The Merry Wives of Moscow: Komisarjevsky, Shakespeare, and Russophobia in the British Theatre

Burt, Philippa. 2016. The Merry Wives of Moscow: Komisarjevsky, Shakespeare, and Russophobia in the British Theatre. New Theatre Quarterly, 32(4), pp. 375-390. ISSN 0266-464X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Theodore Komisarjevsky was a prominent figure in the inter-war British theatre until his migration to North America in 1936. While recent studies have foregrounded the various artistic factors that influenced his work and his eventual departure, little attention has been placed on the sociopolitical issues. Most notably, there has been no serious consideration of the impact that his nationality had on the opportunities that were available to him. This article examines Komisarjevsky’s work in relation to the growing nationalistic and Russophobic attitudes in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. It focuses particularly on his series of productions at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and shows the subsequent critical outrage to be rooted in a desire to protect Shakespeare and, by extension, Britain as a whole from the ‘interference’ of a Russian director.

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Identification Number (DOI):


inter-war theatre, anti-alienism, xenophobia, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Antony and Cleopatra, cultural ownership, émigrés

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


5 May 2016Accepted
14 October 2016Published Online
1 November 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2017 17:40

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2021 10:04

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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