Representations of Shakespeare's Humanity and Iconicity

Incidental Appropriations in Four British Television Broadcasts


  • Sarah Olive University of York and The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham


Television, Dr. Who, Incidental Appropriation


Since his lifetime, Shakespeare has been constructed as both an icon and a human, above and beyond most individuals, yet simultaneously one of us. Representations of Shakespeare on television are able to thrive on these seemingly contradictory attributes. Yet Shakespeare is not only credited with humanity and iconicity; he is also figured as bestowing these qualities on others. This article draws the evidence for continuing portrayals of Shakespeare's combined humanity and iconicity in the twenty-first century from four television programs: "The Shakespeare Code" episode of Dr. Who, "The Supersizers Go Elizabethan,""The Quality of Mercy" episode of Lewis, and the series Jamie's Dream School. More broadly, this article extends the work on television appropriations of Shakespeare by authors such as Peter Holland and Douglas Lanier and argues for the adoption of the new term "incidental appropriation" with which to discuss Shakespeare on television beyond adaptations of his plays or documentaries about his life.

Author Biography

  • Sarah Olive, University of York and The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

    Sarah Olive is a Lecturer in English in Education at the University of York and a Visiting Lecturer at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. She is the author of the forthcoming monograph, Shakespeare Valued: Policy, Pedagogy, and Popular Culture in Education, 1989-2009 (Bristol: Intellect). She is also the editor of the British Shakespeare Association cross-sector magazine for educators, Teaching Shakespeare. Her research interests cohere around the function of Shakespeare in modern popular culture, particularly television, and education.




How to Cite

Representations of Shakespeare’s Humanity and Iconicity: Incidental Appropriations in Four British Television Broadcasts. (2013). Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation, 8(1).