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Jade Standing


My research focuses on Shakespeare, the history of ideas, and early modern drama and culture. My first book, The Play of Conscience in Shakespeare’s England, historicises the sixteenth-century idea of conscience, which was shaped by competing and overlapping theological discourses and juristic discourses on the principles of equity and common law. The book demonstrates why conscience is such a central and yet epistemologically messy aspect of human intelligence and examines how the internally contradictory range of meanings for conscience emerge through and shape the drama of the early modern stage. I have an essay published in Shakespeare Quarterly on Hamlet and why the different concepts of conscience available in Shakespeare’s time were immobilizing.

My other field of focus is the theatre history of fencing and sword-fighting. I interpret and practice historical fencing and this interest led me to my second book project: Shakespeare’s Playhouse Fencers. This project is a study of the relationship of Elizabethan and Jacobean fencers to playing companies. It provides a cultural history of fencers in the British Isles and Europe and examines the historical entanglement of fencing and theatrical performance, and subsequent entanglement of their production of meaning. The project reconceptualizes playhouse fencers as creators and performers and examines how swords could be used by fencers to tell stories and express cultural knowledge. I track international fencing networks, the presence of trained fencers in playing companies, and analyse fencers’ creative contributions to: first performances of Shakespeare, the collaborative process of playmaking, internal company dynamics, the training of players, and audience experience.

Research Interests
  • Early Modern Studies
  • Shakespeare
  • Theatre and Performance
  • History of Ideas
Selected Publications

The Play of Conscience in Shakespeare’s England


Having a conscience distinguishes humans from the most advanced AI systems. Acting in good conscience, consulting one’s conscience, and being conscience-wracked are all aspects of human intelligence that involve reckoning (deriving general laws from particular inputs and vice versa), and judgement (contemplating the relationship of the reckoning system to the world). While AI developers have mastered reckoning, they are still working towards the creation of judgement. This book sheds light on the reckoning and judgement of conscience by demonstrating how these concepts are explored in Everyman, Doctor Faustus, The Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet. Academic, student, or general-interest readers discover the complexity and multiplicity of the early modern concept of conscience, which is informed by the scholastic intellectual tradition, juridical procedures of the court of Chancery, the practical advice of Protestant casuistry, and Reformation theology. The aims are to examine the rubrics for thinking through, regulating, and judging actions that define the various consciences of Shakespeare’s day, to use these rubrics to interpret questions of truth and action in early modern plays, and to offer insights into what it is about conscience that developers want to grasp to eliminate the difference between human and non-human intelligences, and achieve true AI.

“Conscience-Caught: Historicizing the Religious and Legal Traditions of Conscience in Hamlet.” Shakespeare Quarterly 73, no. 3 (Fall 2022): 177-198.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74446 extension 74446


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74447 extension 74447

Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.