Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

Shakespeare: The Indian Icon

Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

Shakespeare: The Indian Icon

Article excerpt

Shakespeare: The Indian Icon, ed. Vikram Chopra, New Delhi: The Readers Paradise, 2011. Pp. xxvi + 836. ISBN 978-81-920751-2-9

The title of Shakespeare: The Indian Icon suits this book which contains a great deal of useful information on Indian response to Shakespeare: social, cultural and academic. It is a voluminous collection of essays on Shakespearean interpretation, adaptation, appropriation, performances, films, and so on. Readers will understand well how the Indians have received the Bard and what they have learned from him. This is a thick book of over nearly 850 pages. It contains more than 150 colour photographs and paintings.

Professor Vikram Chopra, lately of ARSD College, University of Delhi, is an ardent lover of Shakespeare. He was the Founder Secretary of the Shakespeare Society of India (1987- 93), and the Coordinating Editor for India in the Shakespeare Data Bank. He is now on the Executive Committee of the Shakespeare Society of India and a member of the International Committee of Correspondents for World Shakespeare Bibliography. Besides, he is the editor of Shakespeare: Varied Perspectives (1996), a collection of critical essays by European, American, and Asian academics. I believe beyond all doubt that both his devotion to the Bard and his professional career enhanced the possibility of publishing this all-inclusive book.

Today Shakespeare as "a delighter of all mankind" (xiii) is a world icon. How has he become an Indian icon? This book will answer this important question. In Asian countries, for instance, Japan, China and Korea, Shakespearean acceptance was closely related to their Westernization or modernization. In India, however, things are different. Shakespeare was imported into this country as one of the political tools for British purposes to colonize her, with the Bible and the English language.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream (1594-96), an Indian woman dies in childbirth and Titania quarrels with Oberon about an Indian page. This scene offers proof that England had formed a relationship with India before Shakespeare wrote the play. In 1600 the East India Company was founded in order to further trade relations with India. In 1607 Hamlet was performed aboard the Hector commanded by William Hawkins who was on his way to the court of the Great Maharaja. In 1877 Queen Victoria became the Indian Empress. Under British mle, Shakespeare's plays were performed for the English residents, and western-style theatres were established in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Moreover, Shakespeare was added to the school curriculum, and his works were translated into Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Malayam and other local languages.

The Indians had their own literature, philosophy, religion, ethos, tradition and culture; consequently, they tried to forge connections between the traditions of classic Indian drama and Western drama. However, they gradually underwent a process of cultural assimilation on the one hand, and suffered conflict between colonialism and nationalism on the other; they had to fight against imperialism until Britain granted independence to India in 1947. Nationalists regarded Sanskrit literature including Mahabharata and Ramm ana higher than Shakespeare's drama. This volume clearly and fully reveals their inner feelings toward the Bard and the reflections of his drama on Indian thought. In addition, it clarifies how positively the Indians have appropriated him for their own use and why they admire him.

In the Introduction (1-56), Chopra refers to John Keats' wording, "negative capability," and points out the similarities between Indian thought and Shakespeare's vision. He regards this 'chameleon poetic stance' as "the mind's capacity to remain in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason" (20). He says, "As an observer of life Shakespeare knew that life is never static, and that nothing exists as absolute truth" (20). Furthermore, he says, "Life itself is a journey in the aesthetics of wonder; literature and art are explorations into this aesthetics" (22). …

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