This broadside was published in 1803 by Rudolph Ackerman (1764-1834), and parodies Hamlet’s soliloquy To Be or Not to Be. Napoleon is depicted as a greedy and avaricious character who spies the ‘sacred faith, and general happiness’ across the channel with an envious eye as he ponders when to launch his assault on the British people.
Between 1803 and 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte formed his ‘Army of England’: a formidable force of 200,000 soldiers and sailors garrisoned in channel ports in readiness for a potential invasion of England. The French encampments at Calais, Boulogne and various other coastal towns were the cause of much consternation in the British government, countered by the mobilisation of some 400,000 civil volunteers and the construction of fortified defences up and down the English coastline. Although Napoleonic forces were distracted by continental warfare commitments, the threat of invasion by French troops remained a very real possibility, which only finally dissipated in 1812 following Napoleon’s disastrous defeat in Russia.