Glover, Mark (2020) Shakespeare, Brexit and Henry V : A proper place in the Curriculum? Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

Recent public discourse around Brexit has seen Shakespeare’s authority as an essentially English nationalist writer called upon to provide authority for an English Nationalist project, with the History plays cited as the locus of conceptions of Nationalism. This fits into a well-established narrative wherein the History plays have provided a mirror to national anxieties, that has regularly been co-opted for a Conservative agenda.

Pedagogically, however, the History plays have fallen out of favour and are rarely taught through the National Curriculum, despite Shakespeare remaining the cornerstone of value in English education. Conversely, however, through their renewed topicality, the History plays have recently been subject to several innovate productions that have addressed and questioned the nature of Nationalism in the age of Brexit ,whilst challenging established, and often chauvinistic, stage conventions .This thesis seeks to consider how Presentist readings of the History plays reveal a different set of resonances that challenge dominant right wing appropriations, with a specific focus on Henry V, reflecting its established status as the work most commonly cited and performed in times of national (and nationalistic) crisis.

Such readings can challenge a Conservative agenda that whilst claiming ideological neutrality, has ossified the status of Shakespeare studies within the national curriculum and remains implicitly tied to a conception of literary study based upon outmoded essentialist readings of Shakespeare and his work.

The argument is posited that despite being pedagogically problematic, the History play remains culturally significant. Thus, the inclusion of the History play into the national curriculum has significant value in interrogating issues of Nationalism in the age of Brexit ; whilst adopting Presentist approaches to the plays renews their relevance and affords a more nuanced critical perspective upon their meaning.

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