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Chapter 12 - Readers and Rebels

Ireland, Shakespeare, and the 1916 Easter Rising

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

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

On 26 April 1916, British authorities imposed martial law throughout Ireland in the wake of the Easter Rising, an insurgent paramilitary movement that had seized control of strategic landmarks throughout Dublin and proclaimed an independent Irish republic. On 27 April, the day after the announcement of the military curfew, an editorial in The Irish Times urged citizens to turn their ‘enforced domesticity’ to intellectual advantage by reading Shakespeare by the fireside. Why would The Irish Times suggest that Dubliners brush up their Shakespeare while gunfire and artillery shells shattered the city around them – causing, among other casualties, the fiery destruction of Dublin’s grand and newly constructed Coliseum Theatre? This essay uses the editorial and the short history of the Coliseum to explore the significance of Shakespeare in Ireland – first, within the wartime historical context of the Easter Rising, and then within the broader history of Shakespearean performance and reception in Ireland. It explores the often-fraught relationship of Ireland’s writers and revolutionaries to Shakespeare, from the period leading into the Easter Rising up to the present – notably including Irish director Caroline Byrne’s decision to set her 2016 production of The Taming of the Shrew in Ireland in 1916, as a mediation on the evolving legacies of the Rising and Shakespeare.

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare at War
A Material History
, pp. 121 - 128
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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