brazil

Shakespeare in Brazil: Introduction

Written by Liana de Camargo Leão, Universidade Federal do Paraná (UFPR)

Brazil speaks the language of Prospero, but speaks it with a difference; or rather, with many differences. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, Brazilians have been able to attend performances of Shakespeare’s plays produced either by European theatrical companies visiting Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on their way to Buenos Aires and New York, or by the founder of Brazilian theater, the great actor João Caetano (1808-863); in both cases, however, the texts performed were melodramatic adaptations of Shakespeare by Jean-François Ducis (1733-1816), Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863) and Albois.

A hundred years later, the scene has completely changed: Shakespeare is performed throughout Brazil by Brazilian troupes; the text has been translated from the English original, without the mediation of French culture which dominated 19th C Brazilian culture.

Recent theatrical productions are unique because they are not afeard to transpose the text to their own cultural realities, appropriating Shakespeare, mixing the plays with Brazilian matter, coloring them with sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. The voices of the schools of samba, of the circus, of street theater, the harsh reality of the favelas, the twangling berimbaus and the martial dance of the capoeira from Bahia, the traditional culture of Minas Gerais, are among the many riches ready to drop new accents upon the plays. However, as Brazil is a country of continental size, Shakespeare can and is often recreated in such diverse ways that it becomes almost impossible to establish what a Brazilian Shakespeare would be.

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