Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 August 2021
This chapter argues that, while Shakespeare was deployed in World War II Britain for propaganda purposes, references to the playwright or his works also exposed rifts or contradictions within the national culture he was called upon to embody. It focuses on three major media in which Shakespeare was performed, adapted, or appropriated: the theater, the radio, and the cinema. Whereas state intervention fostered the performance of Shakespearean drama throughout the nation, the BBC underwent dramatic changes that meant that, while Britain’s national poet remained central to its mission, he was also associated with an elitist model of broadcasting whose hegemony was overturned during the war years. As for film, wartime Shakespearean appropriations show that the playwright could trouble propaganda imperatives as well as support them. In sum, while Shakespeare was a cornerstone of British wartime nationalism, he additionally served as a register of cultural, regional, and social difference.