UCL English


Professor René Weis

Email: r.weis@ucl.ac.uk


Professor Rene Weis photograph

Education and Experience

René Weis was educated at the University of Edinburgh, the Università per stranieri di Perugia, and at UCL. He worked at UCL from 1980 to 2019. He was promoted to Reader in English in 1996 and to Professor of English in 1998.

His main area of research is Shakespeare. 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.

René Weis 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 held a number of departmental posts over the years and served on senior UCL committees over many years. He was Chair of UCL’s College-wide Lunchtime Lecture Series and for eight years he chaired the Maccabaeans Lecture at UCL, speakers including Dan Jacobson, Marina Warner, Miri Rubin, John Took, Sander Gilman, and Danny Karlin. 

In 2014 he became an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Weis was the University of London Trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for twelve years. He is a Governor of Goodenough College in Bloomsbury and the President of its Advisory Council. 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.

He was a Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College NH in 1985 and in 1991.

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 Real Traviata: the Song of Marie Duplessis was published by Oxford University Press in 2015 (paperback 2019). It 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, connected to three of the English Department’s core research areas: Editing (Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV Part 2, King Lear, John Webster), Life Stories (Shakespeare Unbound, Criminal Justice, The Real Traviata), 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)
This updated and illustrated version of the 2001 Penguin Edition includes an expanded (and evolving) ‘Appendices and Bibliography’ section with extended quotations from relevant books about the case, including Filson Young’s acclaimed 1923 Introduction to the Notable British Trials volume on it. For more information see the Edith Jessie Thompson Website 

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 Revealed Book Cover
The Real Traviata Book Cover
De Laatste Katharen Book Cover
Les Derniers Cathares
The Yellow Cross Book Cover 1
The Yellow Cross Book Cover 2
The Yellow Cross Book Cover 3
Criminal Justice Book Cover
La Cruz Amarilla Book Cover
Shakespeare Unbound Book Cover


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)

Romeo and Juliet

King Lear Book Cover

Duchess of Malfi

Henry IV Part II