Lesson 7: When West Meets East




  • Antonin Artaud, "On the Balinese Theatre"; "Oriental and Western Theatre"
  • Bertolt Brecht, "Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting"
  • Leonard C. Pronko, "Three Versions of Noh"







West Sees East

  • Brecht on Chinese opera, Artaud on Balinese theatre, Pronko on Noh¡Xthree theatres not "corrupted" or "polluted" by Western theatre (Aristotelian).
  • They are amazed by the differences and artistic possibilities.
  • Total theatre¡Xmusical, physical, less verbal (vs. Western over-dependence on the script).
  • Conscious performance¡Xnot purely imitative, no illusion, stylized, symbolic.
  • Not so psychological / emotional¡Xmore intellectual and spiritual.
  • Convention¡Xnot spontaneous or random, precise, conventionalized, requires vigorous and long training.



Kunqu Macbeth¡m¦å¤â°O¡n

  • A combination of Western (Shakespeare's plot) and Chinese.
  • What are the differences from Shakespeare? How is Shakespeare Sinocized?

Supernatural Elements

  • Fantastic dance and acrobatic skills.
  • Witches = human, weird, crazy old women; "Madame Fairy" = superhuman (in shape, in action, in prediction of future) and god's agents.
  • Unlike Shakespeare, very explicit messages; there is no ambiguity.
  • Divine will reduces the Kunqu Macbeth's moral responsibility. It is his fear of divine wrath, his submission to divine will (while there is nothing divine in Shakespeare's witches).
  • The Kunqu Lady Macbeth's illmess is caused by ghosts and spirits, not tortured by a guilty conscience like Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth.
  • Powerful ghosts¡Xnot imagined, not psychological projection, not conscience, but very real.
  • Kamic retribution.
  • Moral¡Xdo not kill, or the ghosts will revenge!
  • Middle-class, lower-class moral, pragmatic, simple-minded, childish.
  • Popular eligion (folklore, superstition about heaven, hell, purgatory).
  • Shakespeare's concerns¡Xorigin of evil, torture of conscience¡Xare a lot more philosophical and profound.
  • The Kunqu Macbeth started as just and virtuous; he had no ambition to start with, unlike Shakespeare's Macbeth. His flaw is that he is not firm enough, not that he is ambitious.


Macbeth and Lady Macbethh

The Weird Sisters

The Ghosts


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