Lesson 1: Introduction



Shakespeare as Performance

  • Who's your favorite signer? Imagine yourself read the musical notes.
  • Who's your favorite artist? Imagine yourself read the verbal description.
  • Who's your favorite dancer? Imagine yourself read the choreographic notes.
  • Shakespeare as silent reading alone is inadequate, inaccurate, and reductive.
  • Shakespeare should be studied as performance.





Shakespearean Theatre


    "Right" Shakespeare Performance

  • When we perform Shakespeare, do we have to adop a British accent, Elizabethan costumes, and historical settings (streets, architecture, furniture)?
  • The historical Shakespeare is indeed very different from our historical imagination¡Xempty stage, simple and symbolic settings, contemporary costumes (for Roman and Italian, etc.), and contemporary language (for Romans, Italians, French, etc.), no lighting, no close-ups, no background music.
  • Is it funny to dress Shakespearean characters in Japanese kimono or contemporary hip-hop fashion? The historical Shakespeare features anachronism.
  • The historical Shakespeare is not a realistic and naturalistic theatre, but a theatre built on conventions and willing suspension of the reality principle.
  • It is not necessary to reconstruct the "real" Shakespeare.

Three Examples of Romeo and Juliet Performance

  • Zefferelli's film Romeo and Juliet
  • Ballet Romeo and Juliet
  • Taiwanese opera Romeo and Juliet
  • Which performance is "correct," "true," "good" or "high" Shakespeare? Be open-minded!
  • By our standards, Shakespeare not only borrows, adapts, steals and plagiarizes, but also misquotes, confusing time and place and people and plot¡Xand it's okay!
  • Even though Shakespeare uses other sources (history, Chaucer, Italian novella, native romance, etc.), he is genuinely Shakespearean.
  • What we do to Shakespeare today is similar to what Shakespeare did to others.
  • Shakespeare is a mirror, reflecting your own image.
  • Shakespeare is a writing tablet, on which you mark and remark.

Download Real Player






Zefferelli's filmRomeo and Julie


Ballet Romeo and Juliet

Taiwanese opera Romeo and Juliet


Intercultural Shakespeare

  • Shakespeare has been translated into just about any language in the world, but these are not necessarily intercultural.
  • Interultural Shakespeare: Not merely literal translation and petty localization, but conscious give and take.
  • Multicultural performance is like a food court (in department store basement) with Taiwanese oyster pancakes, Japanese sushi, Korean barbecue, Italian pizza, French bakery, Hong Kong style mango ice, etc. It is a juxtaposition, but there is no real interaction or interference. It emphasizes purity, diversity, authenticity.
  • Multicultural performance uses culture as decorative, cute (Orientalism), carnival-like, and harmless. It guatantees the eventual dominance of the mainstream.
  • Fusion puts all of the raw materials together and make one big stew. It obscures boundary and emphasizes similarity, harmony and common humanity (fish is just fish, Japanese or Italian), overlooking and deliberately erasing difference.
    Fusion is a utopian vision, hippie-culture, "We Are the World," etc. It is a neverland, only those on drugs can believe it.
  • Intercultural conscious¡XWhy is fish grilled by Americans and fried by Englishmen? What will happen if you use soy sauce on pasta and tomato sauce on pot-stickers?
  • Interculturalism is not necessarily about authenticity or harmony, not afraid of tension, confrontation or conflict.
  • Intercultural performanc is by definition inquisitive, innovative, conscious.












© 2005 by Bi-qi Beatrice Lei. All rights reserved.