Shakespeare in the Romanian Cultural Memory

Shakespeare in the Romanian Cultural Memory

Shakespeare in the Romanian Cultural Memory

Shakespeare in the Romanian Cultural Memory


This book, with a foreword by Arthur F. Kinney, covers the major issues of the stage history and translation in the negotiation between Romanian culture and Shakespeare, raising questions about what a Shakespeare play becomes when incorporated in a different and allegedly liminal culture. The study reflects the growing cross-fertilization of approaching Shakespeare in Romanian translations, productions, literary adaptations, and criticism, looking atthe way in which Romania's collective cultural memory is constructed, re-examined, and embedded in the adoption of Shakespeare in certain periods. While it posits the problematics in the historical development of Shakespeare's presence in Romanian culture, the study gives a detailed history of the translations and productions of the plays, focusing on the most significant aspects of their literary, social, and political appropriation over the past two centuries.


Arthur F. Kinney

A catwalk traversed the stage; and lots of ropes hung from the state can
opy, like lianas in a tropical forest. Like in a simple sentence, this setting
made a visible statement: the world was a jungle. This homo homini lupus
motto became an ad litteram declaration when the audiences could see
kings, princes, cardinals, and attendants hanging from these ropes like
monkeys, and jumping into the political world of the stage. As a theater
critic noticed about this production, “had we lived during King John’s
reign, we would have felt avenged.” This was an exceptionally daring
statement, because the critic clearly transposed the political situation
from British history to the contemporary Romania, regardless of the
Communist censorship.

Monica MATEI-CHESNOIU is describing a production of SHAKEspeare’s King John at the Comedy Theater in Bucharest in 1988; and she notes that the reviewer escaped without harm because the Communist regime in Romania was already at the verge of collapse. But it was anyone’s call at the moment. For her, the “moral rectitude” and “verticality” of the play and this staging of it exposed “the incredible heights of worldly ambition and political power.” At the end of the performance, a “memorable ending” created by “pure directorial invention,” four of King John’s followers were left in obscurity, “sequestered by the higher conspiracy of history,” vanishing into the darkness of the stage.

This is only one of the countless memorable performances which Matei-Chesnoiu records that illuminate what she calls “a liminal space at the cultural margin of Europe, … a place somewhere near the Black Sea and the Danube, where Shakespeare has been performed, translated, and interpreted successfully for almost two centuries.” the three provinces that constitute this margin—the Romanian provinces of Wallachia, Moldova, and Transylvania—are the focus of this rich, substantial, and transformative study of the potential meanings of Shakespeare and the political uses and social purposes to which his plays have been put in our time. in the cur-

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