The University of Melbourne has long shared an appreciation for the work of Shakespeare with its students and the wider community. At a public meeting in 1860 the people of Melbourne established a Shakespeare Memorial Committee led by G.W. Rusden, Sir Redmond Barry and other prominent Melburnians. Their aim was to raise sufficient funds to erect a statue of Shakespeare by the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1864. The committee ultimately elected to memorialise the Bard by endowing a scholarship at the University of Melbourne, and in 1866 the University Council accepted a gift of £752 to establish The Shakespeare Scholarship at Melbourne, contributing £248 to bring the endowment to £1,000.
400 years after his death, we need Shakespeare more than ever. In an age of complexity, what makes Shakespeare’s work so enduring is that he doesn’t provide easy answers but teaches how to think rather than what to think. His characters and the situations they find themselves in are complex: complex enough to warrant continued investigation four centuries later, and complex enough to make the study of Shakespeare a critical part of a thorough and well- rounded education. Thus on the quadricentenary of Shakespeare’s death, we have established The Shakespeare 400 Trust in order to ensure that the teaching of Shakespeare studies continues to thrive and to benefit our students and the cultural and intellectual life of the community at large. Our first goal is to raise $3.5 million to endow a Senior Lectureship in Shakespeare Studies. This position would ensure that the legacy of the Bard continues to take its rightful place in the minds of the next generation of students at the University of Melbourne – and of the community more broadly.