Barker, Euripides and the War Effort in North America

Burt, Philippa. 2017. 'Barker, Euripides and the War Effort in North America'. In: Dramaturgies of War: Institutional Dramaturgy, Politics and Conflict in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. University of Glasgow/Goethe-Institut Glasgow, United Kingdom 25 – 26 January 2018. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

When the outbreak of the First World War put paid to his theatre experiments in Britain, Harley Granville Barker found himself invited to stage a season of work at the Wallack’s Theatre in New York. It was an invitation that then Prime Minister H. H. Asquith urged him to accept, believing that it would serve to further strengthen the ties between the two countries and to build support for Britain’s efforts in the war. While the season was an artistic and commercial success, it was Barker’s impromptu decision to extend his stay and tour the tragedies of Euripides to major colleges on the east coast that saw him realise Asquith’s goal. Through close examination of these productions and the discourse that surrounded them, this paper details how Barker used Euripides as a tool for propaganda through which to engage and educate the largely isolationist and non-interventionist North American public. His choice of plays – Iphigenia in Tauris and The Trojan Women – was calculated, allowing him to draw direct parallels between Ancient Greece and contemporary Europe. Of further significance was his decision to stage the productions in the open-air stadia of such colleges as Yale and Harvard. Not only did this give Barker more freedom and space in which to experiment, but it also brought an average audience of between 5-8,000 people comprising a range of ages and professions. The productions thus became huge community events, bringing together different sections of society to experience the spectacle as a unified group. In these events, Barker brought new meaning and a new resonance to Euripides’s words, using them to lay before the audience the horrid reality of the war taking place across the Atlantic and calling on them to intervene.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


18 October 2017Accepted
26 January 2018Completed

Event Location:

University of Glasgow/Goethe-Institut Glasgow, United Kingdom

Date range:

25 – 26 January 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Feb 2018 16:57

Last Modified:

08 May 2018 14:09


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