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International Responses to Shakespeare

in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Collections

My project, entitled ‘International Responses to Shakespeare in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Collections’, is the first scholarly study of the Trust’s (SBT’s) international collection items.

My research seeks to understand the cultural impact of Shakespeare across a range of cultures, and asks how Shakespeare is appropriated in different countries, what is the role of cultural imperialism and/or British soft power, and what does it mean to describe Shakespeare as global, or international? 

My work explores what we think we mean when we refer to Shakespeare as a national poet and a political force within any given sense of nationality or nationhood. I am seeking to understand how items that have been given to the Trust attempt to curate a specific identity (national or otherwise) or insist upon a relationship between the donor of the object and the Trust. The ways in which the cultural authority of the Trust has been portrayed, and acted upon, in an international, diplomatic, and imperial [colonial?] sense is a vital thread that runs through the study.

With chapters that focus on Germany, the US, India, and China, my Ph.D. thesis explores the cultural importance and potential impact of the SBT’s international collection, critiquing the SBT’s official self-identity, aims, and collecting policy, in order to ask how does it, and how could it, contribute to discourses on representation and inclusion, nationalism, and notions of the global in Shakespeare and culture.

Helen Hopkins with a German wreath
Helen Hopkins with the German Wreath

This oak-leaf wreath was presented at the 1864 Tercentenary of Shakespeare’s birth, as a gift from the birthplace of Germany’s national poet, Goethe. It reveals the role of Shakespeare in German unification in 1871 and sparked a tradition of exchanging wreaths that has been broken only by the World Wars. 

19th century ceramic bowl
19th century ceramic bowl

Part of the Harvard House collections, this bowl illuminates the workings of imperialism, through culture (Shakespeare) and industry (ceramics), which propped up the British Empire even after colonies gained independence.

Bust of Tagore
Bust of Rabindranath Tagore

A gift from India for the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, this bust reveals the desire for representation for India’s national poet at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and prompts questions about the legacies of imperialism to today.


I am writing my Ph.D. with Birmingham City University, and my co-supervisors are Islan Issa (BCU) and Paul Edmondson (SBT).

Helen A. Hopkins
Ph.D. candidate
Birmingham City University

Shakespeare’s Birthplace is currently closed