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Chapter 2 - The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) and Garrick’s Shakespearean Nationalism

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

Contra readings of Harlequin’s Invasion that characterize the play as a patriotic call to arms during the Seven Years’ War, this essay argues that David Garrick constructs a different myth for Shakespeare than the myths of bellicose nationalism, celebrating a Harlequin Shakespeare over a nationalist one. The play suggests that comedic variety is more crucial to Shakespeare, to his ability to draw a plethora of characters who all seem true to life, than any nationalist zeal rooted in an unruly masculinity. Just as the play calls attention to the fluidity of citizenship, it calls attention to other fluidities that valorize nature and Harlequin as polymorphous. Garrick’s myth is predicated on a celebration of difference that is united in the same way that natural fecundity is harmonious. While nationalist myths yearn for unity as a totality that regulates, suppresses, and subsumes difference via antagonism, Harlequin’s Invasion valorizes nature’s spontaneity, its transformations and improvisations, more so than glory or self-sacrifice. The play uses Harlequin and his marvellous transformations to restore theatrical play and the daily enjoyments of theatre as a force for national unity that can accommodate the many differences that exist in a nation.

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare at War
A Material History
, pp. 17 - 26
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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