A Midsummer Day with Shakespeare

Coinciding with the University’s centennial celebration, the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University and the British Council, Bangkok, decided to commemorate the 400th year of William Shakespeare’s death -despite his 4th centennial death commemoration was actually in 2016.

The talk consisted of various viewpoints and comments upon the work of the bard, along with the adaptation into other art disciplines.

Here are the things I thought about and jotted down while listening to each session.

‘Shakespeare Never Dies’ 

  • Shakespeare is considered as Britain’s number 1 cultural icon, according to a research conducted within the UK and outside.
  • Why Shakespeare?
    • his works contribute to the building of civil society
      • during his imprisonment, Nelson Mandela secretly shared a copy of ‘A complete collection of Shakespeare’ disguised as a Hindu religious book with other inmates.
    • The Globe still lives!
      • allusions to Shakespeare’s work can be seen in pop culture
        • The lyrics of The Beatles’ ‘I am a Walrus’ alludes to King Lear.
        • Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ shares the plot of Hamlet.
    • Shakespeare’s contribution to English lexicon (though debatable)
    • The bard has 37 plays!
    • He can be seen as a bridge for culture, education, society, and economical development.
    • He integrates many art forms!
    • Shakespeare can be used to study gender identity and equality
    • The oldest performance (with evidence) of Shakespeare’s Royal Company was in 1970. Recorded in the Bangkok Post.

Teaching Shakespeare in Thailand

  • Pacha wrote:
    • Feast, food, and drink in Shakespeare
    • Notion of poetical justice
    • cross-dressing
  • During Aj. Pachee’s time, the English majors were required to take Shakespeare 1 and Shakespeare 2. The first one focused on the tragedies while the latter focused on comedies.
  • Today, Shakespeare is only a required elective, and only one course is offered.
  • two questions were raised: Is Shakespeare relevant to the modern world? Is it really difficult to understand?
  • Shakespeare plays in its time
    • audience attended to make public appearance
      • both literate and illiterate (the glowerings?)
      • the plays engaged a wide range of audiences through:
        • sound effects –> dramatic effects
        • comic relief in tragedy
        • thus, connecting literature with other art forms
  • relevance to modern day society
    • covers many themes regarding ‘being human’
    • historiography?
    • gender ambiguity
      • cross-dressing
      • double cross-dressing
    • strong women characters
      • Lady Macbeth and striving for political status
      • Juliet takes action for what she wants
      • Portia
  • (did Shakespeare really think of psychological characterisation when he was writing, or was it view later imposed?)
  • Shakespeare is too often looked upon as a literary icon rather than a playwright –> the themes and other stuff are more emphasised –> the use of language mostly ignored
  • teaching Shakespeare should focus on allowing the words to dictate the speech
  • the iambic pentameter
    • rhythm of the heartbeat
    • rhythm of normal speech
      • English is a stress-timed language
      • the meaning in Shakespeare’s play are when the meter is disrupted
  • The intelligence of Shakespeare! –> take the introduction of R+J as an example
    • he summarizes the entire plot with the last words of each line
  • Why study Shakespeare in Thailand now?
    • order
      • his works talk about politics, chaos
      • nature of leader/kingship
    • ex. King Lear
      • world divided
        • young against old
        • poor against rich


Shakespeare and Present Day English

  • Faux Shakespeare
    • Laughing stock
      • Sidney used it before
    • Fool’s paradise
      • 13C
  • coinages
    • borrowings
      • Latin
      • French
    • compounding
    • affixing
    • alternating grammatical function
      • to pander
      • to elbow
      • an embrace
    • Words in context
      • semantic shift when in PDE
    • defunct words
  • translating Shakespeare
    • authority, authenticity
      • retelling
      • faithful translation
      • adaptation to culture

Shakespeare in Thai popular culture 

  • Shakespeare as the most accessible
    • shared touch stone
    • allows people from all walks of life to share their basic knowledge about world classics (Douglas Lanis)
    • “play ground” “common ground”
    • bardolary
  • Allusions in Thai popular soaps
    • Borrow + adaptation
    • exploit some scenes for specific purposes
    • examples
      • รักในรอยแค้น –> R+J plot and balcony scene
      • ทัดดาวบุษยา –> Twelfth night? cross-dressing
      • เจ้าสาวที่กลัวฝน –> R+J, magic of theatre
      • สกุณกา –> play within a play
  • “vanishing mediator”
  • “semi-colonial”


21 April, 2017