Nicholas Taylor-Collins
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Remembering memory
in Shakespeare, memory, and modern Irish literature
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The Introduction charts the parallel concerns with memory evident in early modern England, revolution-era Ireland, and twenty-first-century Ireland. In each case, memory emerges as a cultural practice that is not limited to itself. In Renaissance England, for instance, the art of memory is on the wane, but finds its last staging post in the early modern theatre – in particular (in the case of Robert Fludd) in Shakespeare’s proprietary Globe theatre. There is also evidence that characters such as Hamlet are disciples of humanist memory theorists such as Petrus Ramus. In early twentieth-century Ireland, the theatrical also offered a way of serving up memory to Irish citizens. Whether through the national theatre at the Abbey, or through the ‘performance’ of the Easter Rising (notwithstanding its tragedies), Irish revolutionaries recognised the dual power of memory and of theatre to cohere a singular sense of Irishness in rejection of British colonialism. Not coincidentally, much of the rhetoric on the topic – as on Irish nationalism generally – built on (and remembered) Shakespeare’s revolutionary potential. Finally, the focus on commemoration in the Decade of Centenaries (1913–23) also builds on the theatrical. The 2016 ‘re-enactment’ of Pádraic Pearse’s declaration of the Irish Free State by Capt Kelleher of the Irish Army expanded and glorified – ‘dismemorialised’ – what was originally a drab affair. Coinciding with Shakespeare’s quatercentenary, it becomes clear that ‘Irish cultural memory’ (Frawley, 2011) is bound up with Shakespeare’s own memorial practice, thus establishing the premise for the case studies that follow.

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