Shakespeare and the New Palace of Westminster (1834–1927)

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This article explores how the art and architecture of the New Palace of Westminster (home to the UK’s Houses of Parliament) evoke a theatrical experience underpinned by ‘Shakespearean’ aesthetics. Over a series of artistic commissions from the 1840s to the 1920s, artists instrumentalised Shakespeare both explicitly and implicitly as part of the wider schemes within which they worked. Doing so, they visualised and even theatricalised the political and artistic aims of their commissioners and sought to project a unified sense of national history and contemporary aesthetic taste. The three case studies from within the Palace discussed here therefore offer a concentrated reception history of Shakespeare. This reading of the Palace’s visual arts thereby sharpens our understanding of Shakespeare’s developing roles in British national conception. It brings together print, theatrical, and art history with attention to architecture and design, as well as archival details, to offer an interdisciplinary analysis of Shakespeare’s role in constitutional expressions of British identity – not least during a major period of imperial activity and at the very seat of parliamentary power.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2023

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