‘Claiming Shakespeare as “Our Own”’

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This polemical overview article surveys broad areas of Shakespeare appropriation both in its synchronicity and diachronicity (in other words, on a horizontal and a vertical level). A diachronic overview would survey how Shakespeare has been appropriated at different historical times (for example, the Shakespeares of the Restoration, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, postmodernism), whereas a synchronic perspective would demonstrate the specific ways and areas in which this appropriation takes place (for instance, genres, art forms, different ethnic communities and ideologies ‘recruiting’ Shakespeare). The article also proposes that among Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet excels in eliciting interpretation upon interpretation and fuelling a rivalry between theoretical approaches. It has also served as a vehicle for the expression of a variety of positions and for experimentation with different forms. While the article acknowledges that having Shakespeare claimed and ‘naturalised’ in too many contexts may lead/may have led to a relativisation (or in some opinions, loss) of Shakespearean ‘meaning’, it also points out that recourse to Shakespeare as cultural capital has served to communicate cultural belonging, the maturity of a culture, genre or form or has served to justify utterly disparate causes. This aspect of Shakespeare’s reception cannot be ignored. A broader implication is that any contemporary interpretation - on stage, screen, in criticism or otherwise – needs to be aware that the Shakespearean text is steeped in ideologies and appropriating contexts. The article appeared in a collection of articles focusing on history and memory in European Shakespeares, and it is situated in the section entitled ‘History, Memory and Ideological Appropriation’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare in Europe: History and Memory
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • appropriation
  • adaptation
  • shakespeare


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