Shakespeare, authenticity and intangible heritage

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper uses the case of Shakespeare to explore and enlarge the concept of ‘intangible heritage’. It demonstrates that it is not simply cultural events like performances, festivals and rituals that are intangible, as suggested in UNESCO’s definition of intangible heritage. Instead, all heritage is intangible, because heritage is not inherent in an object or experience, but in the words we use to value that object or experience; heritage is language. Thus what is intangible about ‘Shakespeare’ is not simply the performance of his plays, but the ideas and value judgements about him that circulate in culture every day. The paper suggests how this intangible language informs the way that Shakespeare is performed and received. It explores the implications of this expanded definition of ‘intangible heritage’ for Shakespearean theatres and audiences, and finally asks how, if everybody’s responses to Shakespeare equally constitute part of his intangible heritage, we might ever go about capturing them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCapturing the Essence of Performance
Subtitle of host publicationThe Challenges of Intangible Heritage
EditorsNicole Leclerq, Laurent Rossion, Alan R. Jones
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherPeter Lang
Number of pages430
ISBN (Print)978-90-5201-637-5
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Shakespeare
  • heritage
  • Globe Theatre
  • authenticity
  • cultural value


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