Professor David Wiles

Research interests

My research began in the field of Shakespeare, where my first major book was Shakespeare’s Clown, a study of the Elizabethan clown. I followed up this book with a study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a wedding play, which laid some of the ground for my current interest in theatre and time. A monograph called Theatre & Time was recently published in the Palgrave ‘Theatre &’ series.

Greek theatre has been the other foundation stone of my research. My first major publication here was a monograph Masks of Menander, analysing the masking code that shaped the performance of Greek comedy in the fourth century BCE, a code that modelled the form of an ideal society. I pursued my interest in Greek masks in Mask and Performance in Greek Tragedy, a study of fifth century masking that drew both upon archaeology and upon 20th/21st century experimentation with the possibilities of the theatrical mask. I also broke new ground with Tragedy in Athens, a study of performance space and the way space made meaning in classical performance. This volume prepared the way both for a widely used student introduction to Greek theatre Greek Theatre Performance (also translated into modern Greek), and for my Short History of Western Performance Space (also translated into Polish), a study of seven basic configurations of the actor audience relationship.

More recently, I investigated the social function of theatre in relation to understandings of the classical concept of the citizen in Theatre and Citizenship: the History of a Practice - in essence asking whether theatre acts primarily upon self-aware individuals, or upon groups and feelings of group membership.

In collaboration with Christine Dymkowski, I edited the Cambridge Companion to Theatre History published in 2013. We attempted in this project to focus on the question of why the past should matter to the present, and assembled a powerful team of contributors for the project.

I have recently completed a study of performance in the 18th century theatre of Drottningholm, co-authored with Willmar Sauter of the University of Stockholm. This book is distributed in hardcopy by the University Presses of Exeter and Chicago, but can also be viewed online at

This work has prepared the ground for my current major project,  a study of classical acting, investigating how the works of antiquity provided actors for many centuries with a language through which they could articulate debates about the craft of acting. I want to challenge the idea that important debates about acting only began with Stanislavski.

Research collaborations

I have a long-standing collaboration with Willmar Sauter of the University of Stockholm, and we have recently co-authored a book entitled The Theatre of Drottningholm – performance then and now. Our ongoing collaboration is supported by thed Swedish Riksbank Jubileumfond in a five year project entitled Performing premodernity: exploring cultural heritage through the Drottningholm Court Theatre. I have a long-standing association with the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Theatre in Oxford, which most recently involves speaking at a conference on Performing Epic in September 2013. I am currently developing a collaboration with Prof Anna Sica of the University of Palermo, and we are working on the understanding of European traditions of declamation.