair of the Society for Theatre Research's New Researchers' Network
  • Completed a 13-week placement with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as 'Research Advocate', funded by Midlands3Cities. Began a second 13-week placement in the same position, also funded by Midlands3Cities.
  • Continued to conduct promptbook research for the Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Presented a paper titled 'A Global Dream: The Effect of Context and Space on Tim Supple's Production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (2006-08)' at 'Shakespeare in Performance' - a symposium organised by Sidelights on Shakespeare at the University of Warwick





Other Research Interests:

  • Stage design
  • Intercultural theatre
  • Early modern theatre practices
  • Archiving processes


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