Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Television, Radio, Film and Theatre


Matthew Spangler


Oral History, Origin Stories, Paul Ricoeur, Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Popular Culture

Subject Areas



This thesis is an exploration and examination of the origin stories of various Shakespeare professionals currently working in either theatre or academia. It asks the basic question: Why have they dedicated their lives to these four-hundred-year-old plays? For this study I conducted twenty-four interviews, drawing from various ethnographic methodologies to do so. Working under the supposition that we, as human beings, mythologize our own lives in order to justify our actions, I analyzed the interviews, seeking themes through a framework drawn from Paul Ricoeur's Time and Narrative. Paying particular attention to his ideas about the threefold present, I examined the interviewee answers in terms of the "past present," "present present," and "future present," as explained by Ricoeur. This thesis demonstrates that there are, in fact, similarities between those who have committed their lives to Shakespeare. As the interview questions were analyzed, it became apparent that, though the details differ, there is a common experience that connects these professionals in the culture of Shakespearean performance and study. Finally this thesis explores how we, as humans, narrate our own lives and how we create our own "truths" to explain who we are and how we became that person.