The Global Shakespeare: A session at Jaipur Literature Festival

By Shaifali Arora
From IIS University, Jaipur
Posted Jan 31st 2013 9:00AM

Jaipur Literature Festival is a platform where literature of all kinds speaks. Whenever somebody talks about literature, the name of William Shakespeare immediately comes to the mind. Shakespeare has now become a global term with so many adaptations and translations of his works and in so many languages.

Christopher Ricks, a warren professor of the Humanities and co-director of the editorial institute at Boston University, says in the session "The Global Shakespeare" at JLF that Shakespeare is "read for pleasure". He says that Shakespeare is the "greatest prose and poet writer and part of his greatness is his publicity as a poet, that is great."

Shakespeare is been adapted and translated in theatre and drama. Tim Supple, one of the speakers in the session, has created theatre throughout the world. "His multi- lingual 'A Midsummer Night's dream,' created for Dash Arts in India, was a worldwide success and acclaimed as 'the most life enhancing production of Shakespeare play since Peter Brook's," an introduction of Tim given in the speaker's list of JLF. Tim speaks about the adaptation of Shakespeare in India. He says that he came to India to work with Indian writers, to work with 'Classical' non- English speaking people. He speaks about his 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and says that it was an exact translation, "verse was translated in verse and prose in prose." Arishakti, a village in Pondicherry is the place where they rehearsed for the play with the village audience present. Among those sixty seventy people he found his Shakespeare range. He says that these people "recognized something deep inside the play". He names it as India's mythological theatre, a mixture, a connection with folk theatre.

Supriya Nair, who was moderating the session, asked Tim that "Shakespeare is connected with the modern theatre in India. How was it to introduce the play to the artists?" Tim replies that "text is my first tradition, deeply realistic. Shakespeare stands between the ancient and modern. These people at Arishakti opened me to the other side of Shakespeare which is the modern half of Shakespeare."

Elif Batuman, a writer in residence at Koc University, talks about the Women's theatre group in Turkey. She says, "It's a woman of forty five who started the theatre in her village to express the conditions of village women, self expression and representation. She has staged Hamlet (translated). Hamlet is so huge that you can find anybody's story in it. The translation was in prose and these village women were working and planting Broccoli for twelve hours a day and used to go back and prepare for the play."

Anjum Hasan, another speaker at JLF says in the session that "I love and adore Shakespeare. I hear Shakespeare". She is an Indian writer in English. She writes about Shakespeare in her fiction. She says "we somewhere do relate to Shakespeare in India". Lunatic in my head is her first novel. "Take a passage from Shakespeare and transport it to Indian classrooms. It is about difficulty of Shakespeare in the classroom", she says.

Chandrahas Choudhury, who is a novelist based in New Delhi speaks about his own experience with Shakespeare. He recalls the Polonius speech from Hamlet which he read when he was eleven or twelve. He says, "Shakespeare is mainly a textual one." And "Shakespeare is taken very serious in the English departments of India." Everybody laughs at this statement of his. Chandrahas, with a sense of humor in his tone, refers to professor Ricks that "If you don't read Shakespeare, that's the end in Indian class-rooms."

All these speakers discussed Shakespeare widely in different ways, in different language and in different world. William Shakespeare's works like Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Midnight's Summer Dream, The Tempest and Coriolanus have become global. We can see these works adapted and translated in different languages, in different places. Various countries of the world have adapted Shakespeare in their folk forms. All these speakers really made William Shakespeare 'The Global Shakespeare".
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