Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Shakespeare for Revolution: From Canon to Activism in V for Vendetta and Sons of Anarchy

Maria Consuelo Forés Rossell


Shakespeare’s works have long been a place of cultural and political struggles, and continues to be so. Twenty-first century non-canonical fiction is appropriating Shakespeare for activist purposes. The present article will analyze this phenomenon, applying the concept of cultural capital, the theories of cultural materialism, intertextuality, and appropriation in relation to popular culture, in order to study how Shakespeare’s plays are being appropriated from more radically progressive positions, and resituated in alternative contexts. Among the plethora of Shakespearean adaptations of the last decades, non-canonical appropriations in particular offer brand new interpretations of previously assumed ideas about Shakespeare’s works, popularizing the playwright in unprecedented ambits and culturally diverse social spaces, while giving voice to the marginalized. Thus, through entertainment, non-canonical fiction products such as V for Vendetta and Sons of Anarchy recycle the Shakespearean legacy from a critical point of view, while using it as a political weapon for cultural activism, helping to make people aware of social inequalities and to inspire them to adopt a critical stance towards them, as free and equal citizens.


cultural activism; appropriation; cultural capital; non-canonical; Shakespeare

Full Text:

PDF Statistics


ALBANESE, Denise. 2010. Extramural Shakespeare. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

ALMEREYDA, Michael. 2000. Hamlet. Miramax Films.

APPIGNANESI, R., E. Vieceli. 2007. Manga Hamlet. London: Self Made Hero.

BOOSE, Lynda E., Richard Burt. 2006. "Introduction: Editor's Cut." In Boose and Burt 2006, 1-13.

BOOSE, Lynda E., Richard Burt, eds. 2006. Shakespeare, the Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, Video, and DVD. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.

BOURDIEU, Pierre. 1996. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. 8th edition. Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard UP.

BRANAGH, Kenneth. 1993. Much Ado About Nothing. Samuel Goldwyn Company.

BRANAGH, Kenneth . Hamlet. 1996. Sony Pictures Releasing.

BRANAGH, Kenneth . Henry V.1989. BBC Films.

BURNETT, Mark Thornton. 2019. 'Hamlet' and World Cinema. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

BURT, Richard. "Shakespeare, "Glo-cali-zation," Race, and the Small Screens of Post-Popular Culture." In Boose and Burt 2006, 14-36.

CALBI, Maurizio. 2013. Spectral Shakespeares: Media Adaptations in the Twenty-first Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

CARRION, Jorge. 2011. Teleshakespeare. Madrid: Errata Naturae.

CERTEAU, Mɪᴄʜᴇʟ ᴅᴇ. 1984. "Reading as Poaching." The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 165-176.

DESMET, Christy, Natalie Loper, and Jim Casey, eds. 2017. Shakespeare/Not Shakespeare. New York: Palgrave.

DOLLIMORE, Jonathan, and Alan Sinfield. 1994. "Foreword." In Dollimore and Sinfield 1994, vii-viii.

DOLLIMORE, Jonathan, and Alan Sinfield, eds. 1994. Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism. Manchester: Manchester UP.

FERNIE, Ewan. 2017. Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

FRIEDMAN, Michael D. 2010. "Shakespeare and the Catholic Revenger: V for Vendetta." Literature/Film Quarterly 38.2: 117-133.

GAIMAN, Neil. 1990. "Men of Good Fortune." Illus. Michael Zulli. The Sandman: The Doll's House. New York: DC Comics, 6.1-24.

GAIMAN, Neil. 1991. "A Midesummer Night's Dream." Illus. Charles Vess. The Sandman: Dream Country. New York: DC Comics, 3.1-24.

GAIMAN, Neil. 1996. "The Tempest." Illus. Charles Vess. The Sandman: The Wake. New York: DC Comics, 145-84.

GARBER, Marjorie. 2017. The Muses on Their Lunch Hour. New York: Fordham UP.

HULBERT, Jennifer, Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr. and Robert L. eds. 2006. Shakespeare and Youth Culture. New York: Palgrave.

HULBERT, Jennifer, Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr. and Robert L. 2006. ""Dude, Where's My Bard?" Reducing, Translating, and Referencing Shakespeare for Youth: An Introduction." In Hulbert, Wetmore, and Robert L. 2006, 1-41.

HUTCHEON, Linda. 2013 A theory of adaptation. New York: Routledge.

JOWETT, John, William Montgomery, Gary Taylor, and Stanley Wells, eds. 2016. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford UP.

KRISTEVA, Julia. 1984 Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Margaret Waller. New York: Columbia UP.

KRUPAT, Arnold. 2005. "The Concept of the Canon." From The Voice in the Margin (1989). In Morrissey 2005, 157-162.

LANIER, Douglas. 2002. Shakespeare and Modern Popular Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP.

LUHRMANN, Baz. 1996. William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. 20th Century Fox.

MᴄWɪʟʟɪᴀᴍs, Susan. December 15, 2016. "This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson." The Nation. [Accessed online on August 9, 2020].

MᴄTEIGUE, James and The Wachowskis. 2005. V for Vendetta. Warner Bros.

MOORE, Alan, and David Lloyd. 1988. V for Vendetta. New York: DC Comics.

O'NEILL, Stephen. 2018. Broadcast your Shakespeare: Continuity and Change Across Media. London: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.

OTT, Brian L. 2010. "The Visceral Politics of V for Vendetta: On Political Affect in Cinema." Critical Studies in Media Communication 27.1: 39-54.

RYAN, Kiernan. 2015. Shakespeare's Universality. Here's Fine Revolution. London: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.

SANDERS, Julie. 2015. Adaptation and Appropriation (The New Critical Idiom). London: Routledge.

SHAKESPEARE, William. 1995. Hamlet. Markus, Julia and Paul Jordan, eds. Essex: Longman Group Ltd.

SHAKESPEARE, William. 2012. King Henry VIII. Margeson, John, ed. The New Cambridge Shakespeare. Cambridge: CUP.

SHAKESPEARE, William. 1997. Macbeth. Carabine, Keith, ed. Wordsworth Classics. Herts, UK: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

SHAKESPEARE, William. 1998. The Poems and Sonnets of William Shakespeare. Wordsworth Poetry Library. Herts, UK: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

SHELLARD, Dominic and Shioban Keenan. 2016. Shakespeare's Cultural Capital: His Economic Impact from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-first Century. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

SUTTER, Kurt. 2008-2014. Sons of Anarchy. Series seasons 1-7. Twentieth Century Fox.

VAN SANT, Gus. 1991. My Own Private Idaho. Fine Line Features.

WILCOX, Fred M. 1956. Forbidden Planet. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.

WISE, Robert. 1961. West Side Story. United Artists.

ZEFFIRELLI, Franco. 1968. Romeo and Juliet. BHE Films.


Copyright (c) 2020 Maria Consuelo Forés Rossell

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.