Remembering and forgetting in 1916: the Shakespeare Tercentenary and the First World War
A lecture by Professor Gordon McMullan
On the early evening of Tuesday 25 April 1916, the crowds flowing into London’s Waterloo Station included two very different groups, each of which had that afternoon attended commemorative events of national significance, one – theatregoers emerging from an Old Vic matinée marking the Shakespeare Tercentenary – reflecting on the cultural impact of a long-dead poet and playwright – and the other – soldiers of the Anzac regiments returning from a commemoration of the Gallipoli débacle – remembering comrades who had fallen only a year previously. This unremarked coming-together helps underline the close intertwining of the 1916 Tercentenary and the First World War and the way in which commemorative processes designed originally to mark the three-hundredth anniversary of the death of the English National Poet became entwined with historical events and memorial processes necessitated by a global war. In examining this conjunction and its resonances, this lecture will focus on the figure of Sir Israel Gollancz, Professor of English at King’s College London and leading light in Tercentenary planning – on his various improvisations for the Tercentenary, from the Book of Homage to Shakespeare to the ‘Shakespeare Hut’, in order to reflect on the nature of commemorative practice in the early twentieth century and to assess the cultural impact of remembering Shakespeare at a time of global conflict.
Gordon McMullan is Professor of English and director of the London Shakespeare Centre at King’s College London and academic director of Shakespeare400. He is a general textual editor of the new Norton Shakespeare 3rd edition and a general editor of Arden Early Modern Drama.His publications include Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing and The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher, and he has edited Henry VIII for the Arden Shakespeare and both 1 Henry IV and Romeo and Juliet for Norton Critical Editions. He has also edited or co-edited several collections of essays, including Women Making Shakespeare, Reading the Medieval in Early Modern England, and In Arden: Editing Shakespeare. A further collection, Late Style and Its Discontents, co-edited with Sam Smiles, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. He has written an introduction for Oxford’s forthcoming reissue of Israel Gollancz’s A Book of Homage to Shakespeare 1916, and is currently completing Antipodal Shakespeare: Remembering and Forgetting in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1916-2016, with Philip Mead and others, for Arden Bloomsbury.