Shakespeare, Easter 1916, and the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain

Maley, W. (2016) Shakespeare, Easter 1916, and the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 16(2), pp. 189-205. (doi: 10.1111/sena.12185)

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It is a commonplace to speak of the dramatic qualities of the Easter Rising; the staging of rebellions inevitably attracts theatrical comparisons. In the case of 1916, the dramatic aspect has arguably been overplayed. Either the focus is on amateur dramatics and improvization, with the Rising itself as a piece of theatre, which plays down the history and politics as well as the rich theatrical traditions behind the Rising, or the emphasis is on a drama of martyrdom and grand gesture, a political passion-play with Padraig Pearse at its centre, which erases many of the conflict's complexities. That 1916 also coincided with the three-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death – events in Dublin interrupted planned celebrations there by the English playwright's Irish admirers – prompts us to reflect on an approach to history as drama – and drama as history – that does not see theatre merely in terms of spectacle or violence, a theatricality that goes beyond caricature, character assassination, pantomime, or the politics of a Punch and Judy show. This article suggests that a reading of 1916 in the context of the ongoing critical debate around Shakespeare's dramatic depictions of the Irish has more to teach us than invocations of theatricality of a more limited kind.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Shakespeare Ireland 1916
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Maley, Professor Willy
Authors: Maley, W.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
Journal Abbr.:SEN
ISSN (Online):1754-9469
Published Online:03 November 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism
First Published:First published in Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 16(2):189-205
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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