Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

Nothing like the Sun: Shakespeare in Spain Today

Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

Nothing like the Sun: Shakespeare in Spain Today

Article excerpt

Today Shakespeare is more present in Spain than ever as a result of the critical interest and spectacular growth of his popularity among Spaniards who recognise him as the embodiment of cultural and literary values. Since the celebration of the Seventh World Shakespeare Congress in Valencia in April 2001, Shakespearean scholarship in Spain has provided new ways of understanding the playwright. It has opened up debates on issues which have made possible new scholarly studies, translations and performances that have proved more active and vigorous than ever, and whose effects can be seen in different facets of Spanish culture and life.

Which Shakespeare/ Which Spain?

Who is Shakespeare today? Or, in Balz Engler's words, "Does the term refer to a person, to a set of printed texts, to a cultural icon, to a theatrical tradition, or to a combination of all these?" (Engler 27) What does Shakespeare mean now? One can only say that Shakespeare means different things to different people: Shakespeare is constantly reshaped and refashioned in different places and situations; it is not Shakespeare but rather "Shakespeare" that really matters in the Shakespace (Hedrick and Reynolds 3) where it is written and rewritten in an unending process of cultural reproduction. As Shakespeare no longer "merely continues to signify Englishness" (Joughin 1), it is possible to read Shakespeare within a distinct context without his language (Kennedy) for "the meanings of Shakespeare's works (and of the Shakespeare the author) can constantly respond to the needs, fantasies, preoccupations, and conflicts of the moment" (Lanier 230).

Shakespeare's appropriation and adaptability become more problematic in the new political mapping of Spain whose identity as a multilingual nation has become a burning issue today (Béjar). The debate about the Spanish nation, its identity and language in the new democracy, as both a historical and a contemporary political problem, is particularly complex due to the legacy of the Franco dictatorship which deeply eroded the legitimacy of Spanish nationalism. During and since the transition, Spanish nationalist discourse has evolved to meet the challenge of new concepts of nation, identity and culture, and proposes different configurations of the relationship between nation, state and language, as minority languages have co-official status with Spanish. While the Constitution of 1978 defines Spain as a nation of nationalities, many politicians and intellectuals now claim that Spain is a nation of nations, while others that it is a post-national state (See Balfour). But what is really at issue is not whether Spain exists or not as a nation; rather, it is the traditional ways of seeing Spain from both the centre and the margins, the ways in which Spanish and other nationalities are projected and how they influence the idea of Spain as a nation. It shows the comparative rivalry between Spanish national identity and the historic nationalities or regions like Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia deriving from the peculiar architecture of the state in Spain, and their effect on social and political cohesion. We are witnessing a transformation of Spain from the Spain of the tambourine and Don Juan to "multiple Spains, to a fragmented, multi-cultural society which nonetheless still (on the whole) conceptualises itself as the sum total of its long and rich cultural and political history" (Gies 4). This radical change produces tension and conflict as a result of the confrontation of the two Spains, of the traditional and conservative in contrast with the modem and postmodern.

Zara, Almodovar, and Shakespeare

Shakespeare's plays -like Zara's fashion house and Almodovar's movies- have been locally and universally accepted. They combine commercial and popular success. They represent values and aspirations that influence society and its institutions in various ways. They are cultural icons that remain in wide cultural circulation once "the old division between high and low culture has been erased" (Smith 2). …

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