n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Shakespeare and tragedy in South Africa : from to

Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



This article starts with a somewhat naive question: what drives an identification with tragedy - and Shakespeare's tragedies in particular - in the context of South African politics? The first part of the article relates to the cultural dialectics of tragedy as a genre, its journeys across time and space as it is reworked to serve different purposes, to constitute distinct publics and to enframe new social and historical realities. The second part presents a case study: Mark Gevisser's biography of Thabo Mbeki, , which presents Mbeki as a Coriolanus-like figure. This aspect of the book has drawn criticism from South African commentators. The article considers Gevisser's construction of a tragic narrative architecture around the putative sympathy between a politician and a literary character. Finally, it offers a reading of as a tragedy that speaks to the very crisis of interpretation that is provoked by the itinerant, labile condition of the genre of tragedy itself.

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