“Fortune Reigns in Gifts of the World”: Appropriation and Power in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s International Collections

Helen A. Hopkins*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


    The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s (SBT) museum, library, and archive collections contain many international gifts that indicate a desire to express admiration for Shakespeare and perform cultural cohesion through the hegemonically established “greatest” writer. In return for gifts, international agents gain conferred cultural capital and establish a desired cultural identity for themselves or their nation. This chapter discusses gifts from pre-unification Germany and post-independence India to illuminate the identities that were being created by those nations through their gifts to the Trust. Moreover, this chapter considers the ways in which museums create and maintain specific identities and hegemonies, and how Shakespeare’s cultural capital enhances the cultural authority of the SBT’s curatorial voice. The museum as an institution has developed over 250 years as a primary producer of meta-narratives through “truths” that are “proven” by material primary evidence. As such, the ways in which the SBT uses and has used its collections to project “truths” about Shakespeare in the world will be considered in terms of nationalistic and diplomatic objectives of both the institution itself and those who present objects for its collections. In many cases, international gifts represent a bid for representation as part of Shakespeare’s legacy, functioning like a “flag in the sand” of the Birthplace itself. Thus, the appropriation of Shakespeare’s cultural capital—that is at the core of each gift—is appropriated in turn as the SBT uses it to reinforce its own cultural authority. By unpicking the tangled threads of appropriation in such gifts, as well as noting the stories objects can tell in defiance of the museum’s agenda, this chapter foregrounds Shakespeare’s legacy as a tool of British power that is occasionally diplomatic, occasionally imperial, while also emphasising the moments in which art and culture refuse to be limited as such.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationShakespeare and Cultural Appropriation
    EditorsVanessa I. Corredera , L. Monique Pittman, Geoffrey Way
    Place of PublicationAbingdon
    Number of pages21
    ISBN (Electronic)9781000855371
    ISBN (Print)9781032303086
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 1 Jan 2023

    Publication series

    NameAdvances in Theatre and Performance Studies


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