Katherine Duncan-Jones, Who Cast Shakespeare as a Boor, Dies at 81

The erudition continued through the generations. Her brother, Richard, is a historian of ancient Rome; her daughter Emily Wilson is a classicist known for her translation of Homer’s “The Odyssey”; and her other daughter, Bee Wilson, is a food writer with a Ph.D. in history. She is also survived by six grandchildren.

Katherine’s home life was predictably bookish. She knew early on that she wanted to study literature, and though her academic focus on Shakespeare came relatively late in her career, the Bard was her first literary love, which she developed over repeated trips to see the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

She studied literature at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, receiving bachelor’s degrees in the arts and in letters in 1963.

That fall she became a tutorial fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, where she remained for her entire career, save for 1965-66, when she was a fellow at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), Cambridge University. She was named a professor at Oxford in 1998 and retired in 2001.

Her students from the 1960s almost uniformly recall Ms. Duncan-Jones as the picture of otherworldly Bohemian elegance, a figure pulled from a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Some were intimidated, but those who got to know her discovered that she was in fact the very model of an Oxford don: droll, hilarious and unbelievably erudite, thanks to her near constant residency in the university archives.

The journalist and author A.N. Wilson, whom she married in 1971, recalled a friend telling him that “Katherine Duncan-Jones can never be happy if she is further than a mile from the Bodleian Library.”

Ms. Duncan-Jones was one of Mr. Wilson’s former tutors, and was 10 years his senior when they married in 1971; they divorced in 1990, but they later reconciled, and as she slipped into dementia he took to visiting her regularly.

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