Wartime Shakespeare: Performing Narratives of Conflict

wartime shakespeare cover

Wartime Shakespeare is the first book-length, interdisciplinary study of how Shakespeare has been mobilized in performance at times of conflict spanning the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. This history is not linear or neatly progressive; rather, it is fragmented, provisional, and multi-layered, and this book sets out a brand-new critical methodology that recognizes how wartime theatre is mediated by networks of production and reception that control its meaning and impact. Performances of Shakespeare's plays, like the texts themselves, do not have single or fixed meanings, and one production context often brings together conflicting agendas and responses. In this book, Amy Lidster explains how different productions of Shakespeare shed light on issues at the heart of conflicts and negotiate concepts such as patriotism, commemoration, and propaganda. With wide-ranging transhistorical coverage, she argues that wartime Shakespeare is defined by its malleability and plural (mis)understandings, which determine its power to shape the experience of war, the political issues at stake during a period of crisis, and the construction of narratives of conflict.

This book is also linked to a new collection, Shakespeare at War: A Material History, edited by Amy Lidster and Sonia Massai, and a public exhibition, ‘Shakespeare and War’, co-curated by Amy and Sonia, which is now open at the National Army Museum, London, and features many of the items explored in both books.