This series of biennial lectures in honour of Professor Stanley Wells was established in 2008.
It was established jointly by Oxford University Press and the Oxford English Faculty, in recognition of Professor Wells’ contribution to Shakespeare scholarship, both as general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare Series, and, with Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery, as co-editor of The Complete Works of Shakespeare and its accompanying volume of commentary, a major landmark in Shakespeare scholarship. In addition Professor Wells has written a wide range of books and studies devoted to Shakespeare and the drama and theatre in the early modern period.
The inaugural Oxford Wells Shakespeare lectures were given by Professor David Scott Kastan, Yale University, on the subject of 'Shakespeare and Religion' in 2008.
Katharine Eisaman Maus, James Branch Cabell Professor of English Literature, University of Virginia, gave the second series on the subject of 'Being and Having in Shakespeare' in 2010.
Lorna Hutson, Berry Professor of English Literature, University of St Andrews, gave the third series on the subject of 'Circumstantial Shakespeare' in 2012. Her lectures were 'Are those circumstances really necessary? Romeo and Juliet'; ' "Imaginary work": Lucrece's circumstances'; 'Motivated uncertainty: Shakespeare's circumstantial dramaturgy' and ' "The innocent Sleepe": tragic emotion and politics in Macbeth'.
The 2014 lectures were given by Professor Bruce Smith, Dean's Professor of English and Professor of Theatre at the University of Southern California. The theme of the 2014 series was 'Shakespeare | Cut: Forms and Effects across Four Centuries'. The individual lectures were entitled 'Cuts in, to, by, from, and with Shakespeare', 'Short Cuts', 'Cutting-edge Technologies', and 'The Latest Cut'.
The 2016 series was given by Professor John Kerrigan of St John's College, University of Cambridge. These lectures were on the theme of 'Shakespeare's Originality', and were called 'Upstarts', 'Afoot', 'Lear', and 'Later'.
The 2018 series was given by Margreta de Grazia, Emerita Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania, on the topic 'Shakespeare Without a Life (1564-1616)' in October and November 2018; further details are available here.
The 2021 series was given by Professor Bill Sherman, Director of the Warburg Institute on 'Decoding Shakespeare'.