Shakespeare at the Español: Franco and the Construction of a "National" Culture
The paper, which is part of a wide-ranging project concerned with the reception of Shakespeare in Spain, focuses on the early stages of the Franco dictatorship (the 1940s) and the place Shakespeare’s plays occupied in the repertoire of Spain’s chief ‘national’ playhouse, the Teatro del Español. It is particularly interested in the way the productions of the plays (commencing with Hans Rothe’s adaptation of the Merry Wives in 1941 and concluding with Hamlet in 1949), while fulfilling the Español’s professed aim of offering quality performances of classical drama to a culturallydeprived public, were recruited for the regime’s broader purpose of promoting a new national consciousness. The 1942 production of Macbeth (revived a year later) is symptomatic. Hailed some three weeks before the premiere as the cultural event of the year and as an instance of what the ‘new Spain [was] theatrically capable of’, the production was ranked by critics close to the regime as a triumph of both Spanish theatrical know-how and, more generally, of Franco’s policy in a period of complete economic and cultural autarchy. As well as discussing contemporary responses to the production, the paper will consider the irony of both these positions.