• Mark Thornton Burnett


Since the seventeenth century, Shakespeare has proved an abiding presence in Irish history, politics and culture.1 The tradition of performing Shakespeare in Ireland dates back to this period, and subsequent theatrical endeavours have demonstrated his continuing appeal to Irish audiences. Shakespeare’s work has served not only as a source of inspiration but also as an agent of frustration for succeeding generations of Irish novelists, poets and playwrights. Drawn to the lyrical beauty of the English Renaissance, many Irish writers have found themselves simultaneously troubled by Shakespeare’s symbolization of English cultural hegemony. Oscar Wilde eloquently expressed such a sentiment when he declared: ‘I am Irish by race… but the English have condemned me to speak the language of Shakespeare’.2 Given the prominent role played by Shakespeare at every level of education in Ireland, this paradoxical situation is easy to understand. At Trinity College, Dublin, and at the Queen’s University of Belfast, there is a long-standing tradition of Shakespearean scholarship, while the dramatist is a compulsory element in school and college curriculums, both north and south of the border.3 Three centuries of reading, production and appropriation testify to the vexed but integral place of Shakespeare in the Irish imagination.


Irish Language Integral Place Henry Versus Irish Imagination Early Modem 
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  1. 1.
    This book owes part of its genesis to recent investigations into the place of Shakespeare in postcolonial environments. See David Johnson, Shakespeare and South Africa (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Harish Trivedi, Colonial Transactions: English Literature and India (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), pp. 10–28.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Oscar Wilde, Selected Letters, ed. R. Hart-Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 100, quoted inGoogle Scholar
  4. Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland (London: Cape, 1995), p. 35.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    See Edna Longley, ‘“A foreign oasis”?: English literature, Irish studies and Queen’s University’, The Irish Review, 17–18, Winter (1995), pp. 26–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 4.
    The book also takes some of its impetus from recent work on appropriations of Shakespeare at different historical moments and in diverse cultural contexts. See Michael D. Bristol, Big-Time Shakespeare (London and New York: Routledge, 1996);Google Scholar
  7. Michael D. Bristol, Shakespeare’s America, America’s Shakespeare (London and New York: Routledge, 1990);Google Scholar
  8. Kate Chedgzoy, Shakespeare’s Queer Children: Sexual Politics and Contemporary Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  9. Dennis Kennedy (ed.), Foreign Shakespeare: Contemporary Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  10. Tetsuo Kishi, Roger Pringle and Stanley Wells (eds), Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994);Google Scholar
  11. Michael Hattaway, Boika Sokolova and Derek Roper (eds), Shakespeare in the New Europe (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994);Google Scholar
  12. Xiao Yang Zhang, Shakespeare in China: A Comparative Study of Two Traditions and Cultures (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Thornton Burnett

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