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Professor René Weis
Photography by Chaitanya Patel
Education and Experience
René Weis was educated at the University of Edinburgh, the Università per stranieri di Perugia, and at UCL, where he has worked since 1980.
His main area of research is Shakespeare, which he teaches extensively both at undergraduate level and on the Shakespeare MA.
Among his other interests are the classical background of English literature and modern drama from Ibsen and Chekhov to Miller, Williams, Pinter, and Mamet.
Over the years he has supervised doctoral students on a diverse range of Shakespeare topics. Weis is keen to supervise further research on any aspect of Shakespeare, and particularly in the areas of editing, bibliography, biography, topography, local history, translations, and the relevance of the sectarian divides in Shakespeare’s England to his works.
René Weis has acted as external examiner at King’s College London (English), and served a four-year term as Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at UCL.
He has held a number of departmental posts over the years, and has served on senior UCL appointments committees.
René Weis is the University of London Trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
He is a Governor of Goodenough College and the President of its Advisory Council.
He was Chair of UCL’s prestigious college-wide Lunchtime Lecture Series and for eight years he also chaired the Maccabaeans Lecture at UCL, speakers including Dan Jacobson, Marina Warner, Miri Rubin, John Took, Sander Gilman, and Danny Karlin.
He served on the Fonds National de la Recherche in Luxembourg 2008-2013, adjudicating and monitoring research funding in the Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences.
In 2009 Weis was awarded a three-year Major Research Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust (2010-13) for a book on the genesis of Verdi’s opera La Traviata.
René Weis’s primary research area is the life and work of Shakespeare. His 1993 Longman edition of the Parallel Text King Lear was singled out by the Year’s Work in English Studies as the single most important contribution of the year to editing Shakespeare.
The new edition (2010) takes account of the latest textual research on the question of revision. In a new 18,000-word preface called ‘The Integral King Lear’, which engages the 1993 Introduction, Weis looks again at the multiple variants between 1608 Quarto and 1623 Folio Lear and argues that they tell a story of convergence rather than disjunction.
His edition of Romeo and Juliet for the Arden Shakespeare Third Series appeared in 2012. The play’s textual history dovetails palaeographically with that of King Lear with regard to foul papers, that is the role played in the genesis of edited texts by manuscripts derived from Shakespeare’s own longhand, in which Weis has an editor’s specialist’s interests.
His next project beyond Romeo and Juliet is a biographical and historical study of the stories feeding into Verdi’s opera La Traviata, building on Weis’s interest in opera and his expertise as a writer of biographies (Criminal Justice, Shakespeare Revealed) and historical narratives (The Yellow Cross).
René Weis’s research as a Shakespeare editor, biographer and historian, connects to three of the English Department’s core research areas: Editing (Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV Part 2, King Lear, John Webster), Life Stories (the biographies Shakespeare Unbound, Criminal Justice, and Traviata), and The City (1920s London in Criminal Justice and 1840s Paris in Traviata).
Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding a Hidden Life (Henry Holt & Co., 2007)
Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography (John Murray, 2007)
Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson (1988; revised edn. Penguin, 2001)
The Yellow Cross: The Story of the Last Cathars, 1290-1329 (Viking, 2000)
The Yellow Cross was published in paperback by Penguin (2001) and by Knopf in New York (Vintage paperback). It has been translated into seven languages, including French (Fayard, with a preface by Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie), German (Luebbe and Bastei), Dutch (Het Spectrum), Italian (Mondadori), Greek (Enalios), Portuguese (Aletheia), and Spanish (Debate).
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (Arden Shakespeare, 2012)
Shakespeare, King Lear: A Parallel Text Edition (revised edn. Longman, 2009)
Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2 (Clarendon Press, 1997)
John Webster, 'The Duchess of Malfi' and Other Plays (Oxford World’s Classics, 1996)
Shakespeare, King Lear: A Parallel Text Edition (Longman, 1993)
Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra Introduction to the play ed. Emrys Jones Stanley Wells (New Penguin Shakespeare, 2005)