India's Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance

India's Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance

India's Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance

India's Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance

Synopsis

This is a collection on the diverse aspects of the interaction between Shakespeare and India, a process embedded in the contradictions of colonialism - of simultaneous submission and resistance. The essays, grouped around the key issues of translation, interpretation, and performance, deal with how the plays were taught, translated, and adapted, as well as the literary, social, and political implications of this absorption into the cultural fabric of India. They also look at the other side, what India meant to Shakespeare. Further, they document how the performance of Shakespeare both colonized and catalyzed Indian theater - being staged in English in schools, in translation in various parts of the country, through acculturation into indigenous theater forms and Hindi cinema. The book highlights, and thus rereads, not just one of the longest and most widespread interactions between a Western author and the East but also part of the colonial and postcolonial history of India. Poonam Trivedi is a Reader in English at Indraprastha College, University of Delhi. Now retired, Dennis Bartholomeusz was Reader in English literature at Monash University in Melbourne.

Excerpt

It is a truth increasingly acknowledged that all the world has become Shakespeare’s stage. The recent naming of Shakespeare as the Writer of the Millennium is not just the public confirmation of his “global” status but a long-awaited recognition of the fact that Shakespeare belongs to the whole world, and that the diverse incursions of his work into virtually every culture are as much a part of his essence as is the English Shakespeare of Stratford. Investigating these Shakespearean inroads in world cultures is to fill out and elucidate the dimensions of the phenomenon of “Shakespeare.”

India has its own unique relation with Shakespeare, beginning early in his career when Hakluyt published, in 1588, the first eyewitness account of India by an Englishman, Ralph Fitch, who had initially sailed out on the Tiger to Tripoli enroute to Aleppo—a voyage Shakespeare almost certainly alluded to in Macbeth. Mercantile trade furthered this interaction, for we have evidence of the performed presence of Shakespeare on ships sailing east. Hamlet and Richard II were staged aboard the Dragon, commissioned by the East India Company, on 5 and 30 September 1607 while anchored at Sierra Leone. Shakespeare touched Indian shores too as an entertainer for English traders at the earliest modern theaters in the East in Calcutta (1775) and Bombay (1776). The Calcutta Theatre (1775–1808) was set up with the help of David Garrick who sent playbooks, men, and machinery and received in return “Indian chintz” and “Madeira.” The “unfortunate chintz,” we learn from Garrick’s letters, was, however, impounded by customs officers when it was sent to Thomas Chippendale for covering some chairs . . .

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