chapter  5
12 Pages

Approaches to History

Shakespeare’s history plays are considered by many to be ‘the cornerstones of the canon’1 for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The centrality of these plays has been fostered by the belief that they ‘have (or can be made to have) a recurrent topicality that is perhaps unique among Shakespeare’s plays.’2 The development and exploitation of this potential is the primary task of any modern theatrical company committed to producing Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s history plays have therefore been made to repeatedly address and intervene in the present. As such, Shakespeare, as both a body of work and a cultural icon, has come to serve as a conduit for contemporary anxieties and aspirations; and as a platform upon which ideologies of nation, state and selfhood are questioned, reaffirmed and challenged.