chapter  11
Disintegrating the Rock: Ian Paisley, British Shakespeare, and Ulster Protestantism: David Coleman
Pages 14

In some ways, then, this essay should be seen as an attempt to refi ne the ongoing critical exploration of the conjunction “Shakespeare and Ireland.” This pairing has undoubtedly given rise to a rich yet politically complex cultural heritage. From a literary-critical perspective, one of the most signifi cant results of the study of Shakespearean reception and appropriation in post-partition Ireland has been the illumination of specifi c sites of resistance to the Britishness which the Shakespearean legacy is often taken to embody in such post-imperial contexts.2 This fi nding is particularly

prevalent in the study of writers born in the post-1921 jurisdiction of Northern Ireland, but associated with the Catholic minority population of that statelet; for example, Rebecca Steinberger has argued that Brian Friel’s appropriation of the Henriad functions as a rewriting of the British colonial project, whereas a number of critics have drawn attention to the complex “Shakespeare” imagined in the poems of Seamus Heaney, a Northern Irish poet famously resistant to the claims of “British” identity which “Shakespeare” may embody.3 Surprisingly little attention, however, has been paid to “the other side” of the cultural divide in Northern Ireland; that is, the community of Ulster Protestants, and the ways in which the very specifi c sense of British identity found in that particular community may be infl ected in Shakespearean ways. Conversely, scholarship has been well aware of the signifi cance of Scripture for Ulster Protestantism, particularly (as is the case with Paisley) in its more fundamentalist aspects. In Ulster Protestantism, as has often been the case in Anglophone cultures, Scripture and Shakespeare have occasionally been yoked together to propound a rhetorically forceful political perspective.