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date: 27 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay considers some of the cultural and political drives underpinning the production of Shakespeare’s comedies, particularly Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. With a focus on configurations of the nostalgic and the critical in performance, I consider the purpose of performing 400-year-old comedies now, at a time when British and American Shakespeare production companies continue to be optimistic about the role of Shakespeare in culture and education, but when these cultures—at least as they feature in the mainstream media—appear never more divided. What kind of comedy is needed at this fraught or divisive time, in the second decade of the twenty-first century? As media-styled ‘liberal elites’ mourn for progressive politics whilst right-wing ‘populism’ indulges its nostalgia for an imagined migrant-free nationhood, Escolme examines the part that Shakespeare production plays in reflecting and constructing cultural nostalgia.

Keywords: nostalgia, heritage, costume, design, cultural politics

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