Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-8bljj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-13T17:02:25.721Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 4 - Hamlet Mobilized

Political Parody during the Napoleonic Wars

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

Amy Lidster
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Sonia Massai
Affiliation:
King's College London
Get access

Summary

This essay concentrates on the practice and significance of parodying Shakespearean speeches during wartime, which reached a height during the French Revolutionary-Napoleonic Wars. At a particularly pivotal moment – the renewal of war in 1803 – a spate of parodies of Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy appeared in print, most of which adapted the speech for Napoleon, who debates the merits of invading Britain. This essay examines these overlooked parodies, paying particular attention to George Woodward’s ‘Buonaparte’s Soliloquy at Calais’ published by Rudolph Ackermann and circulated widely, including in the Weimer-based journal London und Paris. While these confident parodies express unambiguous support for Britain’s war effort and condemn Napoleon, they do not testify to united public opinion about the necessity of war or to untrammelled optimism about its outcome. This essay establishes their wider significance: they draw attention to a politically and culturally astute readership that was not limited by national or conflict lines, and they reveal the fractures beneath confident wartime propaganda. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy becomes a malleable rhetorical template for carrying out topical wartime debate, facilitating political discourse that could draw attention to the divisive debates underlining this period of conflict.

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare at War
A Material History
, pp. 39 - 50
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×