Lesson 13: Political Theatre


Didactic Literature

  • Horace, Sidney, Han Yu¡Xto teach and delight.
  • Not purely for delight or pleasure, but is also political!
  • Bataille¡XLiterature is not innocent.



Literature for Class Interest

  • Mao¡Xall literature serves a class, nothing is neutra.
  • Aristocratic / Feudal art¡Xto immobilize society, to perpetuate existing system.
  • Epic¡Xliterature of the white straight male ruling class (antifeminist, anti-democratic).
  • Chaucer¡Xliterature of the middle class, literature of women, anti-church (Wife of Bath), „³ subversive.
  • Middle-class¡Xnot blood, not fate, but virtue (merits).
  • Bourgeois petty morals.
  • Novel¡Xliterature of the bourgeoisie.
  • Bakhtin¡Xnovel as subversive.



Theatre of the Oppressed vs. Theatre of the Oppressors

  • Aristotelian catharsis as means of oppression.
  • Theatre replaces action.
  • Poetic justice? Then there is no need for resistance or revolution.
  • Art // religion¡Xsuppresses action.
  • Medieval religious theatre.
  • Machiavellian theatre¡Xno moral, calculating, individual vs. privileged class.
  • Shakespearean bourgeois theatre¡Xstill repents in the last act.
  • Hegel¡Xfree subject, individual (romantic, emotive).
  • Marx-Brecht¡Xconditioned object, class representative (realist, rational).



Conservative Shakespeare?

  • Patriarchy¡XThe Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Aristocracy¡XThe Winter's Tale.
  • Political Authority¡XMacbeth, King Lear.
  • Legitimacy¡XKing Lear, Richard III, Henry V.
  • Eurocentric¡XOthello, The Tempest.
  • In short, Shakespeare often supports the status quo.



Conservative Chinese Theatre

  • Loyalty¡XOrphan Zhao
  • Filial piety
  • Integrity
  • Chastity¡XWang Baochuan
  • Confucianism¡Xsupport the status quo (king, father, man, authority).
  • Buddhism¡Xcontempt of power, tolerance, anti-resistance.
  • Taoist¡Xtolerance, indifference, anti-resistance.
  • Divine justice¡Xforgo temporal retribution, forgo revolution.
  • Union in the end¡Xhated by Hu Shih, Lu Xun, etc., because it makes you forget the pain.
  • Imperial-aristocratic major genres (Kunqu and Beijing)¡Xsupport status quo.
  • Ex: ¡m¤ý¤l´_¤³°O¡n
  • Local minor genres (Taiwanese, Yue, etc.)¡Xpetty bourgeois mores, cheap sentiments ³ depoliticizes .
  • Ex: ¡m©¼©¤ªá¡n



Subversive Shakespeare?

  • Feminism?¡XThe Taming of the Shrew (exposing male fantasy).
  • Democracy? Can't think of any!
  • Anti-Racist?¡XOthello
  • Shakespearean chorus¡Xjester (King Lear), clown (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet), Jacques (As You Like It)¡Xan alternative voice, a voice of conscience.



Poetics of the Oppressed

  • Destruction of the spectator.
  • Participation, intervention, experiment, exploration, action.

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