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November 1, 2007

Shakespeare's Genealogies To Be Discussed On Nov. 7

William Shakespeare was fascinated with family dynamics, often using them to fuel his plots with familial jealousy, lust, murder, mistaken identity and long-lost siblings. Many of his works share characters that can be linked together by a common family history dating to pagan times. Vanessa James, professor of theater arts at Mount Holyoke College, unravels these lineages in a lecture at the Library of Congress.

James will discuss and sign her latest book, "Shakespeare’s Genealogies: Plots and Illustrated Family Trees for All 42 Works," at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 7, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Part of the Books and Beyond author series hosted by the Center for the Book, the event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The program is co-sponsored by the Library’s Publishing Office.

Published by Melcher Media, the book is a follow-up to James’ critically acclaimed "Genealogy of Greek Mythology," in which she reveals the lineage of more than 3,000 mythical gods and mortals from ancient Greek texts.

"Shakespeare’s Genealogies" uses the same two-sided, accordion-fold, fully illustrated format as the Greek mythology volume. The accordion-fold allows one to read the book traditionally, page-by-page, or to unfold the work to 17 feet and view the intricacies of the lineages in their entirety.

The book begins with a biography of Shakespeare, accompanied by his own family tree, and continues with charts organized according to category of play: Myths and Legends, Legends into History, Continental Plays, Roman History Plays and British History Plays. These categories diverge from the traditional grouping into tragedies, histories and comedies of the Bard’s works. The unique reorganization of these plays is a product of James’ own scholarship in order to better understand the bloodlines of Shakespeare’s characters.

Also the chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Mount Holyoke, James specializes in set and costume design for theater, art direction for film and Greek and Roman theater history. She is resident designer and producer for Mount Holyoke’s Rooke Theater and is a design consultant for the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts. For many years she has been an art director in New York and elsewhere for film, television and stage productions. For her film work, she was honored with an Emmy citation and has been nominated for two other Emmy Awards.

The Center for the Book was created by law in 1977 to use the Library’s resources to promote books and reading. For information about its program, publications and national reading promotion network, visit

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PR 07-221
ISSN 0731-3527

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