Helen M. Ostovich,PhD


Professor of English
E-mail: ostovich@mcmaster.ca


  • Research
  • Profile
  • Publications
  • Lifetime Publications

My research began with a narrow focus on Ben Jonson, expanding to medieval cycle plays (eg Special Volume 3 of Early Theatre 3 (2000), co-edited with Alexandra Johnston, on 'The York Cycle Then and Now', based on the symposium and performances of a one-day production of the York Cycle from dawn to dusk, to establish the theory that the original was enhanced by natural light changes during the day, corresponding to The Creation (pre-dawn) through to The Last Judgement (nightfall), as presented by international groups on the individual 48 plays in 1998, at Victoria College, University of Toronto, using 12 wagons.  Subsequently I was involved in the various projects mentioned in my Profile, especially (with Alexandra Johnston, Peter Cockett, and Jennifer Roberts-Smith) the SSHRC research/creation project 'Shakespeare and the Queen's Men' (2005-2008), during which we performed King Leir, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, The Famous Victories of Henry V (2006, on tour), and The True Tragedy of Richard III (2007). A patron supported the 2009 performance of Clyomon and Clamydes. Our current project is The Three Ladies of London, directed by Peter Cockett for the Taylor conference, 23-25 June 2015, and for the PLS International Festival of Early Theatre (4-7 June 2015), where our show will preview along with Purdue University's The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London (1590), the sequel. This double event has not been seen anywhere in the world for 425 years. The directors are Paul W.White and Bryan Nakawaki.

            Aside from performance research and the Jonson editions mentioned in my Profile, I am also editing James Shirley's The Ball for the Oxford Complete Works of James Shirley < http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/oupjamesshirley/>; The Late Lancashire Witches and A Jovial Crew, for the Oxford Complete Works of Richard Brome; The Dutch Courtesan for the Oxford Complete Works of John Marston; and The Merry Wives of Windsor for Internet Shakespeare Editions. I have edited the quarto (1602) and folio (1623) versions for WW Norton's Complete Works of Shakespeare 3rd Edition.  

            A side-interest of my research is witchcraft studies, an interest that began when I was editing The Alchemist in the mid-1990s http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Ben-Jonson/Ben-Jonson/9780582070660, now out of print. At the same time, I started teaching a 4th year seminar on that topic, concerned with the plays and historical trials and pamphlets about witches between 1560-1650.  My latest publication on that topic is with Lisa Hopkins (eds), Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014) <

Helen Ostovich's expertise centres on Ben Jonson, on his stage practice, and interaction with fellow dramatists (Shakespeare, Marston, Chapman, Middleton, Massinger, Brome, Shirley). She has published articles on Shakespeare and on Jonson, dealing with issues of gender and Jonson's reputation for misogyny, on Jonson’s interests in the new science, and on his connections with the Cavendish family. She has produced a modern critical edition of his four major comedies called Ben Jonson : Four Comedies (London: Longman, 1997) and an edition of his Every Man Out of His Humour for Revels Plays (Manchester UP, 2001). Her edition of Jonson's The Magnetic Lady is in Volume 6 of The Cambridge Edition of the Complete Works of Ben Jonson, http://universitypublishingonline.org/cambridge/benjonson/  in paper and online (2012). Ostovich has also co-edited with Elizabeth Sauer (Brock University) the prize-winning  Reading Early Modern Women http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415966467/ published by Routledge in 2004. She is currently editing Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well with co-editor Karen Bamford (Mount Allison University) and Andrew Griffin (University of California Santa Barbara) for Internet Shakespeare Editions http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/AWW/; and Heywood and Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches and A Jovial Crew for Richard Brome Online http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/brome/Those editions are currently being prepared as scholarly editions for Oxford University Press (2018). She was editor of the REED (Records of Early English Drama) Newsletter from 1994-97 and is now the editor of the peer-reviewed journal of theatre history and performance, Early Theatre: A Journal Associated with the Records of Early English Drama, now with co-editor Melinda Gough. Ostovich is one of the General Editors of The Revels Plays (with David Bevington, Alison Findlay, and Richard Dutton), the Series Editor of Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama for Ashgate Publishing, and with Professor Alexandra Johnston (REED, University of Toronto)  and PLS <http://groups.chass.utoronto.ca/plspls/> was involved in the recovery of performance styles of an early modern acting company as part of a large project called “Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men”, which included performances in Toronto and Hamilton, a conference, and publications (electronic and print) of playtexts and essays. The collection of essays, co-edited with Holger Schott Syme and Andrew Griffin, is called Locating the Queen’s Men, 1583-1603: Material Practices and Conditions of Playing  (Ashgate, 2009). Her most recent books include The Chester Cycle in Context, 1555-1575: Religion, Drama, and the Impact of Change http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409441366 with Jessica Dell and David Klausner; and The Alchemist: A Critical Reader, Arden Early Modern Drama Guides (London; Bloomsbury, 2013) with Erin Julian http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-alchemist-a-critical-reader-9781780938295/.

She has also contributed to the making of the website Performing the Queen’s Men http://thequeensmen.mcmaster.ca/index.htm. In the continuation of that project, she is General Editor of Queen's Men Editions http://qme.internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/ with associate editors Andrew Griffin (UCSB) and Jennifer Roberts-Smith (Waterloo), and organizing the June 2015 Taylor conference at McMaster on "Performance as Research, and The Three Ladies of London (1584)" with pre-conference short papers about both topics along with practical rehearsal and performance videos amd blogs currently  on  http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/english/JDT/index.html  but later to be moved to Queen's Men Editions

The Chester Cycle in Context, 1555–1575

Religion, Drama, and the Impact of Change

Edited by Jessica Dell, McMaster University, Canada, David Klausner, University of Toronto, Canada and Helen Ostovich, McMaster University, Canada

Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage

Edited by Lisa Hopkins, Sheffield Hallam University, UK and Helen Ostovich, McMaster University, Canada

Locating the Queen's Men, 1583-1603

Material Practices and Conditions of Playing

Edited by Helen Ostovich, McMaster University, Canada, Holger Schott Syme, University of Toronto, Canada and Andrew Griffin, University of California Santa Barbara, USA

a)  Peer Reviewed 

i) books

  • With Lisa Hopkins (eds), Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014.
  • With Erin Julian. The Alchemist: A Critical Reader, Arden Renaissance Drama. London: Methuen/ Arden Shakespeare (Bloomsbury), Jan. 2013.
  • Jessica Dell, David Klausner, and Helen Ostovich (eds), The Chester Cycle in Context, 1555-1575: Religion, Drama, and the Impact of Change Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2012.
  • The Magnetic Lady by Ben Jonson.  Edited by Helen Ostovich for the Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson. Gen. Eds David Bevington, Martin Butler, and Ian Donaldson. 7 Vols. Cambridge University Press, electronic and paper, 2012  (My contribution is in vol 6, pp 391-542)
  • Helen Ostovich, Modern critical editions of Heywood and Brome’s The Late Lancaster Witches and Brome’s A Jovial Crew, part of Richard Brome Online, general editor Richard Cave, Royal Holloway University of London.  Publisher: Sheffield: HRI Online. 2010 http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/brome   In an essay on Brome in Ton Hoenselaars’s new Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Contemporary Dramatists (2012), Heather Hirschfield says the website is 'stunning', and 'spectacular', and compares it to a floating theatre, 'unbound from the land, rocking in gentle waves' (241).
  • Helen Ostovich, Holger Syme, and Andrew Griffin, eds. Locating the the Queen’s Men, 1583-1603: Material Practices and Conditions. London: Ashgate,  2009.  “Introduction” pp 1-23.  Jonathan Walker, Review of Helen M. Ostovich, Holger Schott Syme, and Andrew R. Griffin, eds. Locating the Queen’s Men, 1583–1603: Material Practices and Conditions of Playing.Renaissance Quarterly (2010): 322-24;  Eleanor Lowe, Review of  LocatingtheQueen'sMen, 1583–1603g. Shakespeare (April 2010), 6 (1), 116-118;  Sally Beth MacLean. Review of Locating the Queen's Men, 1583-1603. Shakespeare Quarterly (December 2010), 61 (4), 586-89.
  • Helen Ostovich, Mary Silcox, and Graham Roebuck (eds), The Mysterious and the Foreign in Early Modern England, University of Delaware Press, 2008. Reviews:  David McInnis. "Review of Helen Ostovich, Mary V. Silcox, and Graham Roebuck (eds.), The Mysterious and the Foreign in Early Modern England.". Early Modern Literary Studies 15.1 (2009-10) <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/15-1/mcciosto.htm>
  • Ben Jonson: Four Comedies. Editor: Helen Ostovich.; rpt. Pearson Education, London: since 2004 (print on demand).
  • Reading Early Modern Women: An Anthology in Manuscript and Print, 1550-1700. With co-editor Elizabeth Sauer (Brock University), assisted by Melissa Smith (McMaster).  New York: Routledge: 2004 (PR) Winner of the Society for Early Modern Women’s Best Collaborative Book of 2004 on the topic of early modern woman, awarded October 2005. Rev Karen L. Edwards, “Reading Women Writing”, Cambridge Quarterly 34.2 (2005): 192-95; Erica Longfellow, European Journal of English Studies (9:3) 2005, 325-7; Mary Ellen Lamb,”Recent Studies in the English Renaissance” Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 46:1 (Winter 2006), 195-244, 204-5.
  • Helen Ostovich (ed.), Ben Jonson: Every Man Out of his Humour. Revels Plays. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2001.  [Rev.Matthew Steggle, EMLS 7.3 http://www.shu.ac.uk/emls/07-3/steg2rev.htm]
  • Helen Ostovich, Mary V. Silcox, and Graham Roebuck (eds), Other Voices, Other Views:  Expanding the Canon in English Renaissance Studies. Newark:  Delaware UP, 1999. [Rev Bruce Boehrer, South Atlantic Review 65, 2 (Spring 2000) http://www.samla.org/sar/00spBoehrer.html]
  • Ben Jonson: Four Comedies. Modern critical editions ed. Helen Ostovich. Longman Annotated Texts.  London: Longman, 1997.  696 pages. [Rev. Ton Hoenselaars, English Studies 80:2 (1999):188-89].

          ii) contributions to books
  • 'Gingerbread Progeny in Bartholomew Fair', Magical Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage. Lisa Hopkins and Helen Ostovich, eds. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014. 203-14.
  • 'Bucking Tradition in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602: Not a Bad Quarto, Really'. The Merry Wives of Windsor: New Critical Essays.  Evelyn Gajowski and Phyllis Rackin, eds. New York: Routledge, 2014. 96-106.
  • 'Knights and Daze: The Place of Romance in the Queen's Men's Repertory', Performing Environments: Site Specificity in Medieval & Early Modern English  Drama.  Susan Bennett and Mary Polito, Eds. (Palgrave, 2014) 100-16.
  • 'Marriage in The Dutch Courtesan',  The Dutch Courtesan, University of York, UK, Michael Cordner, ed.  2013. http://www.dutchcourtesan.co.uk/
  • Erin Julian and Helen Ostovich, 'Introduction' pp 1-14, and 'Pedagogical Strategies and Web Resources', pp 191-210, in The Alchemist: A Critical Reader, Arden Early Modern Drama Guides. London: Arden Shakespeare / Bloomsbury, Jan. 2013.
  • David Klausner, Helen Ostovich, and Jessica Dell, "Introduction: The Chester Cycle in Context". In Dell, Klausner, and Ostovich (eds), The Chester Cycle in Context, 1555-1575: Religion, Drama, and the Impact of Change Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2012. 1-15. 
  • “Patronage”  in Ben Jonson in Context, ed. Julie Sanders.  Cambridge University Press, 2010.  Ch. 33, pp 296-303 
  • “Staging the Jew: Playing with the text of The Merchant of Venice” in Shakespeare’s Comedies of Love, eds R. Knowles and K. Bamford, University of Toronto Press, 2008.  262-72
  • “These Recreations, which are strange and true”: Wit, Mathematics, and Jonson’s The Magnetic Lady” for The Mysterious and the Foreign in Early Modern England, ed. H. Ostovich, M. Silcox, and G. Roebuck University of Delaware Press, 2008. 107-23
  • ‘“Here in this garden”: The Iconography of the Virgin Queen in Shakespeare’s Richard II.’ Marian Moments in early modern British Drama, eds  Lisa Hopkins and Regina Buccola. Ashgate, 2007. Pp. 21-34 (ch 1) This book uses Marian artwork on the dust-jacket, reproduced from McMaster Museum of Art’s Book of Hours.
  • Early Modern Theatre History”, first chapter for Teaching the New English Literature: Shakespeare and Early Modern Dramatists. Ed. Andrew Hiscock and Lisa Hopkins.  Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 .
  •  (Reprint) "Reader as Hobby-horse in Tristram Shandy". In Thomas Keymer, ed. Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy: A Casebook. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Pp. 171-190.
  • “Introduction”, Eastward Ho! London: Nick Hern Books, 2002. Pp x-xiii.
  •  “‘Our sport shall be to take what they mistake’: Classroom performance and learning”, in Karen Bamford and Alexander Leggatt, eds., Approaches to Teaching English Renaissance Drama.  New York:  MLA, 2002. Pp. 87-94.
  • "`To behold the scene full':  Seeing and Judging in Every Man Out of his Humour".  In Re-presenting Ben Jonson:  Text, History, Performance.  Ed. Martin Butler. Early Modern Literature in History Series: gen. ed. Cedric Brown. London:  Macmillan Press, 1999.  Pp. 76-92. [Reviewed in  Essays in Criticism (fall, 2000)]
  • Reprint /Revised -- "The Appropriation of Pleasure in The Magnetic Lady ". In Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern England. Eds. Susan Frye and Karen Robertson.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.  Pp 134-155.
  • “Hell for lovers: shades of adultery in The Devil is an Ass”. In Refashioning Ben Jonson: Gender, Politics and the Jonsonian Canon. Eds Julie Sanders, Kate Chedgzoy, and Sue Wiseman.  London:  Macmillan Press, 1998. Pp. 155-82.
  • "`Teach you our princess English?': Equivocal Translation of the French in Henry V".  In Gendering Rhetorics:  Postures of Dominance and Submission in History, ed. Richard Trexler.  Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1994. 147-162.
  • (Reprint) "Reader as Hobby-horse in Tristram Shandy". In Melvyn New, ed. New Casebooks:  Tristram Shandy.  London:  MacMillan, 1992. 155-73. 

        iii)  Journal Articles
  • “Is There Life After Sex?: Macbeth and Post-Sexuality.”  Special issue 19 (2009) EMLS (Early Modern Literary Studies), Embodying Shakespeare, eds David McInnis and Brett D. Hirsch. 13.1-13   <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-19/ostomacb.html>.
  • “Unsettling Henry V :  A Canadian Perspective”  Studies in Theatre and Performance 29.3 (Sept 2009): 289-305
  • "Ben  Jonson and the Dynamics of Misogyny: A Cultural Collaboration"  Elizabethan Theatre XV (2002): 89-110
  • Mistress and Maid:  Women’s Friendship in The New Inn”.  Ben Jonson Journal 4 (1997): 1-26.
  • "The Appropriation of Pleasure in The Magnetic Lady". SEL: Studies in English Literature (Spring, 1994): 425-42.                                               
  • "`So Sudden and Strange a Cure': A Rudimentary Masque in Every Man Out of his Humour".  English Literary Renaissance 22.3 (November 1992), 315-332.
  • "`Our views must now be different': Impri­sonment and Friendship in Clarissa". Modern Language Quarterly 52:2 (June 1991):  41-57.
  • "Two Jonsonian Neologisms". Cahiers elisabethains 38 (Oct 1990):  65-7.
  • "`Manfrede'?: Reconstruction of a Misprint in Jonson's Every Man Out of his Humour (1600)", Notes and Queries (Sept 1989):  320-1.
  • "Reader as Hobby-horse in Tristram Shandy". Philological Quarterly 68 (Summer 1989):  325-42.
  •  "`Jeered by Confederacy': Group Aggression in Jonson's Comedies". Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 3 (1986): 115-28.