Five Things to Know about Global Shakespeare

AArden Handbookdaptations of the classics not only creates channels between geographic spaces but also connects different time periods. Performing Shakespeare in different languages opens up new pathways to some often glossed over textual cruxes in Anglophone traditions.

Take, The Tempest, for example. What exactly do Prospero and Miranda teach Caliban? The word “language” is ambiguous in act 1 scene 2 (Caliban: “You taught me language …”). It is often taken to mean his master’s language (a symbol of oppression). But it can also mean rhetoric and political speech writing, a new tool for him to change the world order. One way to excavate the different layers of meanings within the play and in performances is to compare different stage and film versions from different parts of the world. Caliban’s word, “language,” is translated by Christoph Martin Wieland as redden, or “speech” in German. In Japanese, it is rendered as “human language”, as opposed to languages of the animal or computer language.

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Soviet Shakespeares

The Shakespearean International Yearbook 18In Stalinist Russia, just a few years before the Great Purges, Maxim Gorkii encouraged USSR writers during an All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934 to emulate Shakespeare as a model of socialist realism. This is only one of the better-known landmarks of Shakespeare’s afterlife in the Soviet cultural sphere. While there were ideologically homogeneous approaches to Shakespeare, there were also debates about the value of Shakespeare after the First World War.

Due to Karl Marx’s frequent references in his political treatises, Shakespeare held a significant place in a number of communist and other left-authoritarian countries, including China and the USSR. And although there were themes in Shakespeare that turned out to be inconvenient for communist ideology, other Shakespearean plays were put into service. In Part I of this volume of the Yearbook, the special section of chapters explores the vicissitudes of artistic and political uses of Shakespeare in Soviet culture and ideology after the October Revolution in 1917, including in some of the continuing resonances of those uses since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And while the real and perceived resistance to prevailing ideologies of Soviet directors has tended to capture recent critical attention, there is a wide range of Soviet and post-Soviet interpretations of Shakespeare.

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Hamlet and a Stuttering King

The King’s Speech (dir. Tom Hooper, 2010) and The Theory of Everything (dir. James Marsh, 2015) deal with figures that suffer from speech impairment.  Lines from Shakespeare play an important role in scenes about speech therapy in The King’s Speech.

Having worked with multiple therapists without any result, Bertie (Prince Albert, Duke of York, later King George VI), a stutterer, is reluctant to receive treatment from Lionel Logue. In their first session, Logue bets Bertie a shilling that he can in fact read without stammer right away, and he would record his speech as evidence. Logue puts headphones on Bertie and asks him to read Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech into a Silvertone Home Voice Recorder. Continue reading

Race and the Epistemologies of Otherness

Excerpted from chapter 5 of Race by Martin Orkin and Alexa Alice Joubin. New Critical idiom Sereis. London: Routledge, 2019, pp. 193-227. Full text available online

When confronted with the unknown, many societies tend to transfer observations of unfamiliar phenomena onto their mental map of what is already known. Race as a category is entangled with empirical knowledge, misinformation, and ideology, all of which seek to justify and sustain particular beliefs. Knowledge about otherness is socially constructed. Knowledge of race results from taxonomical observations made for colonial, medical, bureaucratic, or other purposes such as political movements. Continue reading

Hamlet in Bollywood

“My angel!” A woman’s voice is heard outside a hut in the snow in Kashmir in 1995, a landscape devoid of colors other than mostly black, white, and deep blue. Ghazala’s son, Haider, a lone fighter, is hiding inside the severely damaged hut. Having sustained gun-shot wounds, he is surrounded by the soldiers led by his uncle Khurram who plans to kill him with a shoulder-launch rocket, but Ghazala, caught in between her lover and her son who is intent on avenging his father’s death, convinces Khurram to give her one last chance to persuade Haider to give up his revenge plan and surrender. Soft spoken, Ghazala may not appear to be a particularly strong woman at first glance, but she is taking on the active role of a liaison, negotiator, and now a game changer.

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