William Shakespeare has been part of the cinema since 1899. In the twentieth century almost a thousand films in some way based upon his plays were made, but the vast majority of those which sought to faithfully present his plays to the cinema audience failed at the box office. Since the start of the twenty-first century only one English language film using Shakespeare’s text has made a profit, yet at the same time Shakespeare has become a popular source for adaptations into other genres. This essay examines the reception of a number of adaptations as gangster films, teen comedies, musicals and thrillers, as well as trans-cultural assimilations. But this very proliferation throws up other questions, as to what can legitimately be called an adaptation of Shakespeare. Not every story of divided love is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Different adaptations and assimilations have enjoyed differing degrees of success, and the essay interrogates those aspects which make the popular cinema audience flock to see Shakespeare in such disguised form, when films which are more faithfully based upon the original plays are so much less appealing to the audience in the Multiplexes.
Adaptation, a complex bilingual and bicultural process, is further problematised in a colonial scenario inflected by burgeoning nationalism and imperialist counter-oppression. Nagendranath Bose’s Karnabir (1884/85), the second extant Bengali translation of Macbeth was written after the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 and its aftermath - the formation of predominantly upper and middle class nationalist organisations that spearheaded the freedom movement. To curb anti-colonial activities in the cultural sphere, the British introduced repressive measures like the Theatre Censorship Act and the Vernacular Press Act. Bengal experienced a revival of Hinduism paradoxically augmented by the nationalist ethos and the divisive tactics of British rule that fostered communalism. This article investigates the contingencies and implications of domesticating and othering Macbeth at this juncture and the collaborative/oppositional strategies of the vernacular text vis-à-vis colonial discourse. The generic problems of negotiating tragedy in a literary tradition marked by its absence are compounded by the socio-linguistic limitations of a Sanskritised adaptation. The conflicted nature of the cultural indigenisation evidenced in Karnabir is explored with special focus on the nature of generic, linguistic and religious acculturation, issues of nomenclature and epistemology, as well as the political and ideological negotiations that the target text engages in with the source text and the intended audience.
Do Marjorie Garber’s premises that Shakespeare makes modern culture and that modern culture makes Shakespeare apply to his reception in Asian contexts? Shakespeare’s Asianization, namely adaptation of certain Shakespeare elements into traditional forms of local cultures, seems to testify to his timelessness in timeliness. However, his statuses in modern Asia are much more complicated. The complexity lies not only in such a cross-cultural phenomenon as the Asianizing practice, but in the Shakespearization of Asia-the idealization of him as a modern cultural icon in a universalizing celebration of his authority in many sectors of modern Asian cultures. Yet, the very entities of Asia, Shakespeare, modernity, and tradition must be problematized before we approach such complexities. I ask questions about Shakespeare’s roles in Asian conceptions of modernity and about the relationship between his literary heritage and Asian traditions. To address these questions, I will discuss this timeliness in Asian cultures with a focus on Shakespeare adaptations in Asian forms, which showcase various indigenous approaches to his text-from the elitist legacy maintaining to the popularist re-imagining. Asian practices of doing Shakespeare have involved other issues. For instance, whether or not the colonial legacies and postcolonial re-inventions in the dissemination of his works in Asian cultures confirm or subvert the various myths about both the Bard and modernity in most time of the 20th century; in what ways Shakespeare has been used as at once a negotiating agent and negotiated subject in the processes of the prince’s translations and adaptations into Asian languages, costumes, landscapes, cultures and traditions.
This paper discusses the circumstances of Shakespeare’s arrival in Indonesia via the translations of Trisno Sumardjo, published in the early 1950’s. Biographical material about the translator will be presented, and there will be a discussion of the characteristics the Indonesian language and of Indonesian verse which would determine the expectations of his readers, such as rhyme, meter and style, that would influence his renderings of the poetic passages in the Bard’s plays. These are illustrated in a sampling of passages from As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice. The Dutch translation of L. A. J. Burgersdijk was an indirect influence on the translations, and not always for the good. The paper concludes with a lengthy discussion of the extremely difficult problems that Sumardjo encountered in his translation of King Lear. This Lear was not published during the translator’s lifetime, Sumardjo’s prestige notwithstanding because he was not satisfied with the solutions he proposed.
Shakespeare’s plays were first adapted in the Chinese cinema in the era of silent motion pictures, such as A Woman Lawyer (from The Merchant of Venice, 1927), and A Spray of Plum Blossoms (from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1931). The most recent Chinese adaptations/spinoffs include two 2006 films based on Hamlet. After a brief review of Shakespeare’s history in the Chinese cinema, this study compares the two Chinese Hamlets released in 2006-Feng Xiaogang’s Banquet and Hu Xuehua’s Prince of the Himalayas to illustrate how Chinese filmmakers approach Shakespeare. Both re-invent Shakespeare’s Hamlet story and transfer it to a specific time, culture and landscape. The story of The Banquet takes place in a warring state in China of the 10th century while The Prince is set in pre-Buddhist Tibet. The former as a blockbuster movie in China has gained a financial success albeit being criticised for its commercial aesthetics. The latter, on the other hand, has raised attention amongst academics and critics and won several prizes though not as successful on the movie market. This study examines how the two Chinese Hamlet movies treat Shakespeare’s story in using different filmic strategies of story, character, picture, music and style.
There is no doubt that Shakespeare is “the flagship commodity” in the globalized cultural market. The fact that his works are being studied, performed, and admired, or, adapted and parodied almost all over the world, would surely testify that his works are great sources to be capitalized on (both culturally and materially) in the consumerist society in which we live. However, it could be also argued that the brand logo, “Shakespeare,” no longer holds such a privileged status, that it is merely one of numerous cultural artifacts that can be used and recycled, and that one of the few convenient things about “Shakespeare” is that it can be reproduced, copied, and parodied without the need for any royalty payments being made? Some popular, global, tacky “shakespeares” seek to destabilize the presupposed notion that “Shakespeare” is the dominant, central, hegemonic icon by juxtaposing “Shakespeare” with other artifacts, which are presumed to be of minimal capitalist and cultural value. This article attempts to illustrate how (in)significant or (un)influential Shakespeare, as a residual socio-cultural icon, can be. Tackyfying “Shakespeares” can, however, also be a means to proliferate the Bard. Japanese pop “Shakespeares,” proudly and assertively tacky, offer tributes to the great Bard.
Since the New Globe Theatre opened in 1996, they have used the yard as an acting area or entrances. Even though the authenticity of using the yard is disputable, nobody denies that the yard must be a very effective tool for performing Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. The yard is an essential part of traditional Korean theatre, called “talchum (mask dance)” or “talnori (mask play).” The yard is its stage as well as the auditorium. Therefore, the players are surrounded by the audience, and the players can, and often do interact with the audience, speaking to the audience, or treating them as players, or acting as if they were some of the audience. The theatrical style of using the yard has much influenced the modern theatre of Korea. And many Korean directors including Oh Tae-suk, Yang Jung-ung, Sohn Jin-chaek, Park Sung-hwan, and myself, have applied the yard techniques to their Shakespearean productions. Korean Shakespearean productions, which use the yard actively, can be more evidence that the yard must be an effective tool for Shakespeare, not only at the Globe Theatre but also at any kind of theatres of today. No one knows whether Shakespeare actually used the yard or not. But the fact that many Shakespearean productions have used the yard successfully, implies that Shakespeare's texts themselves have enough room for the yard.