Prof. Dr. Claude Fretz



Claude Fretz is Associate Professor of English literature at Sun Yat-sen University (China). He specialises in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature. He is the author of Dreams, Sleep, and Shakespeare’s Genres (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), and he has published various journal articles and book chapters on Shakespeare, on representations of dreams and sleep in early modern literature, and on Restoration drama. He is also co-editor of a forthcoming volume of essays entitled Performing Restoration Shakespeare. This volume arises from the research project 'Performing Restoration Shakespeare', funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council, on which he worked from 2017 to 2020. Claude is a Fellow of the DFG-funded research centre ‘European Dream-Cultures’ at Saarland University (Germany) and honorary Visiting Scholar at Queen’s University Belfast (UK). His PhD is from the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham (UK).

    • Shakespeare and early modern literature
    • Shakespeare and performance
    • Dreams and waking visions
    • Sleep and insomnia
    • Representations of the supernatural


    Claude Fretz’s monograph, Dreams, Sleep, and Shakespeare’s Genres (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), investigates how Shakespeare uses images of dreams and sleep to define his dramatic worlds. Surveying Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, histories, and late plays, it argues that Shakespeare systematically exploited early modern physiological, religious, and political understandings of dreams and sleep in order to reshape conventions of dramatic genre. The book discusses the significance of dreams and sleep in early modern culture, and explores the dramatic opportunities that this offered to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. It also offers new insights into how Shakespeare adapted earlier literary models of dreams and sleep – including those found in classical drama, in medieval dream visions, and in native English dramatic traditions.


    His article ›»Full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams«: Dreams and tragedy in Shakespeare’s Richard III‹ argues that dreams are an important and deliberate part of Shakespeare’s conception of tragedy in Richard III. Shakespeare, when composing this play, exploited the uncertainty in his time about whether dreams were natural or supernatural phenomena in order to deploy dream devices as a form of commentary on the material as well as spiritual implications of his characters’ actions. As a result, dreams ultimately sharpen the play’s focus on human agency by amplifying the characters’ ambitions, crimes and guilty consciences.


    His article ›»Either his notion weakens, or his discernings / Are lethargied«: Sleeplessness and Waking Dreams as Tragedy in Julius Caesar and King Lear‹ examines how Shakespeare’s dramatic representations of insomnia and waking dreams support his tragedies’ iconic emphasis on bodily and mental suffering. It considers Brutus’s insomnia and the nightly appearance of Caesar’s ghost in Julius Caesar, as well as King Lear’s sleeplessness and his ontological uncertainty about whether his misfortune may be a dream. Whereas Brutus’s vision of Caesar’s ghost is often interpreted as a supernatural visitation, the article argues that it can equally be read as a physiological hallucination caused by Brutus’s sleeplessness. The article also proposes that King Lear’s sleeplessness and the metaphorical description of his waking reality as a dream form part of Shakespeare’s design of Lear’s tragedy as one that is primarily concerned with the character’s experience of suffering.


    Claude Fretz is currently working on an article examining the conception of time and space within dream frames in the plays of Shakespeare and in other early modern writings, including Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. As part of that, he is investigating descriptions of the dream state in various early modern treatises, with particular regard to time, space, and sensory perception, and is considering how Shakespeare might have adapted this cultural or scientific understanding in his own representations of the dream state.




    Dreams, Sleep, and Shakespeare’s Genres. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


    Edited Volumes

    with Richard Schoch and Amanda Eubanks Winkler (Hrsg:): Performing Restoration Shakespeare. [in preparation]


    Journal Articles and Book Chapters
    • ”Not wond’ring at the present, nor the past”: Dreaming through Time and Space in Shakespeare, In: Zeit im Traum, ed. Christian Quintes and Laura Vordermayer (Leiden: Brill; Paderborn: Fink, 2021).
    • "marvellous and surprizing conduct”: The “Masque of Devils” and Dramatic Genre in Thomas Shadwell’s The Tempest’, Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700, 43:2 (2019), S. 3—28.
    • "Full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams": Dreams and Tragedy in Shakespeare’s Richard III‹. In: Cahiers Elisabéthains: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies, 92:1 (2017), S. 32-49.
    • "Either his notion weakens, or his discernings | Are lethargied": Sleeplessness and Waking Dreams as Tragedy in Julius Caesar and King Lear‹. In: Etudes Epistémè, 30 (2016). [letzter Zugriff: 15.09.1018].
    • ›Postcolonial Appropriations and their Quarrels: Shakespeare’s Tempest and Conrad’s Victory‹. In: Birmingham Journal of Literature and Language, 5 (2013), 28-36.




    June 2021

    »Four nights will quickly dream away the time«: The Spatial and Temporal Experience of Dreams in The Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, via the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili’ Society for Renaissance Studies Conference, University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK)


    Feb 2020:

    »Dreaming with the Senses in Shakespeare and Colonna« European Dream-Cultures Conference, Saarland University, Saarbrücken (Germany)


    April 2019

    »Performing Restoration Shakespeare«; Othello’s Island Conference, Centre of Visual Arts and Research, Nicosia (Cyprus)


    December 2018

    »Dreams in Shakespeare«; University of Trier, Germany


    November 2018

    »Dreams in Shakespeare«; Saarland University, Germany

    August 2018

    »Performing Davenant’s Restoration-era Macbeth«; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.


    August 2018

    Workshop on a Restoration Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.

    June 2018

    »›Strange enchantment‹: Sleep, Dreams, and Comedy in Endymion and A Midsummer Night’s Dream«; British Shakespeare Association Conference, Queen’s University Belfast

    January 2018

    »Performing Restoration Shakespeare: Achieving Impact and Public Engagement with Theatres« University of Huddersfield


    December 2017

    »Insomnia and Madness in King Lear and Macbeth«; Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practice, University of Oxford


    July 2017

    Workshop on Restoration Adaptations of Shakespeare’s Tempest; The Globe Theatre, London


    March 2016

    »Dreaming and Awakening into Tragedy in Shakespeare’s Othello«; Othello’s Island Conference, Centre of Visual Arts and Research, Nicosia (Cyprus)


    September 2014

    »›Either his notion weakens, or his discernings | Are lethargied‹: Sleep, Dreams, and Sensory Perception in Shakespearean Tragedy«; Night of the Senses: Dreams and Sensory Illusion, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3, Institut du Monde Anglophone




    Before joining Queen’s University Belfast as a Research Fellow, Claude taught widely across the early modern period in the University of Birmingham’s Department of English, including the modules ›Shakespeare: Elizabethan and Jacobean‹, ›Songs and Sonnets: English Poetry from Chaucer to Donne‹, and ›Shakespeare’s Comedies‹. He has also taught English medieval, eighteenth-century, and Victorian literature, as well as critical theory.