‘Home, Sweet Home’: Stratford-upon-Avon and the Making of the Royal Shakespeare Company as a National Institution

  • Colin Chambers


Based in the town of Shakespeare’s birth, itself in the heart of England, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) cannot avoid being cast in the role of the nation’s Pythian serpent, guardian of the Bard’s flame and anointed declarer of prophetic utterance. The RSC has welcomed and exploited this destiny but knows there is also a damaging price to pay. The Company nurses a peculiar double burden of privilege and responsibility that reflects the contradictory position it finds itself in: it is nationally subsidized, with a local, national and international audience, presenting in Britain and abroad the works of the supreme icon of national as well as international writing in ways that aim both to honour authoritatively the truths of texts that are four centuries old, and at the same time to ind meanings in them that resonate for its diverse audiences today. Like the playwright whose name the company bears, the RSC has to be both particular and general in appeal; it has to be ‘authentic’ and represent continuity, yet continually be new and embody change, if it is not to die.


Public Subsidy National Theatre Artistic Director World Theatre Theatre Company 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Select Bibliography

  1. Addenbrooke, David, The Royal Shakespeare Company: The Peter Hall Years, London, William Kimber, 1974.Google Scholar
  2. Beauman, Sally, The Royal Shakespeare Company: A History of Ten Decades, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982.Google Scholar
  3. Chambers, Colin, Other Spaces: New Theatre and the RSC, London, Eyre Methuen, 1980.Google Scholar
  4. Dollimore, Jonathan and Sinfield, Alan (eds), Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  5. Drakakis, John (ed.), Alternative Shakespeares, London, Methuen, 1985.Google Scholar
  6. Fay, Stephen, Power Play: The Life and Times of Peter Hall, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1996.Google Scholar
  7. Goodwin, John (ed.), Peter Hall’s Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1983.Google Scholar
  8. Hall, Peter, Making an Exhibition of Myself, London, Sinclair-Stevens, 1993.Google Scholar
  9. Hawkes, Terence, That Shakespearean Rag: Essays on a Critical Process, London, Methuen, 1986.Google Scholar
  10. Holderness, Graham (ed.), The Shakespeare Myth, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  11. Joughin, John (ed.), Shakespeare and National Culture, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  12. Shaughnessy, Robert, Representing Shakespeare: England, History and the RSC, Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994.Google Scholar

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Peter Hall, quoted in David Addenbrooke, The Royal Shakespeare Company: The Peter Hall Years (London: William Kimber, 1974), p. 66.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Illustrated Programme of the World Theatre Season, Aldwych Theatre, March 1964.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Foreword to Judith Cook, At the Sign of the Swan (London: Harrap), p. 9.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    John Goodwin (ed.), Peter Hall’s Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1983), p. 209.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chairman’s Report, RSC Annual Report: 121st Report of the Council 1996/97.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Illustrated Programme of the World Theatre Season.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Quoted in Stephen Fay, Power Play: The Life and Times of Peter Hall (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996), p. 187.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Goodwin (ed.), Peter Hall’s Diaries, p. 222.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The Times, 5 December 1972.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Addenbrooke, The Royal Shakespeare Company, p. 66.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Actor Hugh Quarshie, who played Antony in Hall’s 1995 Stratford production of Julius Caesar, used this description, quoted in Peter Holland, English Shakespeares (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 4–5. In an interview with the author of this chapter (20 March 1998, unpublished), Hall volunteered this label himself.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Addenbrooke, The Royal Shakespeare Company, p. 227; and Sally Beauman, The Royal Shakespeare Company: A History of Ten Decades (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 267.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Peter Hall, Making an Exhibition of Myself (London: Sinclair-Stevens, 1993), pp. 76–7.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Nahum Tate (1652–1715), playwright and poet whose adaptations included King Lear with a happy ending; Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825) published an expurgated ‘Family Shakespeare’, hence to ‘bowdlerize’; David Garrick (1717–79), Henry Irving (1838–1905), Donald Wolfit (1902–68) and Laurence Olivier (1907–89), leading Shakespearean actors.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Quoted in The Independent, 2 February 1993.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Colin Chambers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Chambers

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations