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Chapter 10 - Shakespeare Does His Bit for the War Effort

Authorship and Material Culture in the 1917 British Red Cross Shakespeare Exhibition

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

In January 1917, the Red Cross Shakespeare Exhibition, which opened at the Grafton Galleries in London, was advertised with two different posters. One displayed an oversize red cross on a white background – the Red Cross emblem and the English national flag. The other depicted Shakespeare’s coat of arms. The exhibition, described in the press as the most comprehensive show of Shakespeareana ever exhibited, was originally curated in Manchester as part of the celebrations of the 1916 Tercentenary, the commemoration of the three hundred-year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. In London, it became part of the war effort, the way civilians at the ‘Home Front’ did their bit to help the British Army in the trenches. The exhibition, a successful charity venture, moved to London thanks to the collaboration of actor-manager Martin Harvey and the British Red Cross, one of several wartime collaborations between the British NPO and the theatrical profession to bring relief to Western Front soldiers. The poster portraying Shakespeare’s coat of arms aimed to present Shakespeare as an English gentleman, to counteract the influence of the Baconians who questioned Shakespeare’s authorship. This exhibition was one of several ways in which Shakespeare’s cultural capital was enlisted to raise funds in wartime.

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare at War
A Material History
, pp. 101 - 110
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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