Shakespeare Through Decolonization

Farah Karim-Cooper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, I ask what Shakespeare's position is in the ongoing debate about how we present our cultural past today. This debate includes not just efforts to decolonize curricula in universities, but broader polemics within the culture/heritage sector and higher education, notably a right-wing backlash against scholarly efforts, in universities and elsewhere, to re-evaluate, and recontextualize Britain's past. I note that the construction of Shakespeare as the 'Bard' was itself instrumentalized within the British colonial project, as a national poet and as an icon of white heritage and excellence: the conception of the man as Bard is, I argue, endemic to coloniality. Contemporary theatre historiography has markedly de-centralized Shakespeare, and I suggest that we need to introduce further consideration of race, identity and early modern constructions of 'otherness' into its wide-ranging theatrical reconstruction of the past. I finish with a few strategies as a way of decolonizing Shakespeare and/or early modern literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
Issue number271
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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