Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Volume 21, Issue 1, 2009
Volumes & issues
Volume 21, Issue 1, 2009
Author Chris ThurmanSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp III –IV (2009)More Less
It is only appropriate to begin this issue of Shakespeare in Southern Africa with an expression of gratitude to Brian Pearce, who edited the journal for almost a decade after ushering it into the new millennium. Readers, contributors, guest editors and editorial consultants can all attest to his great care in producing the journal each year - and to the invaluable service he has performed for Shakespeare scholarship in doing so. With some trepidation, then, I have taken over the editorship of a journal entering its twenty-first year of existence. Fortunately for me, Laurence Wright (in his capacity as Managing Editor) has made the transition a smooth one. I would also like to extend my thanks to those colleagues who act as peer reviewers of articles submitted to the journal - it is a vital task that requires no small amount of time and intellectual energy. Finally, I'd like to mention the work of Bev Cummings-Penlington, who takes dull wordprocessed documents and turns them into "something rich and strange" : the printed page (or, as likely, the pdf file) you have before you.
Author Laurence WrightSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 1 –21 (2009)More Less
"Shakspeare, as Bearing on English History" is the second of two lectures on Shakespeare given by Archdeacon Nathaniel Merriman in Grahamstown in 1857. The first was delivered in the Court House on the 2nd September 1857, and the second two months later, on Friday 6th November that same year, again in the Court House.
Author Daniel RouxSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 23 –29 (2009)More Less
At least since Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks was published in 1952, the postcolonial subject has been defined in relation to split subjectivity, hybridity and alienation. Academics and writers almost routinely invoke two ur-texts in order to discuss something of the problematics surrounding colonisation and the negotiation of race and Otherness : Shakespeare's The Tempest and Othello. In the case of Othello, there is often a visceral reaction to the black character on stage, a dislocating shock of recognition : thus for Ben Okri, it becomes possible to imagine himself in Othello's place, Othered as much by the Venetian social context that the narrative describes as by the play's own potentially racist symbolic. For Caryl Phillips, a personal comparison with Othello, both intimately inserted into and simultaneously alienated from the turbulent cosmopolitan centre of Early Modern Venice, is almost inescapable.
Author Malvern Van Wyk SmithSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 31 –46 (2009)More Less
The slippery presence of African themes in Shakespeare's plays is a function of the mythic but rapidly changing image of Africa in the England and Europe of his time. In 1888 Gardiner Greene Hubbard, president of the American National Geographic Society, introduced the centenary celebrations of the Society with an address in which he said : "America was explored ; Africa was circumnavigated" (3). He could hardly have summed up the contrast between three to four centuries of American and African discovery more cogently. A few years later, in 1897, C. Raymond Beazley made a similar point about Africa and the East : "Men crept round Africa in face of the Atlantic storms because of the golden East beyond" (3.11). This creeping round and haunting of Africa's shores had, as far as the English were concerned, only developed during Shakespeare's lifetime. Thomas Wyndham, William Hawkins, John Lock and others performed the first English voyages to West Africa (and began the English slave trade) in the decades just before Shakespeare's birth. The first English visit to the Cape of Good Hope was apparently that of Thomas Stevens in 1579 (a year before Drake's visit), but regular English visits to the Cape only began right at the end of the sixteenth century. How much of all this did Shakespeare know about, and is it possible to detect traces of such familiarity in his plays? A tall order, but I think there are some clues.
Author Eugenie R. FreedSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 47 –59 (2009)More Less
Shakespeare set thirteen of his plays in Italy. Since he probably never visited the country, he shows only the vaguest notion of the topography of most of his Italian settings. However, the two plays set in Venice are notable exceptions. The Merchant of Venice (composed around 1596-1597), and Othello, the Moor of Venice (probably written between 1601 and 1603) are not only distinguished by authentic 'local colour', but also convey the playwright's awareness of a certain image of Venice, both as it was presented by Italian historians, and as English visitors recorded their experiences of the city.
' ... the worst of models - though the most extraordinary of writers' : Shakespeare, the Romantics and ByronAuthor Michael WilliamsSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 61 –67 (2009)More Less
No history of Shakespearean criticism would be complete without a substantial reference to the writings of the Romantic period. Hazlitt and Coleridge, De Quincey and Lamb made important additions to the body of Shakespearean criticism, and they changed its focus in significant ways. The interest in Shakespeare also went beyond the more familiar tragedies and comedies. So, for example, in Walter Scott's Journal there are quotations from no fewer than twenty-eight Shakespeare plays, including Parts 2 and 3 of Henry VI, and Henry VIII. Scott observed : "When I want to express a sentiment which I feel strongly, I find the phrase in Shakespeare," adding, "The blockheads talk of my being like Shakespeare - [I am] not fit to tie his brogues" (252).
Author Solomon IyasereSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 69 –72 (2009)More Less
No episode in Shakespeare's tragedies is more shocking and more heart-rending than the murder of Desdemona, an event 'too dreadful to be endured'. From the Renaissance to the present, the dastardliness of this excruciating spectacle has evoked strong emotions in viewers, readers and critics alike. "What instruction can we make out of this Catastrophe?" Thomas Rymer (141) asked in 1693 : "Is not this to envenome and sour our spirits, to make us repine and grumble at Providence and the government of the World? If this be our end, what boots it to be Vertuous?"(142).
"Why Macbeth?" Looking back on Umabatha after forty years
An Interview with Welcome Msomi : interviewAuthor Scott L. NewstokSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 73 –80 (2009)More Less
The following interview, lightly edited, was conducted with Welcome Msomi via telephone on October 31, 2008. At that time, my collaborator Ayanna Thompson and I were in the process of editing a collection of essays (Weyward Macbeth) on various "non-traditional" versions of Macbeth inflected through the lens of race, following a January 2008 symposium on the topic hosted by Rhodes College, U.S.A. While our focus was primarily restricted to American productions, we were also creating an Appendix of international productions of Shakespeare's play, which understandably included the influential Umabatha. Many of the most well-known all-black productions of Shakespeare have been adaptations of Macbeth - beyond Umabatha (first performed in South Africa in 1970, and since revived repeatedly for international tours), Orson Welles' 1936 Federal Theatre Project (the so-called "Voodoo Macbeth") comes to mind, as does Peter Coe's 1972 Black Macbeth at the Roundhouse Theatre in London (purported to be the first all-black production of Shakespeare in the U.K.).
Author Ashlee PolatinskySource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 81 –83 (2009)More Less
Performed in Cape Town and in Johannesburg just prior to this year's national elections, Pieter-Dirk Uys's latest play has proved remarkably prescient in its farcical representation of how politics gets done in South Africa, and of how certain camps have configured in the Zuma era. MacBeki models its exploration of voracious ambition on Shakespeare's Macbeth, only, unlike in Macbeth, Uys "does not spill blood in his play. He spills the beans" (x). In his playwright's note to the expeditiously published text of the play (already on sale at Johannesburg performances), Uys remarks : "In my play no one dies; they go back into the collective leadership" (vi). This solution for dispatching throne-toppled characters, as well as a host of extremely funny lines, make MacBeki a comedy. Nevertheless, there is foul murder aplenty, occurring off-stage as a consequence of Lady Manto's beetroot- and garlic-inspired policies.
Author Brian PearceSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 83 –84 (2009)More Less
This production of Coriolanus was a stimulating, thought-provoking one. With a cast of black student actors, the play became an exploration of the theme of the hero-warrior set against the backdrop of Shakespeare's Rome. The parallels and differences between classical Rome, Shakespeare and contemporary Africa were explored in a way that was often imaginative and one was reminded that there are similarities between Coriolanus' scorn of the people and former president Thabo Mbeki's apparent reluctance to communicate with his own supporters - as the programme notes suggested. Director Debbie Lütge writes : "Ex President Thabo Mbeki's official biographer Mark Gevisser in his article, 'Where is Mbeki's world elsewhere?' (Mail & Guardian, 23 December 2008) quotes from Coriolanus, drawing an analogy between Coriolanus's dismissal of the plebeians and Mbeki's 'aloofness' at Polokwane. Ironically Gevisser claims the play as one of Thabo Mbeki's favorites."
Author Simon Van SchalkwykSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 84 –87 (2009)More Less
During the interval to Geoffrey Hyland's spirited and stylish adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like It at Maynardville, I overheard someone mention that he was most struck by what he called the play's potjiekos of styles. He had a point ; Hyland's adaptation, at first, seems to be characterised by disorderly stylistic juxtapositions.
Author Kevin GoddardSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 87 –88 (2009)More Less
For those of us who think the performance of Shakespearean theatre is important for contemporary South African culture, it is gratifying to see young people giving their time, energy and enthusiasm to bringing the plays to life on stage. The small band of enthusiasts who make up the Port Elizabeth Shakespeare Festival deserves much applause for taking on the challenge of making the works accessible to modern, young, multicultural audiences. This year Romeo and Juliet is set for the Grade 12 national exam, and there are various productions country-wide.
Author Justus BalekaSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 88 –89 (2009)More Less
The Royal Shakespeare Company and Baxter Theatre's 'African' Tempest opened to much publicity, press and general theatre hype for a short season in Cape Town before heading off to Shakespeare's 'back garden' to impress the local (and perhaps some expatriate South African) Bard buffs in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Renaissance Poetry and Drama in Context : Essays for Christopher Wortham, Lynch, Andrew and Scott, Anne M. (Eds.) : book reviewSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 91 –92 (2009)More Less
This collection of essays is bound together not so much by a common thread of subject matter or theme as by the authors' shared admiration for Christopher Wortham, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Western Australia and sometime lecturer at the University College of Rhodesia - now the University of Zimbabwe - who grew up and worked in Zimbabwe and South Africa (his alma mater is Rhodes University) before taking his young family to Australia to escape the war in Zimbabwe in the 1970s. The authors of the collection are former colleagues, past students and fellow academics from around the world. This makes for rather a special publication. The articles themselves are preceded by a tribute to Wortham by Geoffrey Cooper and Robert White, and are followed by a collection of memories by Wortham and his wife Anne.
World-Wide Shakespeares : Local Appropriations in Film and Performance, Sonia Massai (Ed.) : book reviewAuthor Frances M. RingwoodSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 93 –95 (2009)More Less
The underlying principal behind World-Wide Shakespeares concerns inclusivity encompassing local appropriations of Shakespeare and their reception locally, internationally and globally. In the Introduction, editor and contributor Sonia Massai states that the impetus behind the collection comes from the post-Marxist theories of Pierre Bordieu, which are used to define Shakespeare's oeuvre, its stage interpretation and all subsequent scholarly criticism on both as part of an abstract, nebulous image which is defined as 'the field'. This conception of the field serves to emphasise the diverse and dialectical nature of relationships and power-struggles within Shakespearean studies, and to show how new-comers to the field have the potential to change these relationships.
Author Annie GagianoSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 95 –98 (2009)More Less
This attractively presented play script, which includes a number of photographs taken at the 2003 Grahamstown National Arts Festival production, is intended (according to the informative Introduction by Laurence Wright) to fulfil the request which went out from the Royal House of Rharabe to "take the play to the grass roots" (xviii). This was gracious acceptance after initial qualms and controversy, and vindicates the cultural tact of the author and the generally restrained delicacy of his writing. Mann's drama recalls and reenacts a period of intense internal conflict among the AmaXhosa of the Ciskei during the early 1800s, when the Crown Prince of the Rharabe people, Ngqika (sometimes referred to as Gaika by white historians), had begun to chafe against the prolonged rule of his uncle the Regent, Ndlambe.
Author Victor HoulistonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 98 –100 (2009)More Less
It is over ten years since this book was published, and another twelve since Clayton (as she was then) completed the dissertation on which it is based, so it may be a little unfair to judge it in today's context. The book is preoccupied with the concerns of the 1980s: anti-canonical grievance and the imperative to rescue Shakespeare from complicity in educational and social elitism. Tudeau-Clayton's thesis is that Shakespeare has been used by the imperial classes in recent times rather as Virgil was in early modern England. The theme has much potential, for we are all interested in the place of Shakespeare in the modern curriculum - for Tudeau-Clayton's part, she wishes that we were discussing alternatives to Shakespeare rather than "alternative Shakespeares" (9) - but the ideological crudeness of the book means that she does justice neither to the politics of early modern Virgilianism nor to the diversity of Shakespearean practice today. She is so determined to combat 'Shakespeare' the cultural icon with Shakespeare the author of The Tempest that Ben Jonson necessarily plays the role of exclusive foil to the all-embracing bard.
Source: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 21, pp 101 –102 (2009)More Less