Mirrors are main player in Shakespeare works, writes professor

Dr. Maurice Hunt’s new book, “Shakespeare’s Speculative Art,” examines the playwright’s metaphorical use of mirrors to communicate the importance of reflection in Shakespeare’s work. Hunt is an English professor.Ambika Singh | Lariat Photographer
Dr. Maurice Hunt’s new book, “Shakespeare’s Speculative Art,” examines the playwright’s metaphorical use of mirrors to communicate the importance of reflection in Shakespeare’s work. Hunt is an English professor.
Ambika Singh | Lariat Photographer

By Robyn Sanders

“Shakespeare’s Speculative Art,” by Dr. Maurice Hunt, research professor of English at Baylor, was published this summer and examines character development in Shakespeare’s plays through the uses of “specula,” which is the Latin word for mirrors.

“Some of the mirrors are literal, but they’re also figurative allegorical mirrors and so the speculative art is his art involving these literal and figurative mirrors,” Hunt said. “For example, early on in the book, I write about how a character’s face will be a mirror for another character to know himself in, to know himself in the face of another, or in the person of another, and I trace that particular motif through several plays.”

The mirrors, Hunt said, are important for characters’ development of thought and self-knowledge.

“‘Speculative’ has several dimensions. It can mean hypothetical, as well as intellectual, in addition to a reflection of an image, and so I trace it through those meanings,” Hunt said.

An excerpt from the introduction of the states that “[i]t seems safe to say that Shakespeare and his contemporaries often had the uncomfortable thoughts about oneself similar to those that we do today in the twenty-first century when we catch glimpses of our faces in the bathroom or hall mirrors.”

Some of the book is based on previous publications and past articles written by Hunt, who said he worked on it for two or three years while also working on other articles and essays on other topics.

Dr. Dianna Vitanza, professor and chair of the English department, said Hunt’s book is a new take on Shakespeare.

“He’s doing something quite different,” Vitanza said. “He’s using [the mirror] metaphorically.”

His inspiration, Hunt said, was the realization that there was not a single book that comments about Shakespeare’s use of mirrors. However, Hunt’s publication is by no means exhaustive.

“My book isn’t meant to be comprehensive,” Hunt said, “but it’s meant to trace the development of certain kinds of mirrors through two or three or four plays in a kind of sequence that show how the mirror developed.”

Hunt said he doesn’t plan on requiring students to buy it for his Shakespeare classes, but he may refer to it in his lessons.

“I use some of the ideas I discovered or arrived at in writing the book in teaching, and I don’t necessarily refer to the book when I do it, but they’re part of my lesson plans, say, for a particular play or day,” Hunt said.

Hunt said what attracts him to Shakespeare is his genius as a thinker and a poet, which Hunt said has held his interest for many decades.

“I enjoy how rich and complex he is as a thinker, as a philosophical thinker, and how beautiful and moving his poetry is,” Hunt said. “And he’s fun to teach. It’s fun just to read his poetry aloud in class.”

Hunt’s other publications include “Shakespeare’s Romance of the Word,” “Shakespeare’s Labored Art,” “Shakespeare’s Religious Allusiveness: Its Play and Its Tolerance” and with six other books, including his most recent. In addition, Hunt has published an extensive list of articles and essays published in various journals over the years.

“I’ve always got several projects I’m working on,” Hunt said. “I’m always working on several articles, essays, for journals. I’ve just about finished an essay on the topic of human worth in Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest.’”

Vitanza said faculty publications advance the academic credentials of the department.

“They want to share their insights and knowledge with colleagues,” Vitanza said. “It helps us understand literary works.”