Shakespeare and Folk

Adam Hansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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English folk has long been critical of and opposed to the political and cultural status quo, yet also rooted, atavistic, despairing, and utopian in equal measure. These characteristics combine to create a form of culture both integral and eccentric to understandings of ‘English’ national identity. So what happens when folk’s musics, histories, and meanings encounter or engage with another potent, iconic, and equally vexed and complex signifier of ‘Englishness’: Shakespeare? What assumptions and expectations come into play—about Shakespeare and about ‘folk’—when the two are combined? If Shakespeare used, and moved back and forth between, ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture at various points in his career (and in his afterlives), might he now be considered part of ‘folk’ culture? This chapter tries to answer these questions by exploring how a range of these engagements have happened, focusing on and comparing two in detail: Harley Granville-Barker’s 1914 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with music by Cecil Sharp, and Maria Aberg’s 2013 staging of As You like It, featuring music from the ‘neo-folk’ artist Laura Marling. Discussion broadens beyond Shakespeare in performance to consider what conflicts and contradictions about Shakespeare, ‘Englishness’, and ‘folk’ are suppressed or realized through aligning Shakespeare with a ‘folk’ aesthetic.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Music
EditorsChristopher R. Wilson, Mervyn Cooke
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages35
ISBN (Print)9780190945145
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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