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Chapter 21 - Shakespeare’s Desert Camouflage

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

Since 9/11, a striking number of Shakespeare productions have appropriated the distinctive colours of desert camouflage. The print – marked by faded tones and an overall impression of dry and earthy environs – has become almost the standard choice for productions of Macbeth, Othello, and Henry V. Yet there has been little, if any, discussion of desert camouflage as a costuming decision. Examining productions ranging across two decades – from Nicholas Hytner’s Henry V (2003) to Max Webster’s Henry V (2022) – this essay argues that the use of the print synopsizes the ways in which productions refract contemporary understandings of global conflict. Camouflage costuming ignites a nexus of Shakespearean meanings around the brutality of the protagonist, war-crimes, PTSD, veteran-ship, and spectacular violence. The newly cynical readings that result render irrelevant traditional debates about the pro- or anti-war stance of Shakespearean theatre. In representing – via desert camouflage – a new kind of warfare, theatre in the post-2001 era envisages conflict as self-defeat. Finally, then, these productions speak to incompleteness, irresolution, regret, and a never-ending cycle of global violence.

Type
Chapter
Information
Shakespeare at War
A Material History
, pp. 203 - 212
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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