Grimalkin and other Shakespearean Celts


  • Andrew Hadfield


This essay examines the representation of Ireland and Celtic culture within the British Isles in Shakespeare’s works. It argues that Shakespeare was interested in ideas of colonisation and savagery and based his perceptions on contemporary events, the history of the British Isles and important literary works such as William Baldwin’s prose fiction, Beware the Cat. His plays, notably The Comedy of Errors and Macbeth, represent Protestant England as an isolated culture surrounded by hostile Celtic forces which form a threatening shadowy state. The second part of the essay explores Shakespeare’s influence on Irish culture after his death, arguing that he was absorbed into Anglo-Irish culture and played a major role in establishing Ireland’s Anglophone literary identity. Shakespeare imported the culture of the British Isles into his works – and then, as his fame spread, his plays exported what he had understood back again, an important feature of Anglo-Irish literary identity, as many subsequent writers have understood.


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