In the mid-nineteenth century, mountain men and pioneers traversed the wilds of Montana Territory in the northern Rockies, searching for gold, animal pelts and other economic opportunities. These men travelled light, but historical accounts note that many carried with them a copy of Shakespeare’s works. This talk explores the history of Shakespeare in Montana then and since. There were actual performances, popular entertainments brought to opera houses by itinerant actors. At the same time, legends circulated, telling of unlikely “Shakespearean” encounters on the frontier and highlighting the complexities attending the construction of Western identity. Present-day Shakespearean performances in Montana continue to reflect the significance of this relationship, making it difficult to see where performing Shakespeare ends and performing the West begins.
Gretchen E. Minton
is Professor of English at Montana State University in Bozeman. She has co-edited Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens
(Arden, 2008) and has edited John Bale’s Image of both Churches
(Springer, 2014), Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida
(Norton, 2015), and Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy
(2018). She has also published articles and book chapters on Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and on the English Reformation, Christian late antiquity, and modern drama. She is currently completing a manuscript about the history of Shakespeare in Montana, from the time of the mountain men up through Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. www.gretchenminton.com