Lesson 15: Colonial, Post-Colonial, and Neo-Colonial Shakespeare



  • Shakespeare's contemporary phenomenon (Asia, Africa, Americas).
  • Romantic idealization of the savage.
  • Brave New World¡Xunlimited possibility, free from all cultural burdens, including political utopia.
  • Demonization of the savage¡Xbarbaric, monstrous, half-human, cannibal (cannibalism¡XCatholics!).
  • Bright side of colonialism¡Xwealth, resource, adventure, nature, wonder (bringing back for freak show or zoo).
  • Dark side of colonialism¡Xmassacre, rape, robbery, enslavement, totally inhuman.

Post-colonialism vs. Neo-colonialism

  • Myth of post-colonialism¡Xwonderful thing, freedom, liberation.
  • Is freedom attainable or even desirable?
  • Caliban wants a new master!
  • Ukraine¡Xoverthrowing Russian power only to welcome Western power.
  • Post-war Taiwan¡Xoverthrowing Japanese power only to welcome US power.
  • Many post-colonial regions turn immediately into autocracy, dictatorship, corruption.
  • Post-colonialism is not about liberation, but about new enslavement (from Sycorax to Prospero, from Prospero to Stefano).
  • The power relation does not change¡Xthe people are always the oppressed, only by a different master, by means of a different ideology and lies.
  • Revolution campaign¡Xoverthrowing tyranny (Zhou, Jie, Qin), overthrowing alien regimes (Yuan, Qing), but what difference does it make?
  • Same with the "liberation" of China by Communists¡Xpeople are liberated from landlords so they can be enslaved by Mao's party.
  • What about us, here and now? If KMT is alien colonizer, are Taiwanese really free after DPT came to power? Are we really happier? Will we be happier if we are "freed" and "independent" from China?

Aimé Césaire, A Black Tempest

  • Aimé Césaire¡Xnot just a literary-dramatic figure, but also an active political figure.
  • For him, literature-theatre is political, and can lead to action.
  • Martinique¡Xa French department today.
  • Originally inhabited by the natives, then found by Columbus, claimed by France.
  • Sugar plantation, African slaves, change of native race.
  • A Tempest¡Xthe black experience in the New World (Black Diaspora).
  • Negritude¡Xvalorization of black identity, heritage, culture.
  • Very articulate Caliban and Ariel, very powerful lines¡Xthe real protagonists of the play.
  • Both Caliban and Ariel hate Prospero, but they adopt different strategies¡XCaliban's direct confrontation and Ariel's compromise.
  • Why is Caliban ugly? Because Prospero has made him so by his lies!
  • Prospero stays! Because he thinks he is important!
  • Prospero-Caliban¡XHegel's master-slave.

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