The Military Theatre: Drafting Shakespeare

Roundtable Discussion

Shakespeare Association of America Annual Conference

Philadelphia, April 13, 2006

Panel organized by Scott Newstok
website by Steven Marx


What role does Shakespeare play in the contemporary military?

Shakespeare’s works are deployed widely in many extra-academic scenarios, whether by private consultants, government officials, or non-profit organizations. For instance, Henry V is being distributed to troops in the Middle East through a new “Armed Services Edition,” and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival recently concluded a tour of Macbeth to U. S. bases (co-sponsored by the NEA and the DOD). We need not go so far as one Naval War College Professor did (in recommending that Arabic translations of Henry’s Harfleur threat be “dropped on Baghdad, Basra, and especially Tikrit” in 2002) in order to contemplate the complex implications of this conjunction.

This roundtable discussion brought together a wide range of speakers, both from within and without the Shakespeare Association of America. Together, they have:

  • led workshops on Shakespeare for top military officials (Kenneth Adelman);
  • contemplated Shakespeare in the context of humanist theories of warfare (Steven Marx);
  • applied Shakespeare’s Henry V as a case study for the ethics classroom in the U.S. Army War College(David Perry);
  • addressed Shakespearean militarism from a late Tudor perspective (Nina Taunton);
  • directed a production of Macbeth for military bases (Kent Thompson);
  • written a famous article on comparisons of George Bush with Henry V (Scott Newstok)

Brief opening remarks and later reflections written by panelists:

Pictures of the Panel Discussion

Post Script: