Making Sense of Shakespeare: a Cultural Icon for Contemporary Audiences

Michael Olsson


The works of William Shakespeare are more popular in the 21st century than ever before, Why are theatre and audiences around the globe still drawn to his work? How do they make sense of these texts in ways that resonate with their cosmopolitan, contemporary audiences? This article uses the findings of a study interviewing 35 theatre professionals in Canada, Finland and the United Kingdom to explore these issues. Theoretically and methodologically, it is a bricollage, drawing on a range of approaches including Foucault’s discourse analysis, Hobsbawm’s invented traditions and Dervin’s Sense-Making to understand participants sense-making as an affective, embodied social practice. It argues that attempting to understand the significance of a major cultural icon such as Shakespeare in contemporary cosmopolitan civil society needs to recognise the many meanings, roles and significances that surround him and that this complexity makes it unlikely that any one theoretical lens will prove adequate on its own. DOI:

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