Internet Shakespeare Editions


Over the last hundred years, Shakespeare has been accorded a canonical status in Chinese culture. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Shakespeare was an inspiration to the development of spoken drama (huaju), the modern Chinese theatre. Furthermore, in the 1980s he was also seen as the "new blood" vital to the future of the traditional Chinese operatic genres. It is remarkable to observe the diverse ways in which Shakespeare came to be appropriated by so many Chinese practitioners from radically different standpoints, and how this intriguing intercultural process was interrelated with the history of unprecedented social, political, economic and cultural transformation experienced in twentieth-century China.

Given China's Confucian heritage of respect for authority, the question: "Is Shakespeare still Shakespeare?" was often the sole criterion used to judge a production both by critics and by those involved in the processes of adapting, directing and performing. No matter how superficial their understanding of Shakespeare, all practitioners tried their utmost to produce what they saw as genuinely "Shakespearean" performances, typically modelled on the Soviet-inspired practice of the 1950s. Since the 1980s, however, a number of directors have been prepared to use Shakespeare to reflect or comment on issues in contemporary society, to adopt experimental approaches to staging Shakespeare, or to explore the practitioners' own individuality, and such developments have added a further dimension to the understanding and treatment of Shakespeare around the globe.


Set for Antony and Cleopatra (1984), produced by the Shanghai Youth Spoken Drama Company, Courtesy of Fang Ping.