Uncivil and unruly Englishness: mythologies of England recast in the work of Jez Butterworth and Angela Carter

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Written eighteen years apart Jez Butterworth's play Jerusalem (2009) and Angela Carter's final novel Wise Children (1991) both attempt to recreate a sense of Englishness for the marginalized ‘under-class’ of post-imperial England without falling prey to nationalist interpretations. The two texts present raucous, vulgar protagonists who force an alternative rebellious form of proudly proletarian English identity into being. Where Carter’s work is seen against the post-war backdrop of industrial decline, Butterworth’s work is connected to a renewed interest in vernacular rural English culture.
The action of both texts take place on one day, 23 April, making use of the fact that the day of national celebration, St George's Day, coincides with that of Shakespeare's birthday. Both texts, in fact, reclaim the mainstays of English national identity, Shakespeare and the myth of St George and recast them with characters who revel in the enactment of their anti-establishment identities.
This paper will argue that the purposefully unruly behavior of the protagonists of these texts continue the tradition of incivility as a form of social resistance in England, allowing the creation and assertion of an alternative Englishness that emanates from the margins and sees its roots in Shakespearean bawdiness and England’s pagan past.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Identities
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 28 Jul 2023


  • Butterworth
  • Carter
  • Englishness
  • folklore
  • underclass

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