Jonathan Bate

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Andrew Jonathan Bate

Born 26 June 1958 (age 60)
Kent, England
Nationality British
Occupation Academic, historian, literary critic, biographer, broadcaster
Spouse(s) Paula Byrne
Academic background
Education Sevenoaks School
Alma mater St Catharine's College, Cambridge
Harvard University
Academic work
Institutions Trinity Hall, Cambridge
University of Warwick
Worcester College, Oxford
Main interests Shakespeare, Early Modern Britain, Romanticism

Sir [Andrew] Jonathan Bate, CBE, FBA, FRSL (born 26 June 1958), is a British academic, biographer, critic, broadcaster, novelist and scholar. He specialises in Shakespeare, Romanticism and Ecocriticism. He is Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities in a joint appointment of the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Sustainability and the Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College in the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. From 2017-2019 he was Gresham Professor of Rhetoric in the City of London. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford.[1] He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education.

Early life

He was educated at Sevenoaks School and then St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he was the first T. R. Henn Scholar and a Charles Oldham Shakespeare Scholar. He took a double first in English and then returned to the college to complete his PhD on "Shakespeare and the English Romantic Imagination" and then become a Research Fellow, after a year at Harvard University, where he held a Harkness Fellowship.

Academic and theatrical career

He was a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge and then, from 1991 to 2003, King Alfred Professor of English Literature at Liverpool University, a chair held by a succession of distinguished Shakespearean scholars from A. C. Bradley to Kenneth Muir (scholar), before becoming Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at University of Warwick, where he was subsequently Honorary Fellow of Creativity in Warwick Business School.[2] In 2011, he succeeded Richard Smethurst as Provost of Worcester College, Oxford.[3]

He is a Governor and for 9 years was a Board member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. From 2007 to 2011 sat on the Council of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In 2010 he was commissioned by Faber and Faber to write a literary life of Ted Hughes. This was cancelled when the Estate of Ted Hughes withdrew co-operation.[4] The book was subsequently recommissioned by HarperCollins as an "unauthorised" biography.[5]

He sits on the European Advisory Board of the Princeton University Press.[6]

In 2010, The Man from Stratford, his one-man play for Simon Callow, a commission of the Ambassador Theatre Group, toured the UK prior to an opening on the Edinburgh Fringe. It also played in Trieste. In June 2011 and March 2012 it was revived at the Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, under the title Being Shakespeare. In April 2012, Callow took the show to New York City (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and Chicago. In 2014, it was revived in the West End at the Harold Pinter Theatre.


His publications include Shakespeare and the English Romantic Imagination (1986), Shakespearean Constitutions (1989), Shakespeare and Ovid (1993), the Arden edition of Titus Andronicus (1995, revised and updated with extended introduction, 2018), The Genius of Shakespeare (1997), two influential works of ecocriticism, Romantic Ecology (1991) and The Song of the Earth (2000), and a novel based indirectly on the life of William Hazlitt, The Cure for Love. His biography of John Clare (2003) won the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography), as well as being short listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize and the South Bank Show Award. In America it won the NAMI Book Award. The Genius of Shakespeare was praised by Sir Peter Hall, founder of the RSC, as "the best modern book on Shakespeare".[7] It was reissued with a new afterword in 2008 and again in 2016 as a Picador Classic, with a further afterword and a new introduction by Simon Callow. Bate also edited Clare's Selected Poetry (Faber and Faber, 2004), and, with Eric Rasmussen, Shakespeare's Complete Works for the Royal Shakespeare Company, published in April 2007 as part of the Random House Modern Library. This was the first edition since that of Nicholas Rowe in 1709 to use the First Folio as primary copy text for all the plays. It won the Falstaff Award for best Shakespearean book of the year. Each play is also published in an individual volume, with additional materials, including interviews with leading stage directors. A companion volume of the "apocryphal" plays was published in 2013 under the title Collaborative Plays by Shakespeare and Others. It is the first Shakespeare collection to include The Spanish Tragedy, laying out the argument for Shakespeare's authorship of the additional scenes. It also won the Falstaff Award.

Bate's intellectual and contextual biography Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare (London, 2008, and in the United States as Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare, Random House, 2009) was runner-up for the PEN American Center's PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for the best biography of the year. In 2010 he published English Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press) and in 2011, as editor, The Public Value of the Humanities (Bloomsbury Academic), a work sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. His monograph How the Classics Made Shakespeare (2019), developed from the inaugural E. H. Gombrich Lectures at the Warburg Institute, was published by Princeton University Press in 2019 and a new biography of William Wordsworth has been announced as forthcoming for the poet's 250th anniversary in April 2020.

Bate is also a frequent writer and presenter of documentary features for BBC Radio 4. His subjects have included The Elizabethan Discovery of England, Faking the Classics and The Poetry of History, in which poems about great events are compared to historical accounts. He wrote the script for Simon Callow's one-man show Shakespeare: the Man from Stratford (later renamed Being Shakespeare) for the 2010 Edinburgh Festival.[8]

In 2012 he served as consultant curator for the British Museum round reading room exhibition for the Cultural Olympiad, Shakespeare: Staging the World, co-writing the catalogue with curator Dora Thornton.[9]

His 2015 biography, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life, published globally by HarperCollins, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and was named by the Biographers' International Organization as the outstanding biography of the year in the category of Arts and Literature.

He is widely regarded as having made a significant contribution to the study of Shakespearean sources and reception, to ecocriticism, to the revived reputations of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and of the poet John Clare, as well as to the sustaining of public discourse about the humanities in general and literature in particular. The British Council provides an overview of his career at, and he has surveyed the trajectory of his critical career in an interview with the online scholarly journal Expositions:

Personal life

He is married to the author and biographer Paula Byrne. They have three children.[10]


In the 2006 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) "for services to higher education". He was knighted in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to literary scholarship and higher education.[11][12]

He was elected Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 1999 and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) in 2004.[3] He is an Honorary Fellow of his undergraduate college, St Catharine's College, Cambridge.



  • Shakespeare and the English Romantic Imagination. Oxford University Press. 1986.
  • Shakespearean Constitutions: Politics, Theatre, Criticism 1730–1830. Oxford University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-19-811749-3.
  • Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. Routledge. 1991.
  • Shakespeare and Ovid. Oxford University Press. 1993.
  • Co-editor, Shakespeare: An Illustrated Stage History. Oxford University Press. 1996.
  • The Genius of Shakespeare. Picador/Oxford University Press. 1997. [13]
  • The Cure for Love. Picador. 1998.
  • The Song of the Earth. Picador/Harvard University Press. 2000.
  • John Clare: A Biography. Picador/Farrar Straus and Giroux. 2003.
  • Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare. Viking. 2008. ISBN 0-670-91482-7.
  • English Literature: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2010. ISBN 0-19-956926-6.
  • Editor, The Public Value of the Humanities. Bloomsbury. 2011.
  • Bate, Jonathan; Thornton, Dora (2012). Shakespeare: Staging the World. British Museum London/Oxford University Press New York. ISBN 978-0-7141-2824-5.
  • Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life. William Collins London/HarperCollins New York/Fourth Estate Sydney. 2015. [14]
  • How the Classics made Shakespeare. Princeton University Press. 2019. ISBN 0-19-956926-6.


  • Charles Lamb: Elia and The Last Essays of Elia. Oxford University Press. 1987.
  • The Arden Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus. Routledge. 1995. (Revised version, 2018)
  • John Clare: Selected Poems. Faber and Faber. 2004.
  • The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works. Macmillan/Random House Modern Library. 2007.
  • The RSC Shakespeare: Individual Works, 34 vols. Macmillan/Random House Modern Library. 2008.
  • The RSC Shakespeare: Collaborative Plays by Shakespeare and Others. Macmillan. 2013.


  • Bate, Jonathan (4 October 2008). "Of cabbages and kings". The Spectator. 308 (9397): 41. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2008. Review of Robert Pogue Harrison (2008). Gardens : an essay on the human condition. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31789-2.


  1. ^ Bate, Jonathan (11 March 2019). "Message from The Provost". Worcester College, Oxford. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  2. ^ [1] Archived 18 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "Bate, Professor Sir Jonathan". Faculty Members. Faculty of English, University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 15 January 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  4. ^ Jonathan Bate, "How the actions of the Ted Hughes estate will change my biography", The Guardian, 2 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life, by Jonathan Bate", HarperCollins publishers.
  6. ^ "Princeton University Press, European Advisory Board". 7 July 2011. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  7. ^ "RSC Shakespeare Complete Works Collector's Edition | Palgrave Macmillan". 22 June 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  8. ^ Dickson, Andrew (29 February 2012). "Bard labour: Patrick Stewart and Simon Callow tackle Shakespeare the man". The Guardian. London. p. G2–16. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Shakespeare: staging the world" (Press release). British Museum. April 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Biography". University of Oxford. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  11. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N2.
  12. ^ "2015 New Year Honours List" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 January 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  13. ^ Berek, P. (2000). "Review of 'The Genius of Shakespeare' by Jonathan Bate". Shakespeare Quarterly. 51 (1): 112–114. JSTOR 2902334.
  14. ^ Maxwell, Glyn (21 December 2015). "Review of Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life by Jonathan Bate". The New York Times.

External links

  • Official website
  • Jonathan Bate's blog
  • Jonathan Bate's page at
  • Jonathan Bate's page at the University of Warwick
Academic offices
Preceded by
Richard Smethurst
Provost of Worcester College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Kate Tunstall (interim)
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