Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

MIT Global Shakespeares and Taiwan Shakespeare Database at SAA

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Pictured: Hsiang Jieh, director of NTU’s Research Center for Digital Humanities; Peter S. Donaldson, director of the MIT Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive; Bi-qi Beatrice Lei, associate professor of English at NTU.

MIT Global Shakespeares and the Taiwan Shakespeare Database have begun a formal collaboration which the two projects will share videos, coordinate interface and technical design.

The Taiwan Shakespeare Database is directed by Beatrice Lei in collaboration with the Research Center for Digital Humanities, NTU. We hope that this alliance will be a model for how digital Shakespeare collections can share materials and enhance their use in research and education throughout the world.

Both projects will be making presentations in the Digital Room at the Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Association America in St. Louis at 12-1:30 and 3:00-6:00 on Thursday, April 10.

The MIT presentation will also introduce Global Hamlet in Performance, an online educational module. Presenters will include Peter Donaldson, Diana Henderson, Shankar Raman and Emily Griffiths Jones.


Regional editor Cris Busato Smith to speak about Macbeth at conference in Arizona

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Dr. Cristiane Busato Smith, Global Shakespeares regional editor for Brazil, will chair a session on Friday, February 07, 2014 on Shakespeare and the Catastrophic at the 20th Annual ACMRS Conference, Arizona State University. She will also be presenting a paper entitled “Macbeth: Visions of Apocalypse Now and Then” on Saturday, February 08, 2014.


“Macbeth: Visions of Apocalypse Now and Then”
Cristiane Busato Smith
MIT Global Shakespeares / Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Images of the apocalypse have always populated the imaginary landscape of mankind. For thousands of years, images and narratives reenact the classic eschatological pattern of crisis, judgment, and salvation to make sense of the world and renegotiate chaos and disorder. Shakespeare’s tragedies offer poignant examples of destruction, sterility and cosmic cataclysm. Macbeth, in particular, provides an interesting platform for the apocalyptic hermeneutics with its images of destruction and chaos brought by the vulnerable moment of rise and fall of a tyrant governor. One of the elements that renders Macbeth noteworthy in this context is that not only do images of curse and disaster contaminate the play’s stage history but they also invade events in the public sphere, crossing boundaries of time and cultures. This is the case of two Brazilian stage adaptations, Ulysses Cruz’s Macbeth (1992) and Arnaldo Antunes’ Trono de Sangue (1992), which capture and prefigure the bleak political Zeitgeist of 1992 Brazil. Resembling a cultural wasteland after its twenty-one-year military regime (1964-1985), Brazil was now struggling with the scandalous political scenario of rampant corruption, spiraling inflation and escalating violence, which culminated with the impeachment of President Collor de Mello, himself a Macbeth of sorts. This paper analyzes some of the significant interpolations that simultaneously incorporate and resignify Macbeth’s images of the apocalypse within the disturbing reality of the time.


The Taming of the Shrew, Korean Adaptation by Hyon-u Lee comes to MIT

Friday, September 20th, 2013


Hyon-u Lee, Shakespeare scholar, translator, director, performer, and professor at Soon Chun Hyang University, is bringing a troupe to MIT to perform The Taming of the Shrew on October 1, 2013.

In this adaptation, Kate is a hip-hop girl, and Petruchio is a Confucianist. This production comments on the harmony between East and West, old and new, patriarchy and feminism.

The actors have performed this play with great success in Seoul, Tokyo & Nagoya, Edinburgh, Singapore, New York, and now will be performing in Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The performance will run for one hour, after which the audience is invited to have some traditional Korean snacks and converse with the actors and theater troupe.

Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Time: 8 pm
Place: MIT Killian Hall
Tickets: FREE

Shakespeare in Latin America

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

First broadcast as The Essay for BBC Radio 3.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus hoisted the Spanish flag on the island in the Atlantic Ocean which he called “San Salvador”. In 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral landed at the bay he called “Bahia de Todos os Santos”, in an unknown country later named Brazil, where he placed the Portuguese flag. When these two seamen took possession of the new found lands, William Shakespeare had not yet been born. But years later the English playwright’s voice would resound in a prophetic speech: “How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in places unborn and accents yet unknown?”

After three hundred years Shakespeare’s work appeared for the first time in Latin America. In Argentina, between 1822 and 1830, the actor Francisco Cárceres played Othello. Between 1839 and 1852, other plays appeared in Buenos Aires, in modified translations.

In Brazil, the first translation of a whole play by Shakespeare appeared in 1842, from the  French adaptation by Jean-François Ducis. Othello seems to have been the play generally preferred in the translations and productions of that time. The Italian actors Ernesto Rossi and Tommaso Salvini, and a few other European companies touring in South America brought their romantically performed Shakespeare to upper class audiences.

Adaptations by native authors started being made then. In Brazil, the renowned romantic poet Gonçalves Dias wrote Leonor de Mendonça, published in 1868. In his play, Dias recreated Shakespeare’s Othello though saying it was based on a true story he had found in the Portuguese chronicles of 1512. Nevertheless, in the preface to the published text of Leonor de Mendonça, he says he was inspired by the English playwright. It is a play with liberating ideas about women’s freedom in a macho man society. As the Duke’s complexion is white, there is no concern for the Eurocentric view of the other found in Shakespeare. And Iago is omitted.

A few plays were then translated in other Latin American countries. Perhaps the most important work of translation, due to its comprehensiveness, was Dramas de Guillermo Shakspeare,  by the Peruvian  José Arnaldo Márquez , in two volumes, first  published in Barcelona, but later on in Argentina, Mexico and Peru.

At the end of the 19th century Shakespeare’s presence in Latin American arts began to find new paths, when the adapters were more aware of the differences and similarities in the cultures appropriating him, and of the possibilities to expand it. That seems to be what the Mexican Manuel Pérez Bibbins and Francisco López Carvajal did, in 1886, in their Hamlet, arreglo a la escena espanõla del célèbre drama tragico de William Shakespeare. It had cuts of scenes and characters – Fortinbras and the first scene in act 1, for instance, are omitted. The play ends with only Polonius, Hamlet and Claudius being killed. And it is Horatio who kills the king, not Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s influence reached other arts, especially prose works. The Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis started by quoting him in short essays on topical subjects published in newspapers, and in short-stories. He gradually increased his loans from Shakespeare, until he transmuted him in his major novels. Shakespeare’s presence in Quincas Borba, published in 1891, is unquestionable. But Machado’s  greatest “mirror up to the Bard” is  Dom Casmurro, published in 1899.

There was a shift of focus with the modernist ideals of national identity. At first, Caliban occupied the position of the voracious oppressor. The young Nicaraguan nationalist, poet and journalist Rubén Darío, after having visited New York in 1893, would equate Caliban with North Americans. To him, New York was the land where “Caliban soaks up whiskey as he soaked up wine in Shakespeare’s play”.

With The Tempest as source of inspiration for nationalistic ideals in Latin America, Caliban became the capitalist oppressor and Ariel the representative of the virtuous oppressed. This symbolic opposition had its impact in 1900 through Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó’s essay Ariel.

Rodó sees Prospero as a wise teacher surrounded by his young followers whom he guides in their intellectual search for elevated life; and Caliban, as a rude, destructive materialist embodying North American civilization. Rodó says: “Ariel is this sublime instinct of perfectibility through whose virtue he is converted into the centre of things. [….] Triumphant Ariel means idealism and order in life, noble inspiration in thinking, disinterested morals, refinement in art. […….] Subdued a thousand times by Caliban’s unconquerable rebelliousness, proscribed by conquering savagery, asphyxiated in the fumes of battles, his transparent wings being stained as he touches Job’s everlasting garbage, Ariel resurrects even more immortal, Ariel recovers his youth and his beauty and nimbly assists all those who really love and invoke him, as he used to do with Prospero.”[i]

Rodó’s symbolism pervaded  socio-political and literary thinking until the first half of the 20th century. When the United States endeavoured to impose their interests in Central and South America, new Latin American voices saw in Caliban the legitimate representative of the oppressed and exploited colonized people in their continent. And “Caliban, the Latin American,” was born. In 1969, on the Caribbean islands, there appeared three different reconstructions of that play: Martinican Aimé Césaire’s La Tempête; Barbadian Edward Braithwaite’s Islands, a collection of poems that has a poem entitled “Caliban”; and Cuban Roberto Fernández Retamar, whose book Caliban: Apuntes sobre la cultura en nuestra America was published in 1971.

Retamar’s Caliban became the symbol for the Latin American peoples oppressed by North American power. He was then transformed into the hybrid representative of Latin Americans, the “mestizo: “Our symbol”, Retamar said, “is not Ariel, as Rodó thought, but Caliban. This becomes particularly clear to us, mestizos who inhabit the same islands where Caliban lived: Prospero invaded the islands, killed our ancestors, turned Caliban into a slave and taught him his language so that he could communicate with him. What else can Caliban do but use this same language – as there is no other nowadays – to curse Prospero, to wish that the red plague devoured him? I do not know any better metaphor for our cultural situation, for our reality.”

In 1979, during the military dictatorship, the Brazilian thinker, actor and theatre director Augusto Boal, exiled in Lisbon, wrote A Tempestade (The Tempest). Boal conflated his theories on theatre and his view of the Latin American plight, and offered a new reading of Shakespeare’s text.  In it Prospero portrays North America; the other noblemen, Europe; Ariel, the submissive intellectual serving the oppressor; and Caliban, Latin America. Politically subversive, Boal also transgresses the canon, by means of a simple dramatic structure with his Manichean strategy of good/Caliban/oppressed versus evil/Prospero/oppressor. Such simplification, plus the use of fourteen songs that serve as a choric element explaining situations, characters’ behaviour, and ironically commenting upon the dialogue, subverts Shakespeare’s text. As he said in the epigraph to the play,”it must be made clear, very clear that we are beautiful because we are ourselves, and no imposed culture is more beautiful than ours. [….]It must be made clear that we are Caliban.”

In the forties, when Latin America was beginning to find its own image, the United States ruled over the contemporary mass media market and Hollywood was the centre of interest of actors, directors and audience. Shakespeare, the great icon of culture, became a target of capitalist cinematic productions. It was then that two appropriations of Romeo and Juliet appeared as parodies of the canon and of the Hollywood film enterprise: the Mexican 1943 Romeo y Julieta, and the 1949 Brazilian Carnaval no Fogo  with its anthological parody of the two balcony scenes in Shakespeare’s text.

Romeo y Julieta was written by Jaime Salvador and directed by Miguel M. Delgado for the comedian Mario Moreno, better known as Cantinflas. Cantinflas’s art developed in the tradition of a Mexican lively performance called carpa that did not work well on the screen. This Romeo and Juliet, a blatant parody of both Shakespeare’s play and George Cukor’s 1939 film, focuses more on the actor/carpero than on the appropriation of the canonical text.

The 1949 Brazilian parody, just a short intervention on the film directed by Watson Macedo, was played by two well known comic actors, Oscarito and Grande Otelo. With Grande Otelo, a male negro actor, playing Juliet, the scene was from the start based on the carnivalesque “world-upside-down” of parody in which travesty has a strong appeal. The dialogue between the two “lovers” transmutes Shakespeare’s language when it uses imagery from the source text simultaneous with verbal puns accessible to Brazilian audiences. This scene in a popular entertainment caters for the “mob” while subverting the ideals and presumptions of the upper class, and strongly ridiculing Holywood through its hints at American films then well known in Brazil.

From the four last decades of the 20th century onwards Shakespeare’s work has flourished in complete freedom in Latin America, now more than ever crossing boundaries, geographically, artistically, and in different media.

In literature, the 20th century saw Shakespeare mainly through the eyes of two renowned writers: Chilean Pablo Neruda, with his translation of Romeo and Juliet, in 1964. And the Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges with various recreations of themes and ideas, such as his  tales Everything and Nothing and La Memoria de Shakespeare, and  his   poem The Thing I Am.   

Neruda’s translation, a beautiful poetical construct, is practically turned into another text, as political ideology and aesthetic constraints induced him to omit various passages and avoid puns and bawdy language. He conceded that he had been constrained by the need to render Shakespeare’s text into an understandable poetical drama in Spanish, when he said: “Preserving poetry was the hardest part. […] I had to tackle one all-encompassing, definitive problem: the poetry’s comprehension and survival. That was the major problem, and this is the question I essentially tried to resolve: how to preserve Shakespeare’s poetic expression while making the tragedy comprehensible for everyone.”[ii]

Borges used to liken himself to Shakespeare’s liar Parolles and Shakespeare to God, in creative power. He saw such real life in the playwright’s characters that to him Shakespeare the man becomes nothing. In Everything and Nothing, for instance, Shakespeare asks God to let him “be one and myself”, but is denied his request, as God defines his role as creator: “Like me, you are many and no one”[iii]

Among 20th century recreations some are noteworthy for their innovative assimilation of Shakespeare’s plays. In Argentina, Richard III has launched adaptations related to strong regimes. Some of these are Marcelo Arbach’s and Franco Cuello’s 2009 production that set the play in the 40’s, during the deposition of Peron’s government; Guillermo Asensio’s, 2007/2008 multimedia Richard III in which the tyrant  used a remote control to choose which scenes the audience would see on a big plasma screen. And Laura Silva, in 2006, adapted and directed a version of the same play with clowns as characters highlighting the evil inherent in tyranny.

In 2001, Rubén Pires directed El Romance del Romeo y la Julieta (The Romeo and Juliet Ballad). This new version had one hundred and fifty tango songs that told the story of Romeo and Juliet making practically no change in the source plot. Tango, then, with its rhythm representative of the country, creates a cultural bridge between two different places and long distanced times.

Before this production in Argentina, and also using regional music as a complementary device, in 1992 Gabriel Vilela directed Grupo Galpão, in Brazil, in their Romeo and Juliet, winner of some international awards. In this adaptation for street theatre, music accompanied Shakespeare’s words interspersed with speeches in the style of the Brazilian novelist Guimarães Rosa.

In Colombia, the Teatro Libre de Bogotá, founded in 1973 by a group of young actors and under the guidance of Ricardo Camacho, offered some rich productions based on Shakespeare. Politically oriented at first, in 1977 El Teatro Libre de Bogotá changed from politics to art for art’s sake. Ricardo Camacho said in an interview[iv]: “This decisive moment in the life of the group was marked by the life giving and critical presence of William Shakespeare’s theatre, with a sort of strength that has followed it throughout its story.”[v] It was then that the Teatro Libre performed King Lear. That production met with a huge success, providing the group with means to have their own theatre house and create the Escuela de Teatro Libre (Free Theatre School) that has already produced fifteen plays by Shakespeare.

In contemporary Latin America the influence of the screen has allowed Shakespeare to be acted over in even newer accents though the countries where they emerge are no longer unborn.So where are we now in your opinion? That is, for instance, the case with Lípkies’s 2003 Mexican film Huapango, and Grisolli’s 1980 and 1983 Brazilian recreations for Globo TV, Otelo de Oliveira and Romeu e Julieta.

So, in Latin America, the rest has not been silence.

[i] My translation into English from the Brazilian version of Ariel: Breviário da Juventude, adapted by Hermes da Fonseca Filho. Rio de Janeiro, 1926.

[ii] Quoted in Racz, 2005:79.

[iii] Translated from Borges’s Obras Completas. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1974.  vol. 2:182.

[iv] Interview with Patricia Jamarillo.

[v] My translation into English.





Boal, Augusto. A Tempestade. Lisboa:

Borges, Jorge Luis. Obras Complets. 4 vols. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1974.

Dias, Gonçalves. Leonor de Mendonça. Belo Horizonte: Vega, 1976.

Modenessi, Alfredo Michel. “The Rogue and Will”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:219-241.

Racz, Gregary J. “Strategies of Deletion in Pablo Neruda’s Romeo and Juliet”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:71-91.

Rodo, José Enrique. Ariel: breviario da Juventude. Hermes da Fonseca Ada. Rio de Janeiro, 1926.

Santos, Marlene Soares dos. “Theater for the Oppressed: Augusto Boal’s A Tempestade”. Aimara da Cunha Resende ed. Foreign Accents: Brazilian Appropriations of Shakespeare. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002:42-54.

Tiffany, Grace. “Borges and Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Borges”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:145-165.

Tronch-Pérez, Jésus. “The Unavenging Prince: A Nineteenth-Century Mexican Stage Adaptation of Hamlet”. Bernice W. Kliman; Rick Santos eds. Latin American Shakespeares. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Univeristy Press, 2005:54-70.


Vaughan, Alden T. “Caliban in the ‘Third World’: Shakespeare’s Savage as Sociopolitical Symbol”. Critical Essays On Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST. Virginia Mason Vaughan; Alden T. Vaughan eds. New York: G.K. Hall, 1998:247-265.

Alex Huang Addresses U.S. Congress

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Globalization and the Humanities in the Twenty-first Century

Congressional Briefing by Alex Huang, May 16, 2013

Some people register a sense of place through sweet memories of taste and sounds, others through scent and smell, and still others through images in their mind’s eye. To me, the world is made up of stories. Stories full of sound and fury. Great stories are often strangers at home. They defamiliarize banal experiences and everyday utterances while offering something recognizable through a new language and form.

And stories, like people, travel and move around. Stories connect us to other times and places. When Shakespeare’s plays move through different cultures, they reveal unexamined assumptions about human nature and tell surprising stories about globalization. Take, for example, a slice from Hamlet’s inquisitive mind: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” The versatile verb “to be” is as ambiguous in English as it is in many other languages. It has been translated into Russian, German, and Arabic as “to do,” “to die,” and “to have” (but to have or not to have what!?). Translating this speech into Japanese will require substantial rewriting, because Japanese does not have the verb “to be” without semantic contexts. Working with Japanese, a language more complex than English from a sociolinguistic point of view, a translator would have to wrestle with more than 20 first- and second-person pronouns to maintain the ambiguity.

Literary ambiguity is our friend. The ambiguity is a welcome gift for the uninhibited mind, for it has been an ally of oppressed peoples in the Soviet Union, Tibet, South Africa, Poland, and elsewhere. The ambiguity allowed them to express themselves under censorship. When history is held hostage by politics, when human rights are violated, the humanities help restore dignity to what it means to be human. When ambiguity is deliberately eradicated, when things are painted black and white, it is usually during a dark moment of history: the Holocaust, the Cultural Revolution, lynching, the Scottsboro boys incident in the post-Reconstruction South of the Unites States. Hamlet in a foreign language compels us to rethink what we assume to be familiar about our own culture. The humanities in a global context enrich our mind as we pause to ask some fundamental questions. To be whom? To do what?

I was born to Taiwanese parents in a farming village outside Kaohsiung and was raised in Taipei. On sultry summer evenings on the subtropical island of Taiwan, my grandmother would tell me fairy tales under a starry sky, stories about her life story under Japanese colonial rule, and stories of the stones, crickets, and the village. This is how I developed an insatiable appetite for stories—historical, fantastical, political, heroic. As a college student at Tsinghua, I majored in the practically impractical major known as literature. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to study abroad as an exchange student in Germany, where I discovered that the most frequently performed playwright in that country is not Goethe but William Shakespeare. As I would find out later, Shakespeare was an important figure that helped establish a unified German cultural identity and literary tradition in opposition to French classicism. I soon learned that all over the world Shakespeare has been a common cultural touchstone for centuries. A Renaissance poet associated with a theatre called the Globe, Shakespeare had become a global author long before globalization became a catchphrase. There are now Globe theatres in Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Unites States, Canada, and elsewhere.

My curiosity set me on a path of studying cultural globalization that took me to Strasbourg, France, Oxford, England, and several other countries. When I visited London in 1996, work was under way to reconstruct Shakespeare’s renowned Globe Theatre near its original site on the South Bank that would open in July 1997. I gleefully donated a brick to the project. In the mind of an undergraduate student from a small island nation that has not been recognized by the U.N. and most countries since 1971, that brick was a material connection to the West beyond international politics, to a fascinating historical space, and to the intangible cultural heritage of a “brave new world,” as Miranda would say in The Tempest. Storytelling is in fact the foundation of Prospero’s magic. The magician frames the world he and his daughter live in with stories that help them heal from the experience of exile and forgive their enemies.

What I was not aware of as I stood at the construction site of the great theatre in London in 1996 was that globalized art means business. The modern Globe is not only a sign of cultural rebirth of London’s once-shady South Bank but is also a perfect example of how the humanities can lead to economic prosperity and transform communities. The number of visitors to the South Bank and the Bankside Cultural Quarter (where the Tate Modern and the Globe are located) jumped from an annual average in the tens of thousands in the 1990s to 13 million in 2011. Another example of this principle is how the humanities informed the core strategies used to market London during the 2012 Olympics. This strategy is being repeated for the 2016 Olympic Games: a reconstructed Globe Theatre is being planned in Brazil to coincide with the games and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Beyond economic implications, we can also learn a great deal about another culture through stories its members tell, and we can always learn about ourselves by comparing how another culture reads a story we know, such as Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s stories and the stories different cultures tell about Shakespeare eventually led me to California in 1999. American humanities education plants seeds for great changes in people’s lives. As a wide-eyed graduate student at Stanford, I learned from an inspiring, international faculty and cohort of students how to ask probing questions and take history to task and how to find a path through a dark forest of conflicting ideas. To achieve these goals, I studied a number of languages, including Latin, classical Chinese, modern Japanese, German, and French. I learned how to read closely and contextually for both information and untold or silenced stories and how to build sustainable intellectual communities through effective written and oral communication. When it came time to choose a topic for my doctoral dissertation, I initially wanted to stay with a conservative, safe topic in a more established subfield in Renaissance studies. I am thankful that instead I discovered and participated in the creation of global Shakespeare as a new field of study. I am forever indebted to Professor Patricia Parker, whose relentless pursuit of perfection pushed me to take the road less traveled and answer my calling to tell stories. After I earned my doctorate in comparative literature from Stanford, I moved to the east coast and became a scholar of globalization.

As my students at George Washington University’s Department of English and Elliott School of International Affairs tell me, the humanities and especially imaginary literature helps them put human faces on globalization. There are social implications of the fact that today’s college students understand globalization better through the humanities. There are clear benefits to being able to relate to international trade partners and strategic allies on a human level with compassion and not treat them as statistics. Knowledge of cultural globalization can help us avoid cultural imposition and move towards cultural sharing and building common ground.

Story-telling makes us human because it helps us understand the human condition in different contexts.

Recent history has shown that the humanities are greater than the sum of its parts. An eccentric topic for an obsessed researcher may not seem to matter in light of national security or to the general public until we are caught off guard in a crisis when, as in the wake of September 11, we are pressed to learn about who we are, how to come to terms with atrocities, where we as a nation are headed, and why. The humanities are not a luxury; they are the very foundation on which meaningful lives are built. Skills in critical thinking, civil debate, and understanding narratives are vital to American values of liberty and social equality, and a democratic society founded upon the government’s accountability and rational citizen participation. This is why public support for the humanities is crucial.

It is a privilege and a unique responsibility to teach Shakespeare and globalization in downtown Washington, D.C., three blocks from the White House. My international and local students alike take pride in studying in the nation’s capital. The American nation was founded upon basic principles of humanistic thought, including the concepts of justice and universal humanity. Capital Hill is a proud host to institutions that foster these ideas, including the Supreme Court, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Library of Congress, the oldest federal cultural institution. America clearly values humanities thought: its Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Today its collection includes over 155 million books and a vast collection of photographs, sheet music, sound recordings, and films on over 838 miles of shelves. The library provides a record of how people lived and expressed themselves in daily life and through the arts.

Shakespeare has helped shape powerful thinkers around the world, including the founding fathers of this nation. Thomas Jefferson kept a commonplace book that featured Shakespearean passages. Abraham Lincoln could recite soliloquies from Richard III. Language becomes literary when it acquires the power to motivate people and move nations.

In our age of globalization, understanding other peoples’ stories means the difference between being a window shopper and being an informed decision maker in international arenas. Here are two inspiring stories of Shakespeare in South Africa and in China.

A smuggled copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare inspired Nelson Mandela while he was in the Robben Island jail. The South African prisoners there signed their names next to passages that were important to them. The passage Mandela chose on December 16, 1977, was from Julius Caesar, just before the Roman statesman leaves for the senate on the Ides of March in act 2, scene 2:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.

It seems to me most strange that men should fear;

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

These lines taught Mandela how to dream and how to rise from the ashes. Through imaginary literature, we, like Jefferson, Lincoln, and Mandela, are able to rehearse multiple scenarios and histories without having endure the costly consequences of going to war or taking one’s own life in a political prison. The humanities can show us the future of the history we are making.

We are defined by our stories. At the same time, stories liberate us from the prison house of a relatively short life span in the infinite universe. Great stories can also give us courage, insight, and vision. In one of my classes, I discuss with my students the impact of the joint project of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Defense to tour the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s production of Macbeth to thirteen U.S. military bases in 2004. Indeed, what does it mean to read Shakespeare through peace and war?

Wu Ningkun has a moving story to tell. The mainland Chinese intellectual returned from the University of Chicago to join Mao Zedong’s New China in 1951. A decade later, he was sent to reform himself in a labor camp during the Chinese Cultural Revolution because of his alleged association with the capitalist West. Although he was under close surveillance, he still managed to smuggle a copy of Hamlet into the camp to read whenever “the prisoners had to spend the day cooped up in a cell when a blinding blizzard blew from Siberia” in northeastern China. Of this experience, he later wrote in his memoir A Single Tear: A Family’s Persecution, Love, and Endurance in Communist China:

Hamlet was my favorite Shakespeare play. Read in a Chinese labor camp, however, the tragedy of the Danish prince took on unexpected dimensions. . . . The Ghost thundered with a terrible chorus of a million victims of proletarian dictatorship.

The real question I came to see was neither “to be, or not to be,” nor whether “in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” but how to be worthy of one’s suffering.

It is interesting to note what Wu elides from the Hamlet quote: “or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.” On the one hand, it could mean that he wishes to counter the unfortunate condition of Cultural Revolution by not taking on a Hamlet-like passivity. On the other hand, it could imply that Wu seeks justice on a more transcendent level and is not seeking revenge upon those who unjustly imprisoned him. Shakespeare helped Wu survive in the labor camp, and reading Wu’s story helps us understand a crucial moment in the making of post-Mao China as the nation emerges from the Cultural Revolution.

Thinkers and leaders such as Lincoln, Mandela, and Wu have drawn inspiration from their reading and built stronger, interconnected communities through the humanities. There will be no national security without an in-depth understanding of our own culture and the cultures of others. Statistics and numbers give us only a partial picture of international affairs. Thoughtful and engaged citizens are the foundation of a democratic, civil society. The humanities enrich the creativity of the business world, enhance the adaptability of workforces, and promote crucial cross-cultural understanding.

Great stories instruct and delight, comfort and inspire. Because you provide public support for the humanities in America and allow us to continue to discover and tell powerful stories to the next generation of Americans, you play a major role in securing the leadership role of the United States. For that, I thank you.

Video also available at:

May 16, 2013,    2:15-3:15 pm
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2253, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the National Humanities Alliance in cooperation with Congressional Humanities Caucus…
Session chaired by Eva Caldera, Assistant Chairman for Partnership and Strategic Initiatives of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Alex Huang is Professor of English, International Affairs, Theatre and Dance, and East Asian Languages and Literatures, director of graduate studies, founding co-director of the GW Digital Humanities Institute, and director of the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare Program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is the co-founder and co-director of the open-access digital performance archive “Global Shakespeares,”

Other panelists include Eli Sugarman, Senior Director at Gryphon Partners LLC, and Carter Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in the History Department at Ohio State University

Founded in 1981, the National Humanities Alliance advances national humanities policy in the areas of research, education, preservation and public programs.

Fundación Shakespeare Argentina’s Events

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Global Shakespeares’ partner Fundación Shakespeare Argentina (FSA) has organized several successful events to broad the appreciation for Shakespeare in Argentina and international recognition of Argentinian performances and interpretations of Shakespeare.

On Friday, May 10, 2013, the FSA will host a very exciting panel at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair!

Buenos Aires International Book Fair

Buenos Aires International Book Fair

At 2:30 pm, May 10, a panel of distinguished speakers will speak on “Shakespeare entre todos”.

The Argentinian Director Rubén Szuchmacher and Horacio Peña (Henry IV Part 2) who played Falsttaf at the London Globe in 2012 will talk about their experience at the World Shakespeare Festival.

Mr. Szuchmacher, director of the production of Rey Lear, and Mr Peña who played Kent in that production, will share their experience with Shakespeare.


For more information and future FSA news, please visit:



Global Shakespeares in the News

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Global Shakespeares co-founder Alex Huang and regional editor for the “Arab World” Margaret Litvin were recently interviewed on separate occasions by The Shakespeare Standard. These review and interviews are available online.

Highlights from these reviews and interviews.


Excerpt from the Review by Josh Magsam

It’s been my experience that many open-access databases and archives often suffer in terms of ease-of-use. Curation, as digital humanists are fond of repeating, is as much an art as it is a skill, and it’s clear that the staff who curate Global Shakespeares are very good at their art. Given the not-inconsiderable size of the archive, site navigation and search filtering is a snap. The main page defaults to a grid view of the database (you can select a table view if you prefer), with most recently archived entries appearing at the top.

Users can quickly filter what they see here by restricting the view to performances of specific plays, the source language of the entry or performance, or the region of origin for the performance, as well as directly search the archive. Searches can be filtered quickly and efficiently in the same screen – no backtracking to reset search parameters, just click to add or remove filters as you wish. Inside of a minute, I was able to first search for English-language performances of Hamlet staged in North America, then North American performances in any language, and finally, Arab language performance around the world. This little exercise also underscored the non-anglophile focus of the archive, as my first search returned zero hits, the second returned just one (a trailer for Mesnak, a 2003 French-Canadian film) and four Arab productions, ranging from full video of director Hani Afifi’s 2009 stage play I Am Hamlet to a brief clip of the “to be or not to be” speech from an untitled and undated production. As a bonus, Afifi’s production is accompanied by a link to a video recording of scholar Margaret Litvin’s seminar on the production, given at Cairo University.

If, like me, your primary interest in performance relates to teaching Shakespeare’s plays in the classroom, then you’ll find plenty of exciting material to work with here. The materials archived on the site are great vehicles for getting students to consider the plays outside of euro-centric norms and perspectives. Showing a few minutes of Patrick Stewart’s performance as Macbeth can be an effective way to help students think about the impact of physical gestures, the posture and proximity of one actor or actress in relation to another, the impact of enunciation and speech volume – but it won’t easily open a conversation into the cultural implications and expectations that ground many of these elements.

Excerpt from the Interview with Margaret Litvin

Prof. Margaret Litvin with Skull

How do you incorporate the MIT Global Shakespeares website into your teaching?

The videos and contextual metadata on the MIT Global Shakespeares site give me the possibility and the confidence to teach productions outside my area of specialization, such as Wu Hsing-Kuo’s Lear is Here. I also rely on guest speakers a lot, calling in friends or colleagues to come introduce an area of their expertise, and I reciprocate whenever I can. Several of my colleagues at other universities are offering Global Shakespeares courses of their own, or, e.g., whole courses on Hamlet appropriation.  Does guest lecturing count as an instructional technology?  Well, it does when you do it over Skype because plane tickets are so expensive.  Another basic technology is email: I try to convince students that living authors are human and occasionally contactable.

What are the challenges to teaching Shakespeare in this globally minded way? Are there limitations to teaching Shakespeare though the lens of globalization?

The biggest limit is the length of the semester – “all the world in the time” as David Damrosch put it. Some of the students still wanted to spend more time close-reading the Shakespeare plays. Which is admirable in a way – and we did spend as much as we could.  Others wanted to spend less time on obscure (to them) twentieth-century works and more time on more “relatable” American adaptations, including more recent films like Almereyda’s very intricate Hamlet 2000 or even O (a high school basketball team Othello) and Ten Things I Hate About You. I tried to convince them they didn’t need a college seminar for those – they should have a film series on their own time.

What is your philosophy of teaching when it comes to Global Shakespeare? 

What English teachers have historically been good at is bringing in an adaptation and teaching students to “compare” it to Shakespeare’s “original.”  Humans are two-eyed beings, good at one-to-one comparisons.  As scholars and teachers, we find it easy and fruitful to look at Text B and ask how it revises Text A – or, if we’re especially enterprising, how it reflects Context X.  These interpretive and pedagogical habits are deeply engrained, because they work; they “teach well” and have yielded many productive readings.  But after all these years of talking about provincializing Europe, the binary approach still leaves us captive to a Prospero-and-Caliban model of reception and appropriation: modern writers responding, as though directly and in isolation, to the provocation of Shakespeare. I don’t have a background in an English department.  My background is in Arabic – and for the Arab world as well as many other non-Anglophone regions, this binary approach does not serve.  My book Hamlet’s Arab Journeyfocused on Egyptian theatre and identified the “global kaleidoscope” of influences – French, Italian, Russian, Eastern European, American, and other – through which the Arab reception of Shakespeare was filtered.  Unlike Caliban, modern Egyptian writers did not grow up on a cultural island, subject to a single dominant (British) cultural influence.  Like Hamlet rather than Caliban, they grew up in a world of competing authorities and would-be father figures; their cultural inheritance was multiple from the start.


Excerpt from the Interviews with Alex Huang


Many Westerners who hear “Shakespeare” and “Asia” probably do not go beyond Kurosawa.  How can the layperson move beyond Kurosawa? Can you explain what they are missing?

Akira Kurosawa is a master filmmaker, visual artist, and storyteller, which is why his Throne of Blood (1957) and Ran (1985) are so popular. However, his postwar film versions of Macbeth and King Lear are not the earliest or the only Shakespeare films from East Asia. There is much more to Asian interpretations of Shakespeare than Kurosawa, on stage and screen, in manga, fiction, painting, and many other genres. In Japan, Yukio Ninagawa’s widely toured productions are a staple at international venues and festivals.

There are a few performances and films that can take you beyond Kurosawa. Check out these gorgeous adaptations.

The Banquet, or Legend of the Black Scorpion, dir. FENG Xiaogang (China, 2006)

This martial-arts feature film in Mandarin Chinese gives Gertrude and Ophelia, traditionally silenced women characters in Hamlet, a strong presence, though the centrality of the Gertrude figure in the film’s narrative has been seen as problematic by some critics. As a bold period epic, the film is informed by rich intertextual traces of diverse themes from Shakespearean and Chinese sources.

The Tempest, dir. OH Tae-suk (Edinburgh, U.K., and Seoul, Korea, 2011 and 2012)

Renowned South Korean stage director and playwright Oh Tae-suk mounted his version of The Tempest to critical acclaim in Edinburgh. His production offers, among other creative twists, a two-headed Caliban played by two talented actors in a suit with a pouch. Recast as a vexed character capable of recognizing his own limitations, Prospero was often challenged by the spiky-haired Miranda and worked closely with Ariel, a shaman, to manage domestic affairs. Ariel sometimes assumed a motherly role to augment the aging father’s tenuous relationship with his teenage daughter. The production deliberately avoided the tired allegory of colonialism that has often been associated with The Tempest in modern times. The performance ended on a high note. Instead of a staff and books—symbols of authority and the archival source of knowledge in an ontological sense—Prospero carried a folding bamboo fan (hapjukseon)—a symbol of artistry and intellectualism—when he was not at the drum.  The folding fan is an integral part of a gentleman’s accessories and is a more versatile prop and powerful symbol than books.


Are there geo-political areas where it seems Shakespeare has little or no significance? What are the limits of Global Shakespeares?

There are countries and regions in the world where Shakespeare does not figure prominently in their local cultural history. From a collector’s point of view, this is archival silence. Archival silence is useful because it compels us to rethink our criteria, frame of reference, and historiographical assumptions. For example, while post-colonial critics commonly privilege works that critique the role of Western hegemony in the historical record of globalization, the meanings of Shakespeare today are not always determined by post-colonial vocabulary or the discourses of globalization.

Well, I am disappointed, and relieved at the same time, by the fact that there are no significant “Shakespeare traditions” in the Antarctic, Greenland, or large swaths of Sub-Saharan Africa (save for South Africa). The lack of a coherent, constructed Shakespeare tradition does not mean there are no local engagements with Shakespearean material. Artistic, political, and scholarly traditions of Shakespeare in any given location should be understood in different frameworks. While there are rich references and allusions to Shakespeare and his characters in Mexican cinema, there is no local scholarly tradition of Shakespeare studies, according to Alfredo Michel Modenessi who serves on our advisory board (of Global Shakespeares).

Global Shakespeares as a critical concept and a research project have changed how we think about Shakespeare’s legacy and Shakespeare’s place in different cultural marketplaces around the world. However, “global Shakespeare” as a concept is limited—though simultaneously energized — by the competing pull of tendencies to privilege local over macro-histories, and “global Shakespeare” as a project reveals multiple geographical areas where there are no significant “Shakespeare traditions.”


Can you do a few top essential global Shakespeare productions (available for viewing)? 

The Speaker’s Progress, dir. Sulayman Al-Bassam (2011), inspired by Twelfth Night, in Arabic and English with English subtitles with multimedia

  • A “retired” theatre director is sent abroad with a troupe of “envoys” to defend the image of their unnamed totalitarian homeland, which has banned all theatre. They present a localized Gulf Arab version of Twelfth Night.   – from Margaret Litvin’s review of the production in Boston

Titus, dir. Julie Taymor (1999)

  • Smart interweaving of different historical periods and modes of signification. Apocalyptic humor. A must see and a major milestone in Shakespearean cinema.

Romeu e Julieta by Grupo Galpão, dir. Gabriel Villela (1992), performed at the London Globe in Brazilian Portuguese

  • Mix of comedy and tragedy, and formal and street-theatre presentational elements. Stilts, songs, and a carnivalesque atmosphere. What’s not to like?

Lear Is Here, dir. and perf. WU Hsing-kuo (2001), solo Beijing opera semi-autobiographical performance with English subtitles.

  • The Taiwan-based Beijing opera actor plays 10 roles including his alter ego on stage. This is a visually stunning and intellectually refreshing story of an Asian actor’s soul searching and his engagement with one of the most profound Shakespearean tragedies.



Teaching Shakespeare and Globalization

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

 It is easy to incorporate the issues of global Shakespeare or globalization into the standard Shakespeare course.

Global Shakespeare as a curricular component answers the competing demands of internationalizing education to prepare our next generation for a complex world and of sustaining traditional canons. There are many ways to incorporate issues of politics, reception, and aesthetics raised by global Shakespeare into standard undergraduate Shakespeare courses.

Teach the blessing and curse of globalization and localization in conjunction with Shakespeare. Teach familiar texts in strange settings. As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel reminds us, what is “well known” is never properly known simply because, well, they appear to be well known, which is why Folger Shakespeare Library research director David Schalkwyk once said that unless you have read Shakespeare in another language, you do not really understand Shakespeare.

Here are some possibilities.

(1) Reading Shakespeare in multilingual contexts is important. Consider for example these lines from Macbeth: “The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red.” The repetition of ‘incarnadine’ and ‘red’ is serendipitous, but the deliberate alternation between the Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) and the Latinate words suggests two pathways to and two perspectives on the world.

(2) Different cultural frameworks and translations slow us down and compel us to rethink what we assume to be familiar. Performances in world cultures can lead us back to Shakespeare’s plays with new insight and new paths for interpretation. Works such as Ong Keng Sen’s transnational and pan-Asian productions (Search: Hamlet, Lear, Desdemona, Lear Dreaming), Kenneth Branagh’s As You Like It with a strong Japanese motif, and Tim Supple’s multilingual Midsummer Night’s Dream with an all-Indian and Shri Lankan cast, are generating extraordinary artistic and intellectual energy by recasting gender, racial and social identities. The racial issue disappears by being recast as uneasy familial relations in Japanese interpretations of Othello, and it is made hauntingly present through its absence from radically localized, colorblind, Korean performances that seek to redress the wound of Japanese colonization. In the Chinese tradition of performing The Merchant of Venice as romantic comedy, the play is often retooled as an adventure of an attractive woman lawyer or an outlandish tale involving a pound of human flesh.  This framework has activated elements of the play that, over several centuries of Anglo-European readings, have become obscure to communities that gravitate towards the ethics of conversion as a key site of tension in the narrative. Other examples of reconfigurations of the center and the periphery abound. These works have led to the transformation of traditions occurring in both directions at once.

(3) It is important to appreciate the historicity of global Shakespeare as a cultural phenomenon that is not exclusive to the modern era. Translation was an unalienable part of the cultural life in early modern England. Translation, or translatio, signifying “the figure of transport,” was a common rhetorical trope that referred to the conveyance of ideas from one geo-cultural location to another, from one historical period to another, and from one artistic form to another. London witnessed a steady stream of merchants and foreign emissaries from Europe, the Barbary coast, and the Mediterranean, and thousands of Dutch and Flemish Protestants fled to Kent in the late 1560s due to the Spanish persecution. Within Shakespeare’s plays, the figure of translation looms large.

Henry V contains several instances of literal translation, including the language lesson scene and the well-known wooing scene. Translation serves as a figure of transport, theft, transfer of property, and change across linguistic and national boundaries, as the characters and audience are ferried back and forth across the Channel. The “broken English” (5.2.228) in the light-hearted scene symbolises Henry V’s dominance over Catherine and France after the English victory at the Battle of Agincourt. However, the Epilogue reminds us that the marriage is far from a closure (Epilogue 12), for it produces a son who is “half-French, half-English” (5.2.208). The English conqueror pretends to be a wooer to Catherine of France who cannot reject him freely. One is unsure whether Catherine is speaking the truth that she does not understand English well enough (“I cannot tell”) or just being coy—playing Harry’s game, though Catherine eventually yields to Henry V’s request: “Dat is as it shall please de roi mon père” (5.2.229). A play such as Henry V and its global afterlife (for example, Laurence Olivier’s film version during World War II as propaganda) provide rich material to be mined to teach various aspects of international relations and to further students’ understanding of Shakespearean aesthetics.

(4) If you have a diverse classroom, take advantage of students’ different backgrounds and experiences. Turn international students who are not native speakers of English into your asset. All too often they are seen as a liability, but their linguistic and cultural repertoire should be tapped to build a sustainable intellectual community. 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 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. Students can even try to translate a passage and share their rationale with the class. Caliban’s “language” is translated variously in different languages. In Mandarin Chinese it is rendered as “human language”, 語言, as opposed to languages of the animal or a different system of signification. Christoph Martin Wieland translates the word in German as redden, or “speech”. Caliban may know how to curse in his own language before Prospero takes over his island, but he now has one more language in his arsenal.

Take another word from The Tempest. Prospero announces in act 4 scene 1 that “our revels now are ended.” The word “revels” in the Elizabethan context refers to royal festivities and stage entertainments, but it carries different diagnostic significance in translation. Christoph Martin Wieland used Spiele (plays) and Schauspieler (performer) to refer to Prospero’s masque and actors (“Unsre Spiele sind nun zu Ende” in German). Sometimes translators working in the same language have different interpretations. Liang Shiqiu translated it as “games” in Mandarin Chinese in 1964, alluding to the manipulative Prospero’s “games” on the island, but Zhu Shenghao preferred “carnivals” (1954), highlighting the festive nature of the wedding celebration.

Act 1 Scene 3 of Othello offers another interesting instance (which is the focus of Tom Cheeseman’s Version Variation Visualization: Multi-Lingual Crowd Sourcing of Shakespeare’s Othello):

 If virtue no delighted beauty lack,

Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.

Translations of these lines into different languages deal with the meanings of “fair” and “black” rather differently. Mikhail Lozinskij’s Russian translation says “Since honor is a source of light of virtue, / Then your son-in-law is light, and by no means black.” Christopher Martin Wieland and Ángel Luis Pujante used white in German and Spanish (respectively) to translate “fair,” while Victor Hugo chose “shining.” It’s eye opening to see how translation opens up the text in new ways.

(5) Class units can be designed around watching videos on Global Shakespeares and discussing the English subtitles. It is eye opening for students to experience Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech in languages other than English. The vague, versatile, and “Swiss-knife” verb “to be” is as ambiguous in English as it is in many other languages. Sometimes it is translated as “to have” (but to have or not to have what!?), to do, to die, and so on. Go to this page to listen to the speeches.

There you will find “to be or not to be” in several languages drawn from actual performances:

  • English [Gielgud Hamlet]
  • Arabic [Sobhi Hamlet]
  • Assamese (Indian dialect) [Hazarika Hamlet]
  • Brazilian Portuguese [Correa Hamlet]
  • Japanese [Kurita Hamlet]
  • Korean [Yohangza Hamlet]
  • Mandarin [Hamlet Unplugged]
  • Swedish [Lyth Hamlet]

(6) One can also build into a Twelfth Night unit issues of gender, world cultures, and Shakespearean performance. Japanese is a language more complex than English from a sociolinguistic point of view. Performing the play in Japanese is therefore a challenge. One would have to wrestle with more than 20 first- and second-person pronouns to maintain the ambiguity and subtlety of gender identities. In addition to making the right choice of employing the familiar or polite style based on the relation between the speaker and the addressee, the male and female speakers of Japanese are each confined to gender-specific personal pronouns at their disposal. Before a translation can be undertaken, decisions will have to be made on the register and gendered expressions to convey Orsino’s comments about love from a male perspective and Viola’s apology for a woman’s love when in disguise as Cesario, or the exchange between Rosalind in disguise as Ganymede and Oliver on her “lacking a man’s heart” when she swoons, nearly giving herself away (4.3.164-176). But limitations create new linguistic and cultural opportunities. Translational moments like this can launch interesting discussions about visible and invisible gender identities in Twelfth Night.

(7) Interdisciplinarity. Global Shakespeare is a great topic for inquiry-driven learning. It is often assumed that materials to be presented in the undergraduate classroom have to be dumbed down, and that students will be overwhelmed by interdisciplinary approaches. The opposite is true. Students love a hands-on approach to create and share knowledge, to build on existing theories to explore new frontiers. As a broad field, global Shakespeare allows students to make fresh contributions. Beyond Global Shakespeares, many other archives can help students make transhistorical connections between issues and build cross-cultural understanding of arts. For example, Early English Books Online (EEBO), and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s LUNA.

Symposium on Eastern European Hamlets

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

A Symposium on Eastern European Hamlets, co-organised by the University of Kent and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, took place at Central School on Wednesday, 30 January 2013.

The event examined the role of Hamlet on Eastern European stages after 1989. It addressed the legacy of Jan Kott’s political interpretation of the play that saw it as a struggle of an individual against a corrupt government. Such an understanding of Hamlet resonated with theatre makers across post-war socialist Europe. The symposium sought to inquire into the significance of this tragedy in New Europe, through examination of its theatrical and cinematic representations.

1)      According to Jan Kott, Hamlet in socialist Europe had the potential to mirror and challenge socio-political circumstances from a relatively safe position of a cultural icon; has the function of this seminal text changed after the fall of the Iron Curtain?

2)      What are new approaches to staging Hamlet after the shift in social-political circumstances in 1989?

3)      Is there still an identifiable phenomenon of the ‘Eastern European Hamlet’ in the so-called ‘New Europe’? Are there common political and aesthetic approaches among Eastern European theatre makers? Have Eastern European countries forged their own styles of interpreting Hamlet?


Prof. Robin Nelson, head of Research at Central, opened the event and chaired the symposium. Dr. Duška Radosavljević from University of Kent and Alexandra Portmann M.A., from University of Berne and University of Kent introduced the theme of the symposium and the speakers.

The five presentations during the symposium focused on performative, political, historical, and cultural aspects of post-1989 Hamlet productions from Romania, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Serbia.

Dr. Nicoleta Cinpoes, University of Worcester
“‘Who’s there?’: Hamlet and Romania in the New Millennium”

Dr. Aneta Mancewicz , The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and Kazimierz Wielki University, Bydgoszcz, Poland
“A Bittersweet Prince: Hamlet in the 21st Century Poland”


Dr. Márta Minier, Drama at the University of Glamorgan
“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed … Something Golden”: Post-1989 Hungarian Hamlets

Dr. Sonia Massai, King’s College London
“Nekrosius’s Hamlet at the Globe to Globe Festival”

Dr. Duška Radosavljević, University of Kent /Alexandra Portmann M.A., University of Berne and University of Kent
“Serbian Hamlet meets Fortinbras from Yorkshire”


The presentations were followed by a discussion among the presenters and an open Q&A session with questions from the audience. Most importantly, the discussion concerned:

-          the continued significance of Hamlet for Eastern European nations,

-          the diminishing role of Fortinbras in Eastern European productions,

-          the analogies on the level of dramaturgy and the use of media in Eastern European performances of Hamlet,

-          the growth of individual perspectives in Eastern European countries, manifested in the variety of approaches and styles of staging Hamlet, post-1989,

-          the popularity of other Shakespeare’s plays and other classic playwrights in Eastern Europe,

-          different perceptions of what  “Eastern Europe” means for the East and the West,

-          the increasing role of globalisation and universalism in interpretations of Shakespeare.


The event offered a wide range of perspectives to the presence of Hamlet in Eastern Europe. Considering the breadth of the topic, it was, however, inevitable that the discussion could not answer all the points raised during the panel. It is, thus, hoped that there will be a follow-up event on that subject in the near future.


Introduction to Nós do Morro

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Cristiane Busato Smith, one of the Global Shakespeares Regional Editors for Brazil, has written an article on the theater troupe Nós do Morro.

Here is an excerpt:

Nós do Morro (Us from the Hillside) is a community based theatre company and school based in the Vidigal Morro, one of the largest favelas (shanty towns) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Perched on a hillside overlooking the rich districts of Leblon and Ipanema, with fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, is the house where Nós do Morro has trained actors, technicians and other art professionals. Founded in 1986, it has over 350 participants, among them children, youngsters and adults who reside in the Vidigal Morro. In over twenty-five years, most of which relying on their meager finances, Nós do Morro consolidated its roots in the heart of Vidigal while also achieving recognition nationally and internationally.

Nós do Morro was founded by a group of friends inspired by the dream of journalist Guti Fraga, who wanted to create a cultural movement in the Vidigal community, similar to the ones he had seen in Harlem, New York. His idea was to use the local talent to portray the rich universe of the favela and create work of excellence. His conviction in the transformative power of art is clear in his successful history with Nós do Morro. As Fraga explains: “The only way to change stereotypes is through quality. That is the only way. One word that I don’t want near my work is pity. Pity is an ugly word. It makes the pitier feel better and the pitied feel worse. So you have to break through that emotion with quality, first and always.”


Click here to read the full article.