Mischief and Magic: The Fairy King Oberon and Otherworld Encounters

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group


Image: ‘Oberon and Puck’, Kenny Meadows (1846), from the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive.

Take heed the Queen come not within his sight,
For Oberon is passing fell and wroth

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, II.i.19-20)

The King of the Fairies features in late medieval and early modern literature as a figure of mischief and mayhem, most often going by the name of Oberon. He is a commanding figure throughout his textual history, and one that Helen Cooper describes as a ‘judge or arbiter, though his arbitration may show more of arbitrariness than of justice’.[1] Romances explore his magical influence, and the ways in which his otherworldly fairly kingdom interacts with, and is encountered by, the more mundane world. This month, we are reading a selection of poetry, prose and drama from the fourteenth century to the late sixteenth, in which the King of the Fairies can be…

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Next MEMORI seminar: Derek Dunne on ‘Shakespeare’s Licence’, Nov 16 at 5.15, room 2.47

Cardiff University’s Medieval and Early Modern Research Initiative is delighted to announce our next research seminar, which is to be given by one of our newest members and colleagues, Derek Dunne.

Derek’s paper – ‘Shakespeare’s Licence: Counterfeiting Authority in Early Modern England’ – will take place on Thursday, November 16 at 5.15 in room 2.47 of the John Percival Building. As ever, a wine and soft drink reception will follow the paper.

ABSTRACT: Shakespeare’s Licence: Counterfeiting Authority in Early Modern Literature

This talk will argue for the impact that licencing has had on the composition of early modern literature. Early modern playing companies required separate licences for performing a play, going on tour, printing a playtext, and for the theatre itself. Without the Master of the Revels’ signature, no performance of early modern drama could take place. Yet early modern licences are also open to forgery and counterfeiting, as detailed in the so-called cony-catching pamphlets; for example the ‘freshwater mariner’ is famed for ‘run[ning] about the country with a counterfeit licence, feigning either shipwreck or spoil by pirates’ (Greene, The Groundwork of Cony-Catching). Therefore the document designed to control an itinerant population actually becomes the means of criminality, due to the duplicitous potential of hand-written documents.
Early modern authors frequently exploit the metaphorical richness of the ‘licence’, such as when Sir Toby Belch calls on Sir Andrew Aguecheek to ‘taunt him with the licence of ink’ (Twelfth Night, 3.2.42).  Similarly, forged documents of authority are a staple in the plots of early modern drama, from Hamlet to Bartholomew Fair. I want to explore how authors worked through the layers of ambivalence created by a document with which they would have been intimately familiar. By focusing on the the material documents that lay behind characters’ fictional interactions, I intend to draw attention to the period’s dual understanding of the ‘counterfeit’.

Richard Cole, ‘When Gods Become Bureaucrats’: Oct 26, 5.15

Delighted to announce that our first research seminar paper this year will be delivered by Dr Richard Cole (UCL), who will be speaking on Old Norse myth in a comparative perspective.

Entitled ‘When God’s Become Bureaucrats’, Richard’s paper will take place at 5.15 on Thursday, October 26 in room 2.47 of the John Perceval Building. As ever, a wine reception will take place after this seminar.

We look forward to seeing everyone there.

Richard COle

Research Seminar Series 2017-2018


October 26 Richard Cole (UCL), ‘When Gods Become Bureaucrats’

November 2 Stephen Guy Bray (University British Columbia), ‘Queerness in Representation’ (co-hosted with CCCT)

November 16 Derek Dunne (Cardiff University), ‘Shakespeare’s Licence’

December 14 Vicky Flood (University of Birmingham), ‘Medieval Political Prophecy and the Limits of National Identity’


March 15 Amy Burge (Cardiff University), ‘From “cristene soudans” to desert queens: the post-medieval legacy of The King of Tar’s performative hybridity’

March 22 Liz Oakley-Brown (Lancaster University), Title: TBC

DATE: TBC Claire Jowitt (UEA)


All papers take place in room 2.47 on Thursdays at 5.15. A wine reception will follow each paper.

Transmission and Transformation: rewriting medieval literary genres

 A postgraduate conference hosted by Cardiff University’s Medieval and Early Modern Research Initiative


Friday, May 5, John Percival Building






SESSION ONE     2.00-3.15   Religious and Linguistic Transformations

David Mason, ‘Miracle and Mechanisation: Romance Magic on Crusade’

Xoana Costa Rivas, ‘The Gloss to the Lindisfarne Gospels and the demise of Old English Strong Verbs’

Sheri Smith, ‘Susanna, Griselda and Custance, preserved through divine grace: Invoking the literary in the fifteenth-century poem, “Alas, quid eligam ignoro”‘

SESSION TWO   3.30-4.45    Literary and Historical Transformations  

Caitlin Coxon, ‘Philomela: From Ovid to Chaucer’

Victoria Shirley, ‘Brutus, Scota, and Albina: conceptions of time in three medieval origin stories’

Charli Pruce, ‘Omission, Quotation, and Transformation: Writing and Rewriting the Becket Affair in the Chronicles of Roger of Hoveden’

SESSION THREE   5.00-6.15   Arthurian Transformations

Arthur Usher, ‘1660 and All That: Arthur in the Year of Restoration’

Olivia Mills, ‘Perceval and his kin – the making of a man: it’s a family affair’

Rebecca Newby, ‘Illusory and Abandoned Ends in Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian Romances’

Wine Reception in 2.47