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Not Minding the Gap: Intercultural Shakespeare in Britain

Abstract

The article takes issue with the perceived space/gap between the multiple identities of mixed-heritage groups, as most of these people often pick and choose elements from all of their identities and amalgamate them into a cross-cultural whole. In recent years, such mixed-heritage groups in the U.K. have increasingly found cultural expression in Shakespeare. Focusing specifically on a number of recent Shakespearean productions, by what I term Brasian (my preferred term for British-Asians as it suggests a more fused identity) theatre companies, the article demonstrates how these productions employ hybrid aesthetic styles, stories, and theatre forms to present a layered Braisian identity. It argues that these productions not only provide a nuanced understanding of the intercultural map of Britain but are also a rich breeding ground for innovative Shakespeare productions in the U.K.

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Performing Protest in Cross-Cultural Spaces: Paul Robeson and Othello

Abstract

When the famous African-American actor and singer Paul Robeson played the lead in Shakespeare’s Othello in London in 1930, tickets were in high demand during the production’s first week. The critical response, however, was less positive, although the reviews unanimously praised his bass-baritone delivery. When Robeson again played Othello on Broadway thirteen years later, critics praised not only his voice but also his acting, the drama running for 296 performances. My argument concerning Robeson uses elements first noted by Henri Lefebvre in his seminal work, The Production of Space, while I also draw on Paul Connerton’s work on commemorative practices. Using spatial and memorial theories as a backdrop for examining his two portrayals, I suggest that Robeson’s nascent geopolitical awareness following the 1930 production, combined with his already celebrated musical voice, allowed him to perform the role more dramatically in 1943.

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Remote Islands as Fictional and Metaphorical Places in Cervantes, Fletcher and Shakespeare

Abstract

Islands have always occupied a significant place in literature and have been a source of inspiration for the literary imagination. Fictional islands have existed as either lost paradises, or places where law breaks down under physical hardships and a sense of entrapment and oppression. Islands can be sites of exotic fascination, of cultural exchange and of great social and political upheaval. However, they are more than mere locations since to be in a place implies being bound to that place and appropriating it. That means that the islands narrow boundaries, surrounded by the sea and cut off from mainland, can create bridges between the real and the imaginary as a response to cultural and social anxieties, frequently taking the form of eutopias/dystopias, Edens, Arcadias, Baratarias, metatexts, or cultural crossroads, deeply transforming that particular geographical location. This article is concerned with insularity as a way of interrogating cultural and political practices in the early modern period by looking at the works of Cervantes, Fletcher and Shakespeare where insular relations are characterized by tensions of different sort. The arrival of Prospero and Miranda, Periandro and Auristela (The Trials of Persiles and Segismunda), and Albert and Aminta (The Sea Voyage) to their respective islands take us to a different world, revealing different political and cultural interests and generating multiple perspectives on the shifting relationship between culture, society and power.

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Spaghetti Shakespeare: Johnny Hamlet and the Italian Western

Abstract

The Italian Western, Johnny Hamlet (1968), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, draws on the revenge story of Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet for plot and characterization. While international distributors of the film downplayed its connection to highbrow Shakespeare, they emphasized the movie’s violent content and action-packed revenge narrative, which was typical of the western all’italiana. Johnny Hamlet shares similarities with the brutally violent Django (1966), directed by Sergio Corbucci, whose avenging angel protagonist epitomizes the Spaghetti Western antihero. Although the filmmakers of Johnny Hamlet characterized Johnny as a vindicator, they also sought to develop the “broody” aspect of this gunfighter, one based on Shakespeare’s famously ruminating hero. Using innovative film techniques, Johnny Hamlet shows Johnny as a contemplative pistolero.

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Teatro Praga’s Omission of Shakespeare – An Intercultural Space

Abstract

Teatro Praga’s (a Portuguese theatre company) adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest omit what is usually considered crucial to a Shakespearean adaptation by giving primacy to neither text nor plot, nor to a stage design that might highlight the skill and presence of the actors, a decision arguably related to what the company perceives as a type of imprisonment, that of the lines themselves and of the tradition in which these canonical plays have been staged. Such fatigue with a certain way of dealing with Shakespeare is deliberately portrayed and places each production in a space in-between, as it were, which might be described as intercultural. “Inter,” as the OED clarifies, means something “among, amid, in between, in the midst.” Each of Teatro Praga’s Shakespearean adaptations, seems to exist in this “in-between” space, in the sense that they are named after Shakespeare, but are mediated by a combination of subsequent innovations. Shakespeare then emerges, or exists, in the interval between his own plays and the way they have been discussed, quoted, and misquoted across time, shaping the identities of those trying to perform his works and those observing its re-enactments on stage while being shaped himself. The fact that these adaptations only use Shakespeare’s words from time to time leads critics to consider that Teatro Praga is working against Shakespeare (or, to admirers of Henry Purcell, against his compositions). This process, however, reframes Shakespeare’s intercultural legacy and, thus, reinforces its appeal.

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Theatre Reviews
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“This England”: Re-Visiting Shakespearean Landscapes and Mediascapes in John Akomfrah’s The Nine Muses (2010)

Abstract

The paper will offer a reading of John Akomfrah’s The Nine Muses (2010), a 90-minute experimental feature film that has been defined as “one of the most vital and original artistic responses to the subject of immigration that British cinema has ever produced” (Mitchell). It will focus on the multifarious ways in which the film makes the “canonical” literary material that it incorporates, including Shakespeare, interact with rarely seen archival material from the BBC regarding the experience of Caribbean and South Asian immigrants in 1950s and 1960s Britain. It will argue that through this interaction the familiarity of Western “canonical” literature re-presents itself as an uncanny landscape haunted by other stories, as a language that is already in itself the “language of the other” (Derrida). In particular, it will claim that Shakespearean fragments are often used in an idiosyncratic way, and they repeatedly resonate with some of the most fundamental ethical and political issues of the film, such as the question of England as “home” and migration. The paper will also argue that the decontextualization and recontextualization of these fragments makes them re-emerge as part of an interrogation of the mediality of the medium, an interrogation that also offers insights into the circulation of Shakespeare in the contemporary mediascape.

Open access
Whose Castle is it Anyway? : Local/Global Negotiations of a Shakespearean Location

Abstract

Kronborg Castle in the Danish town of Elsinore is a location strongly associated with Shakespeare thanks to the setting of Hamlet. It is a place where fiction currently eclipses history, at least in the context of a cultural tourist industry where Shakespeare’s name is worth a great deal more than Danish national heritage sites. Indeed, Kronborg is now widely marketed as ‘Hamlet’s Castle’ and the town of Elsinore has acquired the suffix ‘Home of Hamlet’. This article examines the signifiers implied in the naming and renaming of Kronborg as a Shakespearean location, while also looking at its unique international Shakespearean performance tradition, which spans two centuries. It describes how the identity of the castle has been shaped by its Shakespearean connection against the backdrop of changing ideologies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and poses questions as to how this identity may continue to develop within the current contexts of renewed nationalism in Europe and the world.

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Africa and Its People in the Polish Media

Abstract

The African continent is treated by the Polish media marginally and usually seen through the lens of four domains of stereotypical perceptions that are associated with difficult life conditions, threats and dangers, beautiful and wild nature, as well as original and diverse cultures. Monitoring of the Polish media has become very important in this situation. That is why the results of first media monitoring report were published in 2011 by ‘Africa Another Way’ Foundation. Five years later the monitoring was repeated. It is hard to resist the impression that Africa is still viewed as this poor, underdeveloped and dangerous continent. And the way it is presented translates into the way individuals of African descent are perceived.

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The Annexation of the Transvaal in 1877: The First Boer Reactions

Abstract

In April 1877 The South African Republic was annexed by the British Empire. This was a part of a wider scheme to unify the sub-continent under the British rule. The story is well known. Many works deals with the motives of Lord Carnarvon and other British decision-makers. Much less deals with the question of immediate Boer reaction, or to be exact, the reasons behind their inaction. This article deals with this problem. Tries to evaluate the attitudes of both, the British and the Boers, and to show why the Transvaal Boers mostly ignored the annexation declaration? This text is just an excursion into field which demands much wider and more detailed studies.

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