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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2024
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Book description

The worldwide commemorations of the three-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death were held amid the global upheaval of the First World War. As empires battled for world domination and nations sought self-determination, diverse communities vied to claim Shakespeare as their own, to underpin their sense of collective identity and cohesion. Unearthing previously unknown Tercentenary events in Europe, the British Empire, and the USA, Monika Smialkowska demonstrates that the 1916 Shakespeare commemorators did not speak with one unified voice. Tributes by marginalised social, ethnic, and racial groups often challenged the homogenising narratives of the official celebrations. Rather than the traditionally patriotic Bard, used to support totalising versions of national or imperial identity, this study reveals Shakespeare as a site of debate and contestation, in which diverse voices – local and global, nationalist and universalist, militant and pacifist – combined and clashed in a fascinating, open-ended dialogue.


‘Shakespeare's Tercentenary is the first extensively documented and critically enriched survey of the 1916 celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic.This monograph addresses a topic essential to grasp Shakespeare's presence in the early decades of the twentieth-century and it will equally appeal to Shakespeare scholars, historians and students of cultural memory.'

Clara Calvo - Professor of English Studies, University of Murcia

‘This book widens, deepens, and refines Shakespeare commemoration studies. The author's astute analysis of the Tercentenary is based on copious new sources and a sophisticated, theory-informed sense of how it serves many purposes, from global to national to local. Situating fine-grained interpretations in a rich context of fracturing empires, while also attending to voices from the margins of US society, she unpacks the contradictions underlying events celebrating Shakespeare as both ‘universal' and English.'

Coppélia Kahn - Professor Emerita of English, Brown University

‘No other scholar has Monika Smialkowska's sheer breadth of understanding of the global impact of the Shakespeare Tercentenary and of the extraordinary variety of uses to which Shakespeare was put in 1916, from patriotic to pacifist, from imperialist to anti-colonial, from racist to racially empowering. This is a fascinating and original study of the place of Shakespeare in global collective memory.'

Gordon McMullan - Professor of English, King's College London

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