‘Somewhere in the world … Someone misquoted Shakespeare. i can sense it’: tom Hiddleston Performing the Shakespearean online




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title




Book chapter

Peer reviewed


A commonly used adjective to describe a certain type of actor or mode of performance, the concept of a ‘Shakespearean’ actor contains within it implicit value judgements of that actor/acting and often conjures popular associations relating to class, race and gender. A recent example of this phenomenon and its significance in demonstrating the body of the actor as a participant in Shakespeare’s continuing adaptive legacy, is the English star Tom Hiddleston. A former Etonian and student of Classics at the University of Cambridge, Hiddleston’s rapid ascent to stardom demonstrates the enduring international appeal of male, upper middle-class British actors. His case study confirms the renewed popularity of this model of performer with Hiddleston reflecting the same successful combination of mainstream recognition and critically-validated dramatic ‘weight’ that has distinguished the careers of Ian McKellen or peers such as Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch. As an actor who is persistently associated with the ‘Shakespearean’, Hiddleston’s movements between Hollywood blockbusters, adaptations, period drama or British theatre are therefore indicative of the intersections between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture that characterise Shakespeare’s contemporary cultural legacy.

Hiddleston’s performer identity presents further grounds for critical work, however. An active user of social media and participant in online culture, Hiddleston appears strikingly aware of the expectations of both his Shakespeareanism and the class-bound image of Englishness he presents to many. This is an image which has largely been confirmed in casting and by the press and his online performances simultaneously affirm these qualities – including cultural sophistication, gentility, profundity, savoir-faire and a romantic allure – and, at times, work to challenge them.

This chapter will thus explore some of the ways in which the actor’s ‘Shakespearean’ quality is expressed online through the performance of his social media avatar and by fans through memes. In doing so it will invoke and question what implicit class and racial ideologies are bound up in and broadcast through the loose but persistent cultural attribution of particular texts, modes or individuals as ‘Shakespearean’. Finally, the chapter will take the example of Hiddleston’s online persona as an opportunity to address the potential (in)compatibility between the conservative values often associated with Shakespeare within popular culture and the playwright’s continuing mainstream prominence.



Shakespeare, Adaptation, Actors, Social media, Memes


Blackwell, A. (2017) ‘Somewhere in the world … Someone misquoted Shakespeare. i can sense it’: Tom Hiddleston Performing the Shakespearean online. In: Stephen O'Neill Broadcast Your Shakespeare: Continuity and Change Across Media. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 227-246


Research Institute

Institute of English