Hamlet and the Red Dragon

Project Details


In 1607, two ships called The Hector and The Red Dragon set sail on what was to become the first successful English voyage to India, aiming to infiltrate the trading networks surrounding it and to compete with the Dutch and Portuguese already active in that sphere. These were East India Company ships, so representatives of the company that would eventually, in effect, rule India. The ships got a little lost on the way, and ended up off the coast of Sierra Leone. There, according to evidence surviving in journals, they performed Hamlet on board the Red Dragon. The details of what actually happened are debated, but if this performance did take place then it is the first record we have of a performance of Hamlet -- anywhere in the world.

I will be working with the director Ben Prusiner and the playwright Rex Obano to devise a play that marks and thinks through the implications of this possible performance of Shakespeare's tragedy. Featuring collaborators based in or with expertise in India and Sierra Leone, as well as the UK, it will build on my research on shipboard literary cultures, on Hamlet, and on early modern global history.

The Brigstow Institute is providing funds to support initial scoping and research towards the project. We hope to stage the performance in the summer of 2022.
Effective start/end date1/04/2131/07/25


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