Faculty Biography

Virginia Vaughan

Virginia Mason Vaughan, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita and Research Professor

Department of English
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

phone: 508-793-7144
email: vvaughan@clarku.edu

Curriculum Vitae



B.A. University of Michigan, 1968
M.A. University of Michigan, 1970
Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1972

Brief Biography

VIRGINIA MASON VAUGHAN, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of English and Senior Research Scholar. Virginia Mason Vaughan taught at Clark for thirty-eight years. She is the author of Othello: A Contextual History (1994) and Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1470-1800 (2005), both published by Cambridge University Press. Professor Vaughan also authored The Tempest for the University of Manchester Press’s Shakespeare in Performance series (2011). She edited Antony and Cleopatra for the Third Norton Shakespeare (2015) and wrote Antony and Cleopatra: Language and Writing for Arden Shakespeare (2016). With Alden T. Vaughan, she co-edited The Tempest for the Third Arden Series (1999; rev. ed. 2011) and co-authored Shakespeare in America for Oxford Shake-speare Topics (2012). Her latest book project, Shakespeare and the Gods, was published by Bloomsbury’s Arden Shakespeare in 2019.

Current Research and Teaching

For over three decades, much of my research has focused on the formation of racial attitudes during Shakespeare’s lifetime. I want to understand how English people came to think of themselves as “white” as opposed to the peoples of darker pigmentation they were encountering in Africa and the New World. My work on Shakespeare’s Tempest and Othello was aimed at understanding this complex cultural phenomenon, and my book, Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1700-1800, takes a direct look at the ways blackface performances on the early modern English stage both shaped and reflected the popular construction of black Africans.

I have always had an interest in Shakespeare on stage, but teaching with Gino DiIorio in “Shakespeare from Page to Stage” fostered a research interest in performance, both its history and the practices of contemporary theatre practitioners. My monograph on The Tempest for Manchester University Press, for example, surveys the ways Shakespeare’s last solo play has been staged from its first performances in 1611-13 through Julie Taymor’s 2010 film adaptation. The chapters place particular productions within the cultural dynamics that prevailed at the time, such as the impact of Darwin’s evolutionary theories on Caliban in the late nineteenth century and Freud’s psychoanalytic theories on Prospero in the early twentieth century.

I use a variety of tools in my research, including close reading of the texts that have come down to us, examination of the historical context in which those texts were written, feminist perspectives about the early modern construction of gender, and analysis of the ways plays were staged (performance-oriented criticism). During my 37 years of full-time teaching at Clark, I found that these tools work equally well in the classroom. Introductory courses emphasized understanding Shakespeare’s language; more advanced courses explored the historical, social, and political world Shakespeare inhabited. In all classes students were asked to imagine a variety of performance possibilities, and, in some courses, to perform scenes themselves. I found that the excitement of the classroom, particularly the collective process of questioning and trying to understand, is the same as that of the research library – in both venues I gained new insights into Shakespeare’s plays and what they have to tell us, not just about the past, but about the world we live in now.

Selected Publications

Shakespeare in America

2012: Shakespeare in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Tempest: Shakespeare in Performance 2011: 'The Tempest': Shakespeare in Performance. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

2011: The Tempest. The Third Arden Series. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.


Shakespeare in American Life 2007: Shakespeare in American Life. Oakland: Folger Shakespeare Library.
Performing Blackness on English Stages

2005: Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Critical Essays on Shakespeare's The Tempest

1998: Critical Essays on Shakespeare's The Tempest: Macmillan Library Reference.


1994: Othello: A Contextual History. Cambridge University Press.