Salisbury's Sinnott guest lecturer at Shakespeare Festival

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dr. Bethany Sinnott has always found “Romeo and Juliet” to be one of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays.
People are not so fearful of the language in “Romeo and Juliet,” and it’s a story that speaks to audiences over a wide range of ages and backgrounds.
Sinnott, a retired Catawba College professor and a well-known authority on Shakespeare, will be guest speaker this Sunday in the N.C. Shakespeare Festival’s Classics in Context lecture series.
Each weekend the High Point-based festival, also known as NCShakes, brings in a guest lecturer to speak to audiences before the performance. Sinnott is the first of five lecturers scheduled in the series this month.
Her topic will be “Whose Fault Is It Anyway: Character and Causality in ‘Romeo and Juliet.'”
Sinnott will speak at 12:30 p.m. Sunday in the High Point Theatre Main Gallery. The performance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ follows at 2 p.m.
Sinnott has been a guest lecturer at the festival for many years, and she also writes for the playbill.
In her presentation, Sinnott says, she will be discussing how the different characters affect the tragic outcome of the star-crossed lovers. She also will look at the aspect of fate and Shakespeare’s various references to it, through descriptions such as “star-crossed” and “Fortune’s fool.”
And, of course, Sinnott will delve into the young couple themselves, whose demise by suicide often has been problematic for the theorists of tragedy. Even though their suicides have to be viewed as sins in a Christian world, Romeo and Juliet often tend to escape much blame, “because we suffered with their pain,” Sinnott says.
Interestingly, Sinnott found some of her recent college students less eager to support the couple and more apt to be critical of them.
They shunned the romantic interpretation of the story, which sees two well-meaning lovers who are caught in the web of feuding families and tragically affected by bad timing and the interference of fate.
Instead, the younger demographic sought more accountability from Romeo and Juliet themselves, Sinnott noted.
Sinnott taught Shakespeare classes at Catawba College over her entire career and worked with the theater department on all of its Shakespeare productions. She also directed several faculty-staged readings of Shakespeare plays.
Sinnott holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, a master’s from Northwestern University and her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in Renaissance British literature.
Her Shakespeare lecture covers about 45 minutes, and she leaves time for questions and comments.
“I do look forward to them,” Sinnott says of the lectures. “I never really tired of teaching – I loved that to the end.
“My great joy is bringing people to Shakespeare and Shakespeare to people.”
Sinnott found it extremely rewarding to hear students say they were terrified of Shakespeare until they experienced her course.
“I’m passionate about Shakespeare and making him more accessible,” Sinnott says. She adds that the lecture series indulges that passion while also helping out the festival.
It’s an unusual and wonderful thing that North Carolina has a Shakespeare Festival, Sinnott says, and it’s an easy drive to High Point for the highly professional productions each year.
“Romeo and Juliet,” part of NCShakes’ 35th MainStage season, is being presented Sept. 9-30 at the High Point Theatre, with tickets starting at $10.
Tickets can be purchased at For more information, call 336-841-2273.
Other lectures are being presented prior to the performances on Sept. 15, 22 and 30.