Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric: A Witty and Informative Hour of Shakespeare

  • on 17 Jul 2014
  • Gailor Auditorium

The Sewanee Summer Shakespeare group announces its first production, Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric: A Witty and Informative Hour of Shakespeare. Performance(s) will take place during the third week of July (the final week of summer school and SSMF). Additional performances are currently scheduled at 9 p.m. Friday, July 18, at Stirling's and at 2 p.m. Saturday in Gailor Auditorium.

The Shakespeare group includes a number of Sewanee undergraduates and community members under the direction of Professors Jennifer Matthews and David Landon. The group will research and mount the production over a five-week period with support from Dean John Gatta. The hope is that this production will begin a Sewanee Summer Shakespeare tradition, which will include collaboration with the Sewanee Summer Music Festival and Sewanee’s growing dance program.

Shakespeare was arguably the wittiest person who ever lived. Wit is first of all a gift of nature, but it is also a product of art. Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric is both a celebration of Shakespeare’s natural wit and an examination of the art that allows his innate gift its fullest expression: the art of rhetoric. Above all, the performance is a celebration of Shakespeare’s language: his humor, his wisdom, his poetry, his compassion, and his affirmation of the variety, richness, and profundity of human experience.*


*’Wit’ comes from the Indo-European root word, ‘weid’, meaning ‘to see’—which suggests ‘wit’ is related to ‘perspicacity’. Other words derived from ‘weid’ include: wisdom, vision, clairvoyance, guidance, story, history, veda (knowledge in Sanskrit), and improvisation. All of these words are likely to occur in an extended discussion of Shakespeare’s work. Classical Rhetoric is a verbal art with a three thousand year history, in some ways analogous to the arts of music and dance. It reached its pinnacle of development during the European Renaissance when it was the basis for the teaching of the language arts. Shakespeare is its greatest practitioner.