We [re]enacted Hamlet on the stage.

In the context of performance, I've only ever heard 'reenact' used. However, dictionary.com lists the above example with 'enact'. Are they both correct? Is it just a regional difference?

I'm from Canada, so my guess is that American English uses 'reenact' where UK English uses 'enact'.

EDIT - I looked at a few more examples. It's possible that 'reenact' is used only for events that actually happened (e.g. civil war battle, events of the day), and 'enact' is used for performances. I've still only only heard 'enact' in a legal context, and 'reenact' used to refer to performances, but the latter might have just been an incorrect usage.

1 Answer 1


I think (and M-W seems to bear me out) that even here on Turtle Island the “re-” only enters the picture when a government passes a law, repeals it, and then passes it again, or when people dress up and pretend to fight historical battles. I cannot recall ever to have heard or seen “reenact” used of a drama for the stage, just “enact”—or, more often and economically, “act,” as in “a new play to be acted by the Lord Chamberlain’s men.” The page you link to does not actually show “reenact” with Hamlet as its object. Can you find examples of that usage?

  • I think I made a mistake. Marking this as the correct answer, but to add to it: it looks like 'reenact' is not only for historical battles, but more generally events that actually occurred. 'Enact' should be used for performances of fictional events.
    – Voriki
    May 26, 2014 at 14:29
  • History is rewritten by the playwrights. May 26, 2014 at 14:56

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