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The Veteran’s Body: Cry Havoc! and Recognising Disability in Shakespeare’s Histories

Kyle Pivetti

Pages 93 - 110



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

In his one-man show Cry Havoc! (2012), American war veteran Stephan Wolfert recounts the night he goes Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and stumbles into a 1991 local production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Wolfert links Richard’s physical disability to the veteran’s experience and he discovers how the veteran’s trauma is rendered shameful. This essay follows Wolfert’s implications to reveal how Shakespeare’s plays grapple with ‘disability’ and ‘disorder’ in the form of the veteran. Wolfert goes on to compare Shakespeare’s characters to Henry Lincoln Johnson, a Black American awarded the French Cross of War for service in WWI. Wolfert describes Johnson as the “American Coriolanus,” a violent and traumatised soldier who returns to a civilian life of segregation and tragedy. He represents the veteran upon whom the national vision depends while his shameful exile also serves to foster the collective. I argue that these veteran figures present a paradox: the veteran creates the nation through being shamed and denied by that nation.

Keywords: disability, trauma, veteran, history plays, race


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