Yeeyon Im, "The Lure of Intercultural Shakespeare"
Shakespeare is unarguably a most active
participant in the so-called intercultural theatre, but has attracted little
attention from intercultural theorists and critics. This essay locates
Shakespeare within intercultural debates, the two most significant issues of
which are cultural equality and authenticity. In most intercultural Shakespeare
productions, non-Western cultural elements are no more than scenographic
embellishments to the framework of Shakespearean plot, character and theme.
Despite the increasing emphasis on performance in contemporary theatre, the
continuing hegemony of verbal signs over performing signs makes an
“intercultural” Shakespeare theatre of this kind mainly a Shakespearean event.
While deconstructionist and indigenized Shakespeare productions deliver cultural
equality, they lose claims for Shakespearean authenticity. Intercultural
Shakespeare turns out to be a paradox.
Despite such dilemmas,
productions dubbed as intercultural Shakespeare abound. The way to the universal
Bard was paved through the long stage history that approved any theatrical
changes as long as Shakespearean “spirit” was retained: a telling example of
Western logocentrism that disregards outward materiality and puts value in ideas
only. Shakespeare, deprived of Elizabethan/Jacobean historicity, operates like a
“universal solvent” in the international theatre circuit under the logic of
global capitalism. The use of the Western canon like Shakespeare adds a tinge of
high art to an intercultural production as well as guarantees easy circulation
in the countries that were and are under Western influence. For such reasons
productions advertize themselves as intercultural and Shakespearean, creating an
illusion of utopian cultural pluralism; a close analysis of intercultural
Shakespeare only exposes the liaison between interculturalism and cultural
Keywords: Shakespeare, interculturalism, theatre, authenticity, globalization,