Shakespeare in the World of Communism and Socialism 9781442616585

The general theme that emerges from this study is the deeply ambivalent nature of communist Shakespeare who, like Feste&

195 62 3MB

English Pages 418 Year 2013

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
A Note on Slavic Transliteration
Introduction When Worlds Collide: Shakespeare and Communisms
PART ONE. Shakespeare in Flux: 1917 to the 1930s
Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine
Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications during Nationalist Periods in Latvia
Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism: The Soviet Affair with Shakespeare
A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew
The Forest of Arden in Stalin’s Russia: Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties
PART TWO. World War, Cold War, and the Great Divide
Wartime Hamlet
‘Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all’: New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet
Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall
In Search of a Socialist Shakespeare: Hamlet on East German Stages
Shakespeare the Politicizer: Two Notable Stagings in East Germany
PART THREE. National and Cultural Diversity
Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience
Krystyna Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Communist Poland
War, Lechery, and Goulash Communism: Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary
The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990): Marxism and Socialism
From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China
PART FOUR. Theorizing Marxist Shakespeares
Caliban/Cannibal/Carnival: Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare
Marx Manqué: A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America, ca. 1980–ca. 2000
Index of Shakespearean Plays
Recommend Papers

Shakespeare in the World of Communism and Socialism

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview


The works of William Shakespeare have long been embraced by communist and socialist governments. One of the central cultural debates of the Soviet period concerned repertoire, including the usefulness and function of pre-revolutionary drama for the New Man and the New Society. Shakespeare survived the byzantine twists and turns of Soviet cultural politics by becoming established early as the Great Realist whose works should be studied, translated, and emulated. This view of Shakespeare as a humanist and realist was transferred to a host of other countries including East Germany, Hungary, Poland, China, and Cuba after the Second World War. Shakespeare in the Worlds of Communism and Socialism traces the reception of Shakespeare from 1917 to 2002 and addresses the relationship of Shakespeare to Marxist and communist ideology. Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price have brought together an internationally renowned group of theatre historians, practitioners, and scholars to examine the extraordinary conjunction of Shakespeare and ideology during a fascinating period of twentieth-century history. Roughly chronological in their arrangement, the essays in this collection suggest the complicated and convoluted trajectory of Shakespeare’s reputation. The general theme that emerges from this study is the deeply ambivalent nature of communist Shakespeare who, like Feste’s ‘chev’ril glove,’ often simultaneously served and subverted the official ideology. irena r. makaryk is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. joseph g. price is a professor emeritus in the Department of English at Pennsylvania State University.

This page intentionally left blank

Shakespeare in the Worlds of Communism and Socialism

Edited by Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price


© University of Toronto Press 2006 Toronto Buffalo London Printed in the U.S.A. Reprinted in paperback 2013 ISBN 978-0-8020-9058-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-4426-2603-4 (paper)

Printed on acid-free paper

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Shakespeare in the worlds of communism and socialism / edited by Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8020-9058-4 (bound)

ISBN 978-1-4426-2603-4 (pbk.)

1. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616 – Appreciation – Communist countries – History. 2. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616 – Stage history – Communist countries – History. I. Makaryk, Irena R. (Irena Rima), 1951– II. Price, Joseph G. PR2970.S518 2006

822.3 3


University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.


List of Illustrations




A Note on Slavic Transliteration xv Introduction: When Worlds Collide: Shakespeare and Communisms 3 irena r. makaryk and joseph g. price PART ONE: SHAKESPEARE IN FLUX: 1917 TO THE 1930s 11 Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine irena r. makaryk


Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications during Nationalist Periods in Latvia 38 laura raidonis bates Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism: The Soviet Affair with Shakespeare 56 arkady ostrovsky A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew laurence senelick


The Forest of Arden in Stalin’s Russia: Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties 104 alexey bartoshevitch

vi Contents

PART TWO: WORLD WAR, COLD WAR, AND THE GREAT DIVIDE 115 Wartime Hamlet 119 irena r. makaryk ‘Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all’: New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet 136 laurence senelick Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall werner habicht


In Search of a Socialist Shakespeare: Hamlet on East German Stages 177 lawrence guntner Shakespeare the Politicizer: Two Notable Stagings in East Germany 205 maik hamburger PART THREE: NATIONAL AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY 211 Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience 215 martin hilský Krystyna Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Communist Poland 228 krystyna kujawinb ska courtney War, Lechery, and Goulash Communism: Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary 246 zoltán márkus The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990): Marxism and Socialism 270 xiao yang zhang From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China shuhua wang


Contents vii



Caliban/Cannibal/Carnival: Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest 307 maria clara versiani galery Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare 328 robert weimann Marx Manqué: A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America, ca. 1980–ca. 2000 349 sharon o’dair Contributors Index



Index of Shakespearean Plays


This page intentionally left blank


Scene from Les Kurbas’s 1924 production of Macbeth. Ivan Marianenko as Macbeth (centre). Shevchenko State Theatre Museum (Kharkiv, Ukraine) 24 Liubov Hakkebush (Lady Macbeth) and Ivan Marianenko (Macbeth) in Les Kurbas’s 1924 production of Macbeth. State Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinematic Arts (Kyiv, Ukraine) 26 Amvrosii Buchma as the Fool (Porter) in Les Kurbas’s 1924 Macbeth. Shevchenko State Theatre Museum (Kharkiv, Ukraine) 27 The National Theatre, Riga, Latvia 42 The Taming of the Shrew, frontispiece from the 1938 publication, featuring a traditional Latvian peasant’s wooden ale tankard 53 Solomon Mikhoels as King Lear (State Jewish Theatre, Moscow, 1935) 79 N.A. Shifrin’s costume design for Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew at the Central Red Army Theatre (Moscow, 1937). Collection Laurence Senelick 87 N.A. Shifrin’s sketch for the tapestry ‘A Square in Padua’ to back the first scene in The Taming of the Shrew (Central Red Army Theatre, Moscow, 1937). Collection Laurence Senelick 98 The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Alexei Popov, at the Central Red Army Theatre (Moscow, 1937). Petruchio – Victor Pestovskii, Katherine – Liubov Dobrjanskaya 107


List of Illustrations

As You Like It, directed by Nikolai Khmelev and Maria Knebel at the Ermolova Theatre (Moscow, 1940). Jaques – Vsevolod Iakut 111 1943 production of Hamlet at the Lviv Opera Theatre, directed by Iosyp Hirniak (Lviv, under the Nazi occupation). Photo: Hirniak Collection (New York) 128 Volodymyr Blavatskii as Hamlet (Lviv, 1943). Drawing by S. Hruzbenko. Nashi dni 10 (October 1943) 130 Oil sketch for ‘The Mousetrap’ configuration, in Vadim Ryndin’s setting for Hamlet (Maiakovskii Theatre, Moscow, 1954). Collection Laurence Senelick 137 V. Samoilov as Hamlet (centre) against Vadim Ryndin’s setting for Hamlet (Maiakovskii Theatre, Moscow, 1954), directed by Nikolai Okhlopkov. Collection Laurence Senelick 140 Hamlet berserk. Hamlet, directed by Adolf Dresen (Greifswald, 1964). Hamlet – Jürgen Holtz 184 Madman Hamlet in straitjacket. Hamlet, directed by Benno Besson at Volksbühne (Berlin, 1977). Hamlet – Manfred Karge 190 Hamlet on Ice. Hamlet/Machine, directed by Heiner Müller at Deutsches Theater (Berlin, 1990). Hamlet – Ulrich Mühe 193 Hamlet, directed by Piet Drescher, at the Hans-Otto-Theater (Potsdam, 1983). Hamlet – Matthias Günther. Photo: Jutta Oloff 207 Act 2, Measure for Measure, directed by Krystyna Skuszanka at Ludowy Theatre (Cracow, Poland, 1956). Angelo – Tadeusz Szaniecki, Isabella – Izabella Olsewska. Photo: Francisczek Myszkowski 232 The Tempest, directed by Krystyna Skuszanka at Ludowy Theatre (Cracow, Poland, 1956). Caliban – Rszard Kotas. Photo: Ludowy Theatre Archive 236 The Tempest, directed by Krystyna Skuszanka at Ludowy Theatre (Cracow, Poland, 1959). Prospero – Jerzy Przybylski. Photo: Ludowy Theatre Archive 238 Troilus and Cressida, directed by Károly Kazimír at Körszínház (Budapest, 1966). Cressida – Edit Domján, Pandarus – László Tahi-Tóth. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest 250

List of Illustrations


Troilus and Cressida, directed by József Ruszt at József Katona Theatre (Kecskemét, Hungary, 1973). Cressida – Eszter Szakács, Troilus – István Farády. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest 256 Troilus and Cressida, directed by Gábor Székely at the National Theatre (Budapest, 1980). Left to right: Ulysses – György Kalman, Diomedes – Sándor Oszter, Cressida – Mari Csomós, Agamemnon – István Velenczey, Nestor – Imre Sarlai. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest 262 Troilus and Cressida, directed by Jenö Horváth at Szigligeti Theatre (Szolnok, Hungary, 1981). Troilus – Csaba Jakab, Pandarus – Tibor Kristóf, Cressida – Dorottya Udvaros. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest 265 Titus Andronicus, 1986. First International Shakespeare Festival of China. Courtesy of Sun Fuliang, Shanghai Theatre Academy 279 Ophelia (Hua Yijing) and Hamlet (Zhao Zhigang) in Revenge of the Prince, a Yueju adaptation of Hamlet for the 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang 289 Sword fight between Hamlet (Zhao Zhigang) and Laertes (Chenghao) with King (Zhang Guohua) and Queen (Sun Zhijun) in the background. Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang 291 The Prince (Zhao Zhigang). Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang. 293 Hamlet (Zhao Zhigang) and Ophelia (Hua Yijing). Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang 295 The Prince (Zhao Zhigang). Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang 297 Hamlet, directed by Benno Besson. Volksbühne, Berlin, 14 April 1977. Hamlet – Manfred Karge. Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin) 336 Rosencrantz (Jürgen Rothert) and Guildenstern (Henry Hübchen) receive an antic welcome: ‘I am most dreadfully attended’ (2.2.267). Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin) 338

xii List of Illustrations

Hamlet (Manfred Karge) with Horatio (Michael Gwisdek), holding gravedigger’s tool and skull. Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin) 340 Hamlet (Manfred Karge) in the popular tradition, ‘with dagger of lath’ (Twelfth Night, 4.2.12). Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin) 342 Claudius (Dieter Montag), with Rosencrantz (Jürgen Rothert) and Guildenstern (Henry Hübchen), and players on flute; First Player (Fritz Marquardt) closest to view. Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin) 344


This project, a collaboration among international scholars, was initiated by a major grant from the United States National Endowment for the Humanities to investigate the uses made of Shakespeare in the various Communist and Socialist countries in the twentieth century. The grant enabled scholars to pursue their own research and to participate collectively in conferences held at The Pennsylvania State University, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC. The editors gratefully acknowledge the support that the staffs of these institutions gave to the conferences. Publication of this volume has been supported by the Research and Publications Committee of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ottawa. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council provided funding for archival research in Ukriane and supported the assistance of two graduate students, Elena Ilina and Tobi Kozakewich. The editors express their thanks to Elena Ilina for her outstanding work as editorial assistant.

This page intentionally left blank

A Note on Slavic Transliteration

A modified version of the Library of Congress System for Russian and Ukrainian is used throughout the body of this book. For the sake of readability, soft and hard signs have been omitted. Place names follow the current practice (e.g., Bejing rather than Peking, Kyiv rather than Kiev) except where this may present some confusion.

This page intentionally left blank


This page intentionally left blank

Introduction When Worlds Collide: Shakespeare and Communisms irena r. makaryk and joseph g. price

Like a venerated icon, William Shakespeare stared down from his mammoth portrait at the gathering of the first All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934 when one of Stalin’s favourite writers, Maxim Gorkii, urged younger colleagues to imitate Shakespeare, ‘the world’s greatest playwright.’1 At the same time as the Congress embraced the English writer, socialist realism was pronounced the only aesthetic permissible in the USSR. The conjunction of these two events with their contradictory impulses – one towards celebration and imitation, the other, control – suggests the complex, uneasy, and unpredictable alliance of Shakespeare with communist ideology. In the decades to come, Shakespeare’s significant place in the cultural politics of the Soviet Union was to be confirmed many times. Thus, for example, on the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, the Soviet newspaper Pravda proclaimed: The whole extent of Soviet art, rich in the traditions of many nations, is closely bound up with the heritage of Shakespeare. In our eyes, this titan of the Renaissance was never an honored classic; he has always been our contemporary, a participant in that great struggle for the fair future of mankind to which the Soviet people are also committed. Illumined in the rays of humanism, Shakespeare’s works are living a full life in our country and are helping us to build a new society of men.2

The Soviet embrace of Shakespeare was not always so unconditional. During the turbulent years of the First World War, the two revolutions of 1917 (March and October), the civil war, and the 1920s, hot polemical debates raged about the value and use of the classical heritage. The


Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price

central question debated in those years was the nature of the relationship of the New Society, and the New Man, to the past. How much, if anything, of that past should be retained? What, exactly, should be jettisoned? What should be the criteria for retention? What role should art play in relation to the state? What role should the state have in controlling or guiding art? What could or should the proletariat contribute to all this? In the eye of these swirling debates, the name and works of Shakespeare frequently figured, though ‘Shakespeare’ took on various, often contradictory, guises: as representative of ‘bourgeois’ artistic traditions; as indispensable classic; as alien, foreign text; as Renaissance precursor of the new Soviet society; as valuable box office draw; as dramatic master; and as outmoded sympathizer of aristocratic circles. Shakespeare’s pre-eminence in the USSR was not immediately recognized. Though he would come to have a long-standing affiliation with Communism and socialism, Shakespeare’s reputation would continue to undergo shifts and changes with the political times, his importance occasionally waning, sometimes even tottering. The polemical debates of the 1920s were largely due to the fact that the Bolsheviks had given little thought to cultural matters before they had achieved power. Though well educated, Lenin reportedly never read Shakespeare, nor did he have much interest in literary and theatrical matters, which he left to others.3 Nonetheless, the party leadership recognized that the theatre was, as is television today, the central marketplace for political and cultural debate and therefore required special attention. Among the first decrees issued by the Bolsheviks in 1917 was the nationalization of theatres; as a principal tool of propaganda, theatres were placed under the control of the Commissariat of Education. The absence of a coherent Bolshevik theory of art contributed to well over a decade of confusion and tension between the creators of art and the political administration, whose individual members held their own, often mutually contradictory, aesthetic positions. Ironically, however, these very conditions enabled exhilarating experimentation and a diversity of interpretations. When socialist realism was finally proclaimed under Stalin in 1934, its theory was applied not only to contemporary and future art, but also to previously created works; all art was to be measured and judged by this, the only permissible approach to art. Shakespeare passed muster and, with Gorkii’s imprimatur, even had pride of place in the new

Introduction: Shakespeare and Communisms 5

constellation of approved writers. His status was further solidified by calling upon the precedent of Marx and Engels’s love of Shakespeare and their view of him as a ‘humanist’ and ‘realist.’ Particular currency was given to Marx’s analysis of capital in Timon of Athens and to his letter to an aspiring playwright, Ferdinand Lassalle, who was advised ‘to Shakespearize’ his play Franz von Sickingen: to individualize characters rather than make them mere ‘mouthpieces for the spirit of the times.’ Rather than create abstract creatures, Lassalle was urged to delineate particular, concrete characters and to provide them with a ‘Falstaffian background’ – that is, to set individuals within the context of a wide social panorama.4 These comments, as well as over 160 other references to Shakespeare and his plays, were endlessly and approvingly repeated. After 1934, reference to Marx and Engels would form the unstated but obligatory preamble to all Soviet texts. If Shakespeare’s high status and his lengthy affiliation with Marxist ideology could not have been predicted in 1917, neither could their subsequently widespread replication. After the Second World War, the new Soviet empire spread its doctrine of Marxism and its governing principles of Communism through country after country of what was soon called the Eastern Bloc. Although the Soviet dictatorship could exercise political control, each country and each culture absorbed into the orbit adapted Marxist principles idiosyncratic to each state and its respective theatrical traditions. Thus, the post–Second World War productions of Shakespeare in Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia were based more on a compromise between cultural heritage and communist ideology, whereas the political division between East and West Germany sharpened the cultural and theatrical differences. Varying restraints were dictated sometimes by the temperatures of the cold war, sometimes simply by geographical distance from Moscow. Roughly historical in their arrangement, the essays in Shakespeare in the Worlds of Communism and Socialism suggest this complicated and by no means straightforward or evolutionary trajectory of the fortunes of Shakespeare’s reputation. The general theme that emerges from this study is the deeply ambivalent nature of Communist Shakespeare who, like Feste’s ‘chev’ril glove,’ could, and usually did, simultaneously serve and subvert the official ideology. A second theme may be identified as the fluidity of the theatre world itself. Although the Soviet experience with Shakespeare became a kind of template for his use in other socialist countries, that use was mal-


Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price

leable and unpredictable rather than fixed. Indeed, it is not surprising that Lenin and Stalin were both wary of the theatre, the most important artistic and political genre of the time – and the most unstable. Its unrepeatability was one of its most serious faults. (Stalin preferred the cinema, which could be more easily controlled.)5 Dynamic directors, inventive and courageous translators, and actors all played their own part in the complex tapestry of Shakespearean reception in the USSR. Audiences, too, were not homogeneous; they took away what messages they found, imagined, or wished for, since, as is generally recognized, censorship breeds sophisticated interpreters. Genre and politics did not always chime. Even in the 1930s, during some of the darkest days of Stalinism, the theatre continued to surprise, as it did, for example, with ‘sunny,’ cheerfully optimistic productions of Shakespeare’s comedies, the equivalent of Berowne’s ‘wild laughter in the throat of death.’ No simple models of containment-subversion suffice to explain and unfold the complexities of the necessarily multilayered responses of artists and spectators to the desires and dictates of the party. Shakespeare assisted some theatre artists in surviving through creative manipulation, but not others, who were imprisoned, shot, or perished in the infamous system of prisons, the Gulag. The four parts of this book take us on a long historical journey through a vast geographical terrain. Part One – with essays by Irena R. Makaryk, Laura Raidonis Bates, Arkady Ostrovsky, Laurence Senelick, and Alexey Bartoshevitch – begins with the early years of experimentation, diversity, and relative openness and moves through the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1928–32 to the institutionalization of socialist realism in 1934 and the imposition of a narrow band of possible approaches to art. The process of translating Shakespeare into the twenty-eight languages of the USSR begins here, a task with a dual purpose: to make Shakespeare a symbol of unifying cross-cultural interests but also to homogenize repertoire and readership. The plays were made accessible to the entire citizenry through a system of subsidized theatre tickets that were passed out freely to factory workers and party members. During this period, more Soviet productions of Shakespeare’s plays were performed than were produced in the theatres of Great Britain and America combined. The essays of Part Two by Irena R. Makaryk, Laurence Senelick, Werner Habicht, Lawrence Guntner, and Maik Hamburger take us into the grim circumstances of the Second World War, with its competing ideologies of fascism, nationalism, and communism, and then to its

Introduction: Shakespeare and Communisms 7

immediate aftermath, the cold war. During the war Shakespeare was, with some exceptions, squeezed out by nationalistic-propagandistic Russian plays, though, privately, a number of writers and scholars found great sustenance in reading, interpreting, or translating Shakespeare. After the war Stalin purged many Western sympathizers and mobilized writers to propagate ideas of Soviet supremacy. Europe was divided by the ‘Iron Curtain,’ which polarized thought and shackled discussion. Shakespeare’s star dimmed until after Stalin’s death in 1953, when Nikita Khrushchev initiated a ‘Thaw’ in cultural policy and interest in Shakespeare could revive. Hamlet fever (a play Stalin disliked and implicitly banned) gripped stage and film. The essays in Part Three by Martin Hilský, Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney, Zoltán Márkus, Xiao Yang Zhang, and Shuhua Wang turn to a broad panorama of diverse uses of Shakespeare in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and China. Once again in each country we see worlds collide, the past invoked by the present variously to contradict, to remember, to approve, to subvert, to survive. To the complexity of ideological stress points must be added the weight of local cultural traditions and history that pre-dated Marxist Shakespeare and, combined together, shaped an understanding and use of Shakespeare. Yet, for all the diversity and range of political Shakespeare, these countries nonetheless belong to one ideological universe that, by the late 1970s and 1980s, was drifting toward détente, a new shift that emboldened some theatre artists to probe old danger zones. Maria Clara Versiani Galery’s, Robert Weimann’s, and Sharon O’Dair’s contributions to Part Four takes us into a more theoretical terrain enabled by the corrective lens of historical distance. Fourteen years since the fall of the Soviet Union is a time still too short to make definitive conclusions about this extraordinary period in political and cultural history, though both time and opportunity – the ability to consult hitherto inaccessible and prohibited archives – make it possible to put forth some shrewd observations. As we recognize, our current look back at ideological Shakespeare is itself not a neutral act. The present moment, preoccupied with post-colonialism, empire, ideology, power, and globalization trains a very specific eye on the past seventy years. The fascinating story of Shakespeare’s complex embeddedness in Communism and socialism has only been possible to excavate after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Shortly after this unexpected and dramatic event, Joseph G. Price began to assemble a collaborative team of international scholars and theatre practitioners to assess the significance of


Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price

Shakespeare to Marxism and to analyse the appropriation of his plays in the Soviet world. The preliminary planning session, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), brought together eyewitnesses, scholars, and theatre practitioners from around the world. Held at Pennsylvania State University in 1993, this was an electrifying event that allowed many Eastern European scholars to speak freely for the first time in the West, even though not all were entirely convinced that this freedom would be long lasting. Those who had experienced Soviet rule told moving stories of hardship, censorship, and moments of fear and danger, including, in one case, of tanks literally being positioned outside the Department of English at Charles University in Prague. Others spoke about carefully hiding interpretive studies of Shakespeare until some unknown future time when it would no longer be risky to publish such material. Minute details about significant translations, productions, and interpretations of Shakespeare were enthusiastically exchanged; much of this material was new both to the American audience and to the individual team members. The preliminary planning session and conference were followed by further exchanges of bibliographies and articles and, later, by a major conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, as well as a smaller international program at the Russian Embassy. Perhaps the highlight of those two days was a final panel discussion in which team members – professors, actors, directors, and expatriates, some eyewitnesses to the times and others participants in the theatrical productions – brainstormed about Marxist Shakespeare while responding to questions and comments from an evidently highly charged audience. Following these two fruitful conferences, the members of the collaborative team continued to research, write, and exchange ideas electronically. In addition to contributors to this volume, the original research team included professors Jean Howard, Alexandr Parfenov, Zden k St bn , and the curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, Jeanne T. Newlin, who earlier had sponsored the first meeting between Soviet and American theatre scholars. As discussions developed, the project’s title shifted from the narrower focus on the USSR, ‘Shakespeare in the World of Communism,’ to the recognition of plurality and a widening scope of the project evident in the new title, ‘Shakespeare in the Worlds of Communism and Socialism.’ Team members consulted new archives, revised, updated, and expanded upon their earlier papers for this volume. Others were recruited to make this collection indicative of the heterogeneity yet similarity of ideological Shakespeare from Moscow to Berlin, Beijing to Havana.

Introduction: Shakespeare and Communisms 9

As co-editors, we have chosen to focus almost entirely on productions of Shakespeare, since performance more sharply delineates issues of malleability and unpredictability than published accounts. Also, in the USSR after 1934 (although beginning as early as 1926), reviews and scholarship were considered to be mere adjuncts of stage productions. Since completeness of coverage proved to be an early and quickly dismissed utopian ideal, we have yielded to essays that provide unique and distinctive illustrations of communist or socialist Shakespeare. Thus, the Baltic states are represented by Latvia because the Communists there, unlike elsewhere, were the rebels threatening the authority of the state. Early in the project, 1990 to 1993, political exigencies dictated some choices. Ukraine, the second largest republic after Russia and the ‘keystone’ of the USSR,6 was a much more fertile source than Georgia, a country still absorbed in its own turbulent politics. The two essays on Ukraine included here suggest how important it is not to flatten distinctions between Shakespeare in ‘fraternal’ republics. The emergent nations of the Eastern Bloc varied greatly not only in their accessibility but in the climate in which literary scholars could work. Czechoslovakia and Poland, for example, recorded more of their history than Yugoslavia. Zden k St ibrný’s studies of Shakespeare in the Czech Republic give a comprehensive survey and analysis. Two books treating Shakespeare in the Balkans – Painting Shakespeare Red: An East-European Appropriation by Alexander Shurbanov et al. (2001) and Michael Hattaway et al.’s earlier Shakespeare in the New Europe (1994) – vitiated any need to represent the Balkans in this volume. There was, and is, a wealth of evidence from both East and West Germany. The significance of German Shakespeare, with its lengthy scholarly and theatrical tradition, as well as its enormous influence on the productions and interpretations of other countries, is recognized here by the number of essays represented. A similar logic dictated the number of essays about Soviet Russian Shakespeare, which, as has been mentioned, served as a kind of template for other Communist Shakespeares. As for Communist governments worldwide, at this date three are recognized as such, those of North Korea, Cuba, and China, although, admittedly, Communist parties function in several countries, insistently in Russia. In North Korea, with its closed society and rejection of anything Western, there appears to be little or no evidence of Shakespeare’s role in the adaptation of Marx. It is too soon to estimate Shakespeare’s influence (if any such exists) in an emergent Communist state such as Vietnam. Cuba, however, oppressed for decades by colonial powers, found relevant material in several Shakespearean plays, especially in


Irena R. Makaryk and Joseph G. Price

the current critical wave of post-colonial interpretation. Of all of these, China has had the strongest, and longest, history of Shakespeare reception; nonetheless, it is still generally unknown. For this reason we include two essays on this topic. The last two decades have seen a tremendous growth of interest in Shakespeare reception outside of Britain, as suggested by the proliferation of both conferences and publications. When this project was first launched, only Dennis Kennedy’s (ed.) Foreign Shakespeare: Contemporary Performance (1993) raised the major issue of cross-cultural Shakespeare. Since then other volumes have explored Shakespeare in various countries, but this study is the first sustained, global look at Communist and socialist Shakespeare from 1917 to (roughly) 2002. As we have come to recognize, there is no closure for Communism worldwide, and certainly not for Marxism as it continues its influence upon political, economic, and cultural institutions and beliefs. Indeed, our last look in this volume – by Sharon O’Dair – is at ourselves: North American academic circles, where Marxist Shakespeare continues to live, albeit, as always, ambiguously, unpredictably, and not quite comfortably.

NOTES 1 Roman Samarin, ‘Preface,’ Shakespeare in the Soviet Union: A Collection of Articles, trans. Avril Pyman (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966), 11. 2 Pravda, 23 April 1964. 3 Brandon Taylor, Art and Literature under the Bolsheviks. Volume One. The Crisis of Renewal 1917–1924 (London and Concord, MA: Plato Press, 1991), 19. 4 Karl Marx, Werke (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1963), 29: 592. 5 Richard Taylor, Film Propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany (London: Croom Helm; New York: Barnes and Noble, 1979), 46. 6 See Theodore H. Von Laue and Angela Von Laue, Faces of a Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917–1991 (Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1996), as well as Sherman W. Garnett, Keystone in the Arch: Ukraine in the Emerging Security Environment of Central and Eastern Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1997). Both recognize the centrality of Ukraine for the USSR and its declaration of independence as ‘instrumental in confirming the collapse of the USSR’ (Von Laue and Von Laue, 72).

PART ONE Shakespeare in Flux: 1917 to the 1930s

This page intentionally left blank

Shakespeare in Flux: 1917 to the 1930s


The boundaries of this chapter are roughly shaped by two important dates: 1917 and 1934. The first, the year of two revolutions (March and October), seemed to usher in the exciting possibility of political as well as cultural enfranchisement. The second, 1934, marks the official sanctification of socialist realism as the only possible way of expression in art, theatre, and literature in the USSR. Such a laconic narrative presents only a partially accurate account of this, the most dynamic and vital, period of the Soviet theatre. Although the groundwork for experimentation and politicization in the theatre was created before 1917, the revolutions provided the symbolic moment for, as well as further impetus to, the cultural, social, and political transformation of the early 1920s. The Bolsheviks, however, had given little consideration to art or any theory of art before they came to power. The upper echelons of the party, including Vladimir Lenin, Anatolii Lunacharskii, and Joseph Stalin, were culturally conservative. Lenin himself preferred Sarah Bernhardt and melodrama to experimental left-wing theatre. No ready-made Bolshevik-sympathizing plays existed that could immediately be pressed into the service of the new order. Thus, very early on, ‘Comrade’ Shakespeare was called into action, although in the 1920s he was on call more frequently in Ukraine than in Russia. The 1930s was the decade of great and numerous Russian Soviet Shakespeare productions. As a synecdoche for the classic – and hence shorthand for a relationship with the cultural past – Shakespeare formed a significant part of polemical discussions about the universality and use-function of prerevolutionary art. By 1934, when his oversized portrait hung from the walls of the proceedings of the Soviet Writers’ Congress, Shakespeare’s unstable position had crystallized: he had survived the twists and turns of policy, politics, and prohibition, and was firmly reinstated as one of the safe and great authors of the USSR. An unrelenting emphasis on realism would create difficulties for an appreciation of some aspects of Shakespeare’s works, particularly for the comedies and romances. Although marked by constant tensions among the conflicting aims of communist ideology, political decrees and prohibitions, and the actual interpretation of Shakespeare, many scholars, translators, and theatre artists kept Shakespeare alive, some through creative manipulation, others through capitulation. Often, the event of staging Shakespeare was of greater significance than the production itself. Nor was Shakespeare confined to a single role; staged by Communists, nationalists, and the avant-garde, he was a malleable author who proved serviceable to many ends.


Part One

Shakespeare’s role in Russia, the epicentre of the October Revolution, was, in this period, significantly different from his role in other countries, for some of whom the more important revolutions were those of 1905 and March 1917. While, in Russia, the polemics concerning the future of theatre and art as a whole focused mainly on the question of formalism, in the other countries that eventually became part of the USSR, a wider spectrum of issues was involved, including the problematic and conflicted earlier history of relations with Russia as well as with the West (especially Germany), the issue of national identity, and the right to an independent national cultural development. IRM

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine irena r. makaryk

On the eve of the celebration of the first decade of the October Revolution, the critic Iakiv Mamontov looked forward with optimism to the future historian of the early Soviet Ukrainian theatre and imagined his ‘joyful excitement at bringing to life the images’ of those who ‘truly defeated our theatrical twilight and created a blazing dawn’ (Mamontov 1927: 2). Mamontov’s carefully scripted enthusiasm (by 1927 public celebrations were controlled by the Communist Party) coincides with one of the master narratives about the USSR still generally believed today: the notion that the October Revolution was responsible for enfranchising the theatre, and, more generally, cultural life.1 In fact, the two revolutions of March and October 1917, world and civil war interrupted a process already well under way. The roots of the avant-garde – not only in theatre but also in other areas, such as the visual arts, sculpture, music, and dance – had been established as early as 1908, when the first avant-garde visual arts exhibition in the Russian Empire, the Link, took place in Kyiv. Before the First World War, many artists had frequently worked among the avant-gardists in Paris, Munich, Vienna, St Petersburg, and Moscow. The cultural cross-fertilization that thus naturally took place helped shape the nature of modernism, hitherto best known in its Western European variant and only now being fully uncovered in its Eastern European guise. Nor was socialist realism imposed suddenly in 1934. Rather, its dominance both in theatrical discourse and practice was the result of a complex of factors, including three significant elements working in tandem throughout the 1920s. From above, the party and state made early and continuing incursions upon cultural policy and artistic endeavours until the process of control was, in effect, complete by the


Irena R. Makaryk

end of the 1920s. From below, clamouring for a ‘comprehensible’ theatre were growing numbers of a new type of spectator, a semi-literate yet increasingly powerful and vocal citizen (controlled by the party) who came to rule councils, which, in turn, eventually regulated all aspects of the theatre, including repertoire, administration, and even personnel. Finally, occupying the middle ground, were the theatre artists and intelligentsia, who continually reinvented themselves as they struggled to survive the incomprehensible labyrinthine meanderings and recursions of state directives, which finally made it impossible to oppose socialism and realism without the mortal danger of being branded counter-revolutionaries. Often because of a lack of language skills, Western scholars have frequently homogenized the Soviet experience, both making events in Moscow and Petersburg into synecdoches of the experiences of a ‘brotherhood of nations’ – the vast and diverse geopolitical and cultural landscape that made up the USSR – and blending the various narratives, histories, and cultures into one ‘Soviet’ people invariably equated with the Russian. Ironically, in this process, old Soviet mythologies and narratives have been replicated and reinforced. Shakespeare was not an imperative for theatre artists in Russia during that ‘blazing dawn’ of the Revolution. Since Shakespeare productions already had a long and rich history in Russia, there was no particular reason to rush to produce him in 1917 or in the early years of the formation of the USSR, when other burning questions were at stake. ‘From the point of view of consonance with the Revolution,’ as Konstantin Rudnitskii notes, ‘Schiller, and not Shakespeare, exemplified one of the most suitable writers’ (Rudnitskii 1988: 50). Macbeth, one of the few Shakespeare plays staged in Russia in this early revolutionary period (in 1918, directed by Alexei Granovskii, at the short-lived Theatre of Tragedy), reflected nothing of the cataclysmic events of the times. Indeed, despite the potential for experimentation because of its unusual venue, a circus, the style of the production was ‘banal Victorian’ with a strong emphasis on gorgeous costumes (ibid.: 110). Soviet Russian Shakespeare’s heyday would not come until the 1930s. The situation of the other republics of the USSR was quite different. To paraphrase Tolstoi, all happy states are happy in the same way; all unhappy colonies are unhappy each in its own distinct way. This essay will glance at the example of Ukraine and the distinct place that Shakespeare played in the cultural politics of its early Soviet period. First, it is worth recalling that the tsarist governments of the nine-

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


teenth century had ruptured the natural development of Ukrainian culture, primarily by way of the ukases and memoranda of 1863, 1876, and 1881. Among other prohibitions, these decrees had forbidden all plays in the Ukrainian language, including translations of Shakespeare and other foreign plays. Although some relaxation of the ukases took place at the very end of the nineteenth century, many restrictions remained. In the theatre, language and subject matter were still carefully regulated. The Ukrainian language was spoken by peasants and children, while middle- and upper-class characters were required to speak Russian. Further, Ukrainian plays were allowed only if a Russian play was staged first on the same night and was of the same number of acts – a policy requiring considerable stamina from both audience and actor. Finally, the subject matter of plays was strictly circumscribed. Domestic and folkloric themes were permitted, but no satire or history, no plays of middle-class life, not even romantic verse plays. Such limitations gave rise to both national stereotypes (the Ukrainian equivalent of the stage Irishman) and generic ones: sentimental and melodramatic plays with obligatory musical and dance elements featuring large choirs dressed in authentic embroidered shirts. Some of the shackles on the Ukrainian theatre were loosened by the 1905 Revolution and the rescission of the Ukase of Ems in 1906. Arguably, for Ukraine, this was the most important revolution of all three. The first stationary theatres were finally permitted, and they turned, as quickly as censorship allowed, toward the classical Western European tradition of Sophocles, Shakespeare, Molière, and Schiller, as well as to more contemporary playwrights such as Wilde, Shaw, Hauptmann, and Kaiser. By 1917, this process of ‘Europeanization’ and modernism was firmly under way. Because of the historical circumstances sketched out here, whereas in post-revolutionary Russia polemics concerning the future of theatre and art focused primarily on the question of formalism, in Ukraine a wider spectrum of issues was involved: the right to independent national cultural development; Ukrainians’ relationship to Russian theatre and to Moscow’s centrist political and cultural dictates; and post-revolutionary Russia’s attitude to the West. At the time that Russian theatres were being nationalized by the Bolsheviks, Ukrainian theatres – not yet experiencing these controls for a few years yet – were independent and flourishing. Within a month after the March 1917 revolution, a committee was struck in order to create the first Ukrainian state theatre. Government leaders at the highest level, such as Volodymyr Vynnychenko (the vice-president of the


Irena R. Makaryk

Central Rada and a major playwright in his own right) and the General Secretary of Education, Dmytro Antonovych, were among those who participated in the committee and in discussions about this, the most significant of cultural institutions. No single style predominated; no canon of works had yet been formed; everywhere a Miranda-like exuberance and excitement over the process of creation prevailed. The burning question under discussion was how to escape provincialism without falling into the trap of epigonism or neo-colonialism of one sort or another – the classic situation of colonized countries. Very much aware of this snare, Mykola Khvylovyi, a sophisticated, nuanced polemicist and committed Communist, later explained what was meant by Ukraine’s preferred orientation to Europe: ‘Europe is the experience of many ages. It is not the Europe that Spengler announced was “in decline,” not the one that is rotting and which we despise. It is the Europe of a grandiose civilization, the Europe of Goethe, Darwin, Byron, Newton, Marx and so on and so forth ... We are not helpless epigones, we are brave pioneers moving “into the dazzling world of Communism” ... [W]e never confused Europe with “Europe.” And we now sense that we are strong enough to mock all discussions about the influence of alien ideologies’ (Khvylovyi [1925] 1986b: 75). To nourish young Ukrainian art, Khvylovyi argued, was to avoid slavish imitation and subservience. But to reject the models of Russia for Europe was ‘not with the goal of yoking our art to some other wagon bringing up the rear, but with the aim of reviving it after the asphyxiating atmosphere of backwardness. We will travel to Europe to study, but with a secret idea – after several years to burn with an extraordinary flame’ (ibid.: 223). The turn to Europe meant a direct, unmediated access to the authors, genres, and forms that, it was hoped, would inspire a dialogue, a search for a new art, new modes and forms of expression. Among those searching for a new form for a modern Ukrainian culture was Les (Oleksander) Kurbas, a committed modernist and a consummate man of the theatre. As actor, director, playwright, translator, pedagogue, theorist, filmmaker, and musician, he influenced hundreds of Ukrainian actors, directors, and stage designers.2 He prepared four Shakespeare plays (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear) and did preliminary work on five others (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Timon of Athens, and Antony and Cleopatra), intending to produce the whole Shakespearean canon. Educated in Western Europe and influenced by a plethora of Western European modernists, including Max Reinhardt,

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


Georg Fuchs, Adolphe Appia, and Edward Gordon Craig, Kurbas considered the classics, and Shakespeare in particular, as a way of directly engaging the prevailing modes of the declamatory, sentimental, ethnographic, and naturalistic. Shortly after the Bolsheviks gained power in Kyiv in 1918, Kurbas began preparations for producing Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth with his Young Theatre company. As an archetypal destructive feud, the long-standing struggle between the Montagues and the Capulets could stand in for a number of oppositions: the Whites against the Reds, the imperialists against the social democrats, the Russians against the Ukrainians. Against the background of social and political unrest, the story of the forbidden love of Romeo and Juliet unfolded. The handsomely attractive Kurbas cast himself in the role of Romeo and, at first, the experienced actress Olympia Dobrovolska as Juliet (a role later taken by Valentyna Chystiakova, his future wife). The play was to be part of a larger, more ambitious project to stage a cycle of works relating to revolution, including George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple (1901) and John Galsworthy’s Strife (1909). Sets were ordered and rehearsals began, but the complete breakdown of the economy, especially of its distribution system, brought about famine in Kyiv. In one of the many changes of government in this brief period, General Anton Denikin’s White forces invaded the capital, destroying, among other treasures, props, memorial busts, and sets. Theatre activity, along with Romeo and Juliet, came to an abrupt halt. Yet, the extensive preparation for this Shakespearean play was not entirely wasted. Romeo and Juliet was a first run at Shakespeare, permitting Kurbas to train himself and his actors on the unfamiliar terrain of demanding blank verse and long monologues. Shortly thereafter, Kurbas organized a travelling theatre group, the Kyiv Dramatic Theatre (Kyidramte for short), which left the devastated capital for the countryside where food was more readily available. Here, Kurbas set aside Romeo and Juliet for the more overtly political Macbeth, a play that also had two additional blessings: it contained a regicide and it had been specifically banned by the tsars. Enormously attentive to the special historical moment, Kurbas recognized the importance of staging Shakespeare. As Vasyl Vasylko, one of his actors, recalled, Kurbas announced to his company on the eve of the first performance that they were performing a great, historical deed for Ukrainian theatre and culture: ‘We aren’t just staging a tragedy of Shakespeare’s. Utilizing the high art of an English classic, we are creating a production that is in harmony with our times. Using the tools of


Irena R. Makaryk

the theatre we fight against power-hungry tyrants and pretenders to the throne’ (Vasylko 1963: 169). Natalia Pylypenko recalled that Kurbas declared, ‘The production of a Shakespearean tragedy in the context of devastation and destitution will be our collective’s revolutionary act, a demonstration of the creative potential of our artistic ambitions’ (Pylypenko 1968: 24). To imagine a serious discussion and staging of Shakespeare during 1919–20 is a bit mind boggling. While for Western Europe the First World War ended in late 1918, it was not over until late 1920 in Ukraine, and was complicated by revolution and civil war. Thereafter, in 1921 famine set in. The year 1919 featured the worst anarchy, when regions were cut off from one another, governments came and went, and marauding peasants controlled the countryside around Kyiv. It was in a town fifty miles from the capital, Bila Tserkva, right at the vectors of a number of fronts and near the headquarters of the fiery peasant anarchist Nestor Makhno and his lawless following, that Kurbas finally staged his first complete Shakespeare play, Macbeth, using a latenineteenth-century translation by Panteleimon Kulish. When he turned to Macbeth it was not to recreate a period piece but, first, to confirm the right to stage Shakespeare in Ukrainian; second, and more importantly, to explore some of his theoretical ideas about the theatre. Everything was to be done by the actors, who were divided into ‘brigades’ to create and build props, paint and build scenery, and make costumes. Kurbas himself portrayed Macbeth as a valiant soldier who, having achieved the crown, dwindled into a fearful and obsessive, bloodthirsty killer. By contemporary standards, it was a very low-key performance. The poet Mykola Bazhan was captivated by the production from the start. He later wrote: There was no greater joy at that time in my life than to see the old, worn out, patched curtain of the city’s theatre part, and [then] to see before me the gaping emptiness of the half-dark stage. In the wings, a sheet of steel rumbled and thundered, reproducing a peal of thunder ... From the darkness emerged three spectral figures ... [who] began a fantastic, convulsive, whirling ring dance, as their hoarse voices intoned: First witch:

When shall we meet again, In thunder, lightning or in rain? Second witch: When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won. (Bazhan 1988: 224)

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


Kurbas insisted that there be no beauty but only clarity of ideas in the witches’ dances, which consisted of strange, jagged, unnatural movements. In preparing for the production, Valentyna Chystiakova (one of the witches and, incidentally, Kurbas’s wife) noted in her memoirs, she was merely extending what she had learned in her dance lessons from Bronislava Nijinska (Chystiakova 93). Nijinska had just established her École de mouvement in Kyiv in 1919 as a way of preparing dancers for the new choreography that her brother, Vaclav, had introduced most memorably and shockingly for Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. She also created the first abstract dances in Kyiv, in which she herself performed and which have been immortalized by the paintings of Vadym Meller. The Nijinskys (and their parents) had had a lengthy relationship with Ukrainian dance and culture going back to the nineteenth century (Nijinska 1981: 6). The wartime years in Kyiv, whose importance to her artistic development cannot be overestimated, were also years in which Kyiv was cut off from the rest of the world by the frequent bombardments in and around the capital (Baer 1986: 18). In 1920 Nijinska also took over the choreography of the Young Theatre, and collaborated with Kurbas in a variety of ways, including sharing studio space, as well as actors and set and costume designers. Playing Macbeth before a largely untrained audience of peasants, but also a number of students from the local agricultural and other secondary school institutes, Kurbas and his company were astonished that Shakespeare was an immediate box office hit. The response to the play was overwhelming. According to one of the actors, the productions made the audience feel ‘the echo of new, revolutionary movements’ and raised their feelings of national consciousness – thoughts echoed by Kurbas himself, who recorded in his director’s journal on 31 August 1920: ‘There were those who wept as we left. There were those who told us that they had only become conscious Ukrainians after having seen our productions’ (Kurbas [1920]: 2). After a two-year absence from Kyiv, Kurbas returned to the capital in 1922, declaring his rupture with aestheticism and his full endorsement of the proletarian revolution. The openly political and fully left viewpoint was reflected by his creation of a new company with a new name, the Berezil – an archaic Ukrainian word meaning March, the beginning of spring. With the Berezil Artistic Association, Kurbas finally began to achieve the artistic scope of endeavour about which he had long dreamed. The Berezil was created with a large agenda: to produce plays, carry out research, experiment with stage design, performance,


Irena R. Makaryk

and audience response, publish a journal, and set up a theatre museum, the first in Ukraine. Four theatre studio-labs were created, each of which had a specific focus, from village theatre to opera. Becoming pedagogue as well as director, Kurbas organized lectures on, among other topics, world history, art, music, theatre, aesthetics, literature, philosophy, biology, psychology, and anything new – books, plays, theories (such as the then very new Freud). The actors were also obliged to undergo rigorous physical training, including fencing (three times a week), acrobatics, ballet, juggling, and trapeze-walking. His new actor was to be an intelligent, cultured being who created his role by reading and thinking (not feeling), and by being at the very apex of his technical craft. At its height, the Berezil included six studios, close to four hundred members, and various research committees, including a ‘psychotechnical’ committee studying applied psychology in order to develop new teaching methods in the theatre. In effect, this was a theatre university, though Kurbas deliberately refused to call it that since, he argued, people complete and leave universities, whereas he wanted his Berezil actors to be engaged in a life-long learning experiment in theatre art (Kurbas [1925]: 256). To assist the actor in developing technique, Kurbas created a series of special exercises. A good actor, he claimed, could dramatize anything, even a sentence from an encyclopedia, but he had to keep his art separate from his mood or condition. For Kurbas, the ability to repeat gestures exactly was a key characteristic of the truly masterly actor. To develop this skill, as well as the actor’s imaginative powers, he created an unusual, revolutionary training program. His actors were required to recreate in gesture the essence of various artistic works. These compositional assignments included, among others, the study of paintings by Rembrandt, Matisse, van Gogh, Gauguin, and Veronese; the musical compositions of Beethoven, Scriabin, and Liszt; the poetic works of Byron, Goethe, Shevchenko, Ukrainka, and Pushkin. By a study of the rhythms, dynamics, and mood of these works, the actors were made to be attentive to various conventions, forms, and traditions of delineating space and time. By recreating them, they were to reveal their imaginative skills, their powers of observation, retention, and communication. Only after they had perfected the language of gesture were the actors permitted to begin to add props, from the very simple (such as a cigarette) to the complex; each prop was to be used so that it evoked a clear image of an idea. When the actors mastered these two areas, they were finally permitted to study and use language. In this system, ges-

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


tures and physical objects were accorded the same value as words and had their own grammar. Returning to Shakespeare in 1923, Kurbas no longer felt any need to justify or delight in the mere right to stage a Ukrainian Shakespeare. Rather, he turned to Shakespeare with the idea of radically questioning the building blocks of theatre itself, including the notion of representation. The director’s aim should not be to revive a pseudo-classical Shakespeare; rather, the director should represent the work ‘as it is fractured by the prism of the contemporary revolutionary world-view’ (‘Do postanovky’ 1924: 6). The fruit of the earlier exercises on recreating artistic compositions with the body became evident in the rehearsals for Kurbas’s new, radical Macbeth, which cut and edited much of Kulish’s old translation. A visiting Canadian journalist, Matvii Shatulskyi, observed in surprise as the actors performed their roles silently, in gesture, expression, and movement as Kurbas quietly and slowly read the whole play out loud, gently tapping out a rhythm with his hand while he did so. Most astonishing for Shatulskyi was the fact that the play was completely comprehensible to him, even though he could not always catch Kurbas’s every word (Prolektor [pseudonym of Shatulskyi] 1923: 21). Kurbas was training the actors to narrate the story visually with their gestures, just like dancers, or perhaps – as Virlana Tkacz has suggested – like actors in silent films (Tkacz 1990). (He would, in fact, soon turn to scripting and directing films.) The Macbeth that finally opened on 2 April 1924 explored theatricality in its broadest sense. In Vadym Meller, his artistic director, Kurbas discovered a like-minded friend and colleague who shared his artistic interests and could translate them into reality. Meller studied in the West, in Geneva, Munich, and Paris, where he had exhibited at one of the Salons d’Automne along with Picasso, Gris, and Braque (Kucherenko 1975: 3). For the 1924 Macbeth, Meller created enormous bright green screens (1.2 by 3 metres high) of stretched canvas, on which giant modernist red block letters announced the locality of each scene – in partial imitation of medieval-Renaissance locality boards, and also recalling contemporary political posters. Their size dwarfed the actors, and diminished their usual centrality on stage, suggesting that the characters were subject to forces other than their own individual wills. Raised or lowered when needed at the sound of a gong, the screens served as more than background. Lowered at the same time, they indicated the simultaneity of the action in different parts of Scotland. At other times, they moved in slow, stately rhythm to underscore the

24 Irena R. Makaryk Scene from Les Kurbas’s 1924 production of Macbeth. Ivan Marianenko as Macbeth (centre). Shevchenko State Theatre Museum (Kharkiv, Ukraine)

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


emotions of the lead actors, to emphasize tension, or even to interfere in the action – as, for example, when they physically blocked off Macbeth’s attempt to follow Banquo’s ghost – represented by a searchlight beam. Fragments of furniture, chairs, and a throne were, like the screens, lowered and raised when needed. The most radical experiment of this Macbeth involved the creation of character. Kurbas’s challenge to the actors was to display the perfection of their technique by turning their roles ‘on’ and ‘off’ at will – a logical consequence of the earlier exercises they had been practising in their studio-labs. The pure craft of acting was laid bare without the attendant ‘mysteries’ of sustained, realistic character, illusory sets, grand costumes, extensive music, and numerous props. In Renaissance fashion and with similar effect, actors’ roles were doubled or tripled. Iosyp Hirniak, for example, played Donalbain, the Murderer of Banquo, and the Doctor; each role carried over associations from the previous one, contributing to the spreading of guilt in the realm, and limiting the audience’s habit of dividing the characters into goodies and baddies. The mechanism of acting itself was openly displayed: each actor came on stage at his or her own pace, sometimes greeting the audience, and assuming his role only when he was properly positioned. Similarly, after performing his part, the actor exited as ‘himself.’ Thus, Liubov Hakkebush, who played Lady Macbeth, proceeded to centre stage, where she placed her candle, took off her mantle, shook her head until her long dark hair tumbled around her shoulders, and only then proceeded emotionally to ‘Out, damned spot!’ Completing her scene as Lady Macbeth, she then left the stage with the businesslike step of an actress who had done her ‘number.’ This tactic was repeated again and again in the production, thus isolating and drawing attention to key moments in the play, and forcing the audience and the actor to a cerebral response to the play. Every aspect of the production was placed in quotation marks, every theatrical convention was questioned and isolated, including the idea of the tragic hero. The traditionally heroic Macbeth was portrayed by Ivan Marianenko as a common, unimaginative soldier, dressed in contemporary clothes, including sloppy puttees. He combined simplicity of character with single-minded cruelty; his doubts were not indicative of a conscience, but were rather a revelation of his fearfulness, which was revealed right after the regicide when Macbeth threw himself on his wife with the very same knife he used to murder the king. For his part, King Duncan was a drunken fool and his death at first seemed, if not


Irena R. Makaryk

Liubov Hakkebush (Lady Macbeth) and Ivan Marianenko (Macbeth) in Les Kurbas’s 1924 production of Macbeth. State Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinematic Arts (Kyiv, Ukraine)

deserved, then at least not completely reprehensible. Both Macbeth and his wife counted on the fact that most of Scotland would not discover their crimes, and the knowing rest would keep silent out of fear. (The resemblance to Stalin’s future institutionalization of terror, and the population’s fearful, silent compliance seems uncanny in the whole interpretation.) While the production intellectualized and distanced the play from the audience, it also simultaneously used various devices to draw it in. Employing special lighting effects, Kurbas blurred the boundaries between audience and actor by extending the heath world into the audience. Throwing large shadows on the spectators by lighting the witches

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


Amvrosii Buchma as the Fool (Porter) in Les Kurbas’s 1924 Macbeth. Shevchenko State Theatre Museum (Kharkiv, Ukraine)

from behind and getting Banquo and Macbeth to speak to these in the audience, rather than to the witches that they didn’t see, Kurbas invited the audience to find itself in the dark world of Macbeth. But perhaps the closest link between actor and audience was provided by a major textual addition: three mimed interludes interspersed throughout the play. The Porter (played by Amvrosii Buchma), renamed the Fool in Kurbas’s production, appeared in the intervals between the acts. During the first interval, Buchma was dressed in fool’s cap and traditional fool’s clothing, with exaggerated make-up, including a bulbous nose that occasionally lit up. He performed clownish tricks, acrobatic jumps, and dance steps, after which he always spoke with the audience members about whatever troubled them that day. Fellow actor Natalia Pylypenko compared Buchma to a rubber ball, which flew across the stage, seemingly weightless and unpredictable, at one time flying up to the ceiling, at another descending by the trap door and shooting up again. In his second appearance, the Fool came in as a simple peasant, a reaper, who was also the Grim Reaper, mowing down everything and everyone in his way. The Fool’s last and most controversial appearance occurred in the final moments of the play, when Macduff comes out


Irena R. Makaryk

carrying the head of Macbeth. Still wearing his Fool’s make-up – the mocking, grinning face – Buchma came in costumed as a bishop, in gold tiara and white cassock. He then crowned Malcolm to the solemn music of an organ made ironic by the delicate sounds of the piccolo and the rougher harmonium. Just as he did so, a new pretender approached, killed the kneeling Malcolm, and took the crown. Without pause, the bishop once again intoned the same words, ‘There is no power, but from God.’ As the new king was about to arise, a new pretender murdered him, and the ritual was repeated once again. The day after the premiere, Vasyl Vasylko recorded in his diary that the concluding scene was like ‘an exploding bomb’ whose effects were felt for days (Vasylko 1924: 124). As in another context the theorist and director Charles Marowitz has observed, only Shakespeare could provide such a shock because he is ‘so well-established, so often performed, so widely studied’ (Marowitz 1991: 27). No new play could possibly do so. The Kyivan audience, which had recently endured similar rapid and bloody exchanges of power (by various counts, nine to eleven between 1917 and 1920), was forced to exercise a very Renaissance type of activity. This ‘history’ play induced the spectators simultaneously to apprehend Ukraine, Shakespeare’s England, and Macbeth’s Scotland. Shakespeare was their contemporary. Was he also their prophet? Whom was the production satirizing? How were the issues of power, loyalty, treason, silent complicity, and destruction of innocence supposed to be interpreted in 1924 alongside the recently dead Lenin, and the backroom power struggles ensued? Here, regicide was neither romantic nor heroic; evil was banal, repeatable, and indistinguishable in its variants. From lighting to costuming and gesture, the production emphasized that the past was the present and perhaps, horrifyingly, the future; all needed to be examined. The production invited questions about what a classic was, what preconceptions the audience had about high and low art, concepts of character, hero, role, plot, stage imagery, even properties, and scene design. Kurbas had hoped through this version to get his audience to imagine a truly liberating cultural and stylistic alternative to inherited and prevailing conventions. Inspired by Cézanne, who tried to escape the two-dimensionality of visual art, and by Picasso, who transformed the portrait into a many-sided dynamic that spoke as much about the genre of portraiture and the traditions of painting as it did about the individual subject, Kurbas attempted to rethink the very materials of his art, to rethink representation itself. He had already

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


envisaged vastly different kinds of theatre in the future, including the fanciful vision of a people-less drama of geological formations, of the conflicts between tectonic plates, a drama of pure agon. Kurbas’s unconventional treatment of Shakespeare sharpened already hostile disputes raging on the pages of journals and newspapers and in public halls on the utility value of classical and ‘bourgeois’ art. Some argued that Shakespeare and other ‘bourgeois’ writers were unnecessary for and alien to the newly created society, which required a repertoire all its own with correct proletarian views and scientific answers to the problems it raised. Others were shocked and appalled at the ‘blasphemy’ of an unorthodox, irreverent treatment of a world classic. The hot debates continued for months, even, surprisingly, for years. In late 1926 the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued its ‘Theses about Theatre Criticism,’ which were aimed at restricting the independently minded theatres like the Berezil. Thesis Four, for example, implicitly condemned experimental productions, claiming that revolutionizing both form and content led to problems of audience comprehension. The Theses concluded with the firm resolve to ‘uproot’ and ‘persecute’ poorly digested cultural politics. Content was henceforth to be all important; only socially significant works were to be permitted. Theatre criticism, even in strictly reporting facts, was always and only to be directed towards supporting communist productions. ‘Academic’ theatres were exhorted to be responsive to party directives, and private theatres and collectives were to ‘democratize’ their work and get rid of ‘recidivism’ (‘Tezy’ 1927: 10–11, 14–15). Because the theatre ‘was an important element in popular education, an active weapon in the cultivation of a socialist consciousness of the popular masses’ (Piskun 1957: 9), the party resolved that, above all else, it was to be accessible, which meant comprehensible and ‘realistic,’ not avantgarde. The Theses were proleptic of a shift that was soon to take place – a shift away from the avant-garde (supported by segments of the party) to nineteenth-century theatrical traditions championed in the highest circles by its culturally conservative leaders. In 1927 and again in 1929, a formal, public Theatre Discussion in Kyiv and Kharkiv centered on the modernist experiments of Kurbas, and galvanized a wide spectrum of interested parties. Not only directors and actors, poets, cultural activists, and party officials, but also representatives of factories and of various unions (such as the plumbers) were permitted to present their voice in the debate about repertoire, method, and the future of the Ukrainian theatre. During the lengthy


Irena R. Makaryk

debates, the official line was clearly established: ‘The foundational role of the theatre should not lie in entertainment, nor in aesthetic delight, but in its social significance’ (‘Robitnychyi’ 1929: 1). Attacked for its ‘inaccessibility,’ the Berezil with Kurbas at its head was now also, it was suggested, lining up against the proletariat. In response, Kurbas defended the trail-blazing artistic path of his collective, arguing that it was not possible to have one type of theatre for all. Some would understand their productions better than others. Chastising those who mistook the ethnographic theatre for the national, typical and representative, Kurbas championed an art open to all influences – the theatre of Japan, China, Reinhardt, the Middle Ages. Under growing pressure to fall into step with the party’s directives about employing realism in the theatre and in presenting optimistic plays, Kurbas poignantly appealed to his co-debaters: I work in a new way ... to combat sleepiness, stasis ... for the revolution to go forward, [to go] further ... [C]omrades, permit me to be a revolutionary; it is my right to suffer, it is my right to be misunderstood; it is my right to take blows; my right to struggle stubbornly on my front, in a way which I understand, honestly and consistently ... Permit me to do this; don’t make me take the path of least resistance, because to do what you want costs me nothing. It means to put my feet up on a stool and do nothing, just show a play. Permit me, a living person, to live. (Kurbas 1929: 2)

During 1928, more regulatory controls were issued at the same time as calls were made for a new Soviet Ukrainian dramaturgy. In early February, at a meeting of directors of the state theatres at which the party representative, Mykola Khrystovyi, was the main speaker, directors were advised to create workers’ councils. The following month all amateur theatre clubs were closed (‘Korektyv’ 1928: 9), and in October Moscow decided on further theatre ‘reforms’ – cultural controls in the name of ‘ideological purity.’ ‘Class-alien’ culture was to be uprooted and replaced with new art forms. For its part, the working class was directed to develop ‘respectable’ traits and habits. Those unsympathetic to this cause or who were otherwise non-conformist were to be denied access to public discourse in the press, on the radio, as well as in theatre. Pre-revolutionary culture was banned, including folksongs and all foreign imports except for the classics, although these were to be subject to revision and expurgation (von Geldern 1995: xvi). Once again,

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


Shakespeare survived the purges. The ‘Cultural Revolution’ had begun: through censorship and prohibitions, alternative points of view were being eroded. The year of the ‘mobilization of the proletariat on the ideological front’ (Rulin [1932] 1989: 434), 1929, was intended to usher in a new ‘reconstructive phase’ of socialism, a euphemism which meant that still tighter controls were implemented and content ruled, although it was content decided not by the theatre artists but ‘by the organized spectator-prole, with all of our cultural collective’ – so announced the Commissar of Education in Ukraine, Mykola Skrypnyk (ibid.: 436). Representatives of unions and party organs, not theatre artists, constituted the membership of these councils, which were charged with the task of overseeing administrative activities and vigilantly supervising all artistic decisions by attending theatrical lectures, meetings, and the rehearsals of individual companies. The continuing incursions of the party (whatever their zigzagging direction) on artistic creativity already exceeded the censorship and control of tsarist times and were reflected in a heightened rhetoric found in newspaper articles, journals, and party resolutions; together, they sounded the unmistakable and growing note of doom for Ukrainian modernism. The constant tensions and struggles among the different cultural constituencies – the avantgarde, the ruling communists, ‘the people,’ the intelligentsia – over what constituted culture and over the response to past traditions of culture had become more polarized and there was less room to manoeuvre with safety. The call for new Soviet classics, new Shakespeares, to come forward became more desperately pronounced. In 1929 the Central Committee for the Control of the Repertory in the USSR went still further by publishing The Repertory Index: A List of Works Permitted and Forbidden for Performance on the Stage, which included nearly 4000 plays: new and unpublished works, translated texts, as well as adaptations of classics (Gerould and Przybo 1980: 75). In August 1930 a resolution of the Central Committee and of the Council of People’s Commissariats placed all Ukrainian theatres directly under the rule of local party committees, which were given the power to confirm or to fire directors and other personnel; as of May 1931, to approve and to dictate the repertoire; and to directly control the ‘ideological-artistic’ direction of the theatres. The method of staging a work of art was now unequivocally equated with the expression of the director’s ideology. Any deviation from accepted norms and methods was perceived not just as criticism but as political treachery (Groys


Irena R. Makaryk

1993: 118). ‘Left-theatre’ was conceived as ‘artificial’ and ‘nihilistic,’ especially in relation to the culture and tradition of the past. In overviews of the ten-year work of the Berezil, critics continued to single out the ‘grating’ and ‘annoying’ 1924 Macbeth (for example, Rulin [1932] 1989: 426). By the mid-1930s, a ‘united’ front was established on the attitude toward the classics. Combining a deep reverence for genius with an appeal to justice, O. Pysarevskyi asserted that the classics were now regarded as the ‘riches, created by geniuses of all times and nations,’ that had hitherto ‘belonged to the exploitative classes ... [O]nly in our times has the proletariat, as the only legal inheritor of all cultural acquisitions, approached the utilization, the study, and the mastery of the best examples of classical literature and art,’ among which are the plays of the ‘Author of unsurpassed works, which shine out with the rays of diamonds, the famous English playwright William Shakespeare’ (Pysarevskyi 1939: 1). With Gorkii’s suggestion at the First Soviet Writers’ Congress in 1934 that an all-Union theatre be established in Moscow to produce plays about the quotidian life of the national republics, the concept of the ‘consolidation of Soviet literatures’3 was introduced. The official entrenchment in 1934 of socialist realism with its source in folklore as the only correct method of creating art in the USSR (Robin 1986: 33) was, as this essay has been suggesting, not a new turn but rather the final, official codification of a nearly twelve-year attempt at univocality, homogeneity, and control, on the one hand, and, on the other, a growing awareness of the necessity of compromising with the recalcitrant tastes of the ‘masses.’ Along with socialist realism, Stanislavskii’s method was proclaimed the most congenial for the masses, that is, for the most primitive intelligence. It was a policy that ignored the protests of ‘minor’ nationalities, such as the concerns of the Georgian writer Mitsishvili, who feared that, without the possibility of individual national cultural development, ‘minor literatures’ were in danger of becoming ‘pale copies of Russian literature, and as restrained in the choice of new subjects as in the search for national forms’ (Robin 1986: 63). One of the effective methods of battling the ‘raging nationalism’ in the republics, especially Ukraine, was, the Russian writer Orlitskii suggested, to ‘interpenetrate’ cultures by way of translations (ibid.: 36). Among the oversized portraits adorning the walls of the 1934 First Soviet Writer’s Congress was the portrait

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


of The Realist, Shakespeare, one of the few survivors of the confusing and confused first twelve years of the USSR. The massive project of translating Shakespeare’s works into all of the twenty-eight-odd languages of the Soviet republics began shortly thereafter. By 1966, the Shakespearean Soviet scholar Roman Samarin was able to claim that over 5 million copies of Shakespeare’s works had been published in the various languages of the USSR (Stites 1992: 95). Kurbas disappeared from the Ukrainian stage. Relieved of his post as the artistic director of the Berezil in the fall of 1933, he moved to Moscow in October at the invitation of actor Solomon Mikhoels in order to direct King Lear at the State Jewish Theatre (GOSET). On his way to rehearsals in December of that year, he was arrested, taken to the infamous Lubianka prison, and later exiled to the Russian far north. Along with over a thousand other men and women of various nationalities, he was shot at the express orders of Stalin to ‘celebrate’ the twentieth anniversary of the Revolution (Shelest and Shcherbyna 1997: 3). His productions were removed from the repertoire of the theater and prohibited from even being mentioned for over two decades. His director’s diary, lecture notes, maquettes, films, and photos were destroyed (copies of some of these were kept by his disciples); even his name became one of the prohibited words of the Soviet period until after Stalin’s death in 1953, when it was tentatively first mentioned. In P.A. Markov’s The Soviet Theatre, an official publication intended to ‘describe and explain the Soviet system and method in various branches’ to an English-speaking audience, the author explained that at the time of its publication (1935), the Repertory Committee, part of the People’s Commissariat of Education, ‘does not permit the performance of plays, which are socially insignificant or harmful, and it assists the theaters in the correct interpretation of a play,’ not censoring but rather ‘regulating and assisting’ (Markov [1935] 1972: 21–2). Doing away with ephemeral and ‘shallow’ plays, which centred on ‘individual and personal relationships,’ the Soviet theatre had turned to the classics of the world, and thus carried out ‘one of the principal tasks of socialist culture – the study and critical assimilation of the heritage of the past’ (ibid.: 27, 29). The theatre’s role was to bring to the people the loftiest examples of world culture. This focus on ‘the great masters arises out of a thirst for the best that the culture of the past can give and the desire to raise the Soviet theater to a high level of craftsmanship and so develop its capacity for treating great problems’ (ibid.: 30). In taking up the classics,


Irena R. Makaryk

Markov argued, Soviets reinterpreted them in a new way, linking them with the social ideas of this time, and ‘purifying’ them of past interpretations. ‘They now appear on our stage in their true guise with their original simplicity and austerity’ (ibid.: 31). In taking up Shakespeare, then, the Soviets were performing a rescue operation for all of humanity, even as they laid claim to being the only rightful inheritors of this dramatic tradition that, hitherto, had been the purview of the ‘decadent’ capitalist British. The ‘Soviet style,’ then, involved a stripping away of layers of false interpretation and a return to an austere ‘truth’ with its direct, transparent simplicity. The usual delays associated with translation and publication meant that, when Markov’s book appeared in English and praised the work of Les Kurbas and his Berezil, Kurbas was already incarcerated and his company, renamed to remove all traces of it, in disarray. Equating the ‘masses’ with the spectator-worker in particular, and lacking a consistent and fully articulated theory of art, the party leaders scrambled throughout the 1920s to create an approach, if not a theory, that would, retroactively, accommodate both the fact of the Revolution and the conservatism of the spectator. Its basic ethos – give the masses what they want, or should want, comprehensible theatre – meant that, in a fashion, the revolution in the theatre gave way to the equivalent of what in the West was ‘the market’ – the demands of the box office, as well as the demands of the party. Already by 1929, the most radical approaches were no longer possible as each company attempted to survive by claiming that (whatever its real approach to art) it was truly realistic. The process of the homogenization of theatrical art and cultural life had begun.

NOTES 1 For a contrary view (which the evidence of this chapter supports) developed over the past fifteen years or so, see, for example, the work of Richard Pipes, Richard Stites, James von Geldern, and Abbott Gleason. 2 Kurbas’s work on Shakespeare is discussed in greater detail in my Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). 3 The title of an eponymous book by Mykhailo Pryhodii, Vsesoiuzna konsolidatsiia literatur, which studies the ‘organic’ development of the ‘consolidation’ of Soviet national literatures from the Revolution to the 1934 Congress.

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


REFERENCES Baer, Nancy van Norman. 1986. Bronislava Nijinska: A Dancer’s Legacy. San Francisco: Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Bazhan, Mykola. 1988. ‘Pod znakom Lesia Kurbasa.’ Trans. G. Grigoriev, ed. Mykola Labinskyi and Les Taniuk. In Les Kurbas: stati i vospominaniia, 216–51. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Chystiakova, Valentyna, ‘Pisma-vospominaniia.’ Ed. Roman Cherkashyn, photocopy of unpublished and uncatalogued typescript, Shevchenko State Theatre Museum (Kharkiv). ‘Do postanovky Makbeta v 4 maisterni M.O.B.’ 1924. Bilshovyk (Kyiv) 73 (1 April): 6. Gerould, Daniel, and Julia Przybo 1980. ‘Melodrama in the Soviet Theater 1917–1928: An Annotated Chronology.’ In Melodrama, ed. Daniel Gerould, 75–92. New York: New York Literary Forum. Gleason, Abbott, Peter Kenez, and Richard Stites, eds. 1985. Bolshevik Culture: Experiment and Order in the Russian Revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Groys, Boris. 1993. ‘Stalinism as Aesthetic Phenomenon.’ In Tekstura: Russian Essays on Visual Culture, trans. and ed. Alla Efimova and Lev Manovich, 115–26. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Khvylovyi, Mykola. [1925] 1986a. ‘Moscow’s Zadrypanky, Apologists of Scribbling (On the Problem of Cultural Revolution).’ In Shkandrij, ed., 169–224. – [1925] 1986b. ‘On Copernicus of Frauenberg or The ABC of the Asiatic Renaissance in Art (A Second Letter to Literary Youth).’ In Shkandrij, ed., 39–93. – ‘Korektyv v teatralnii roboti sered mas.’ 1928. Nove mystetstvo (Kharkiv) 8 (6 March): 9. Kucherenko, Zoia. 1975. Vadym Meller, 1884–1962. Kyiv: Mystetstvo. Kurbas, Les. [1920]. Rezhyserskyi shchodennyk Les Kurbasa, iz staroho zshytka, Uman 31/8/1920, 2, typescript, Kurbas papers, M. Rylskyi Institute of Art, Folklore, and Ethnography, Academy of Sciences (Kyiv), f. 42/49. – [1925]. ‘Shliakhy i zavdannia Berezolia.’ Repr. in Labinskyi, ed., 251–8. – 1929. ‘Kintseve slovo tov. Kurbasa,’ Literatura i mystetstvo (Kharkiv) 22 (12 June): 2. Labinskyi, Mykola, ed. 1988. Berezil: Les Kurbas iz tvorchoi spadshchyny. Kyiv: Dnipro. Mamontov, Ia. 1927. ‘Teatralnyi front pered Zhovtnevym desiatyrichchiam.’ Nove mystetstvo (Kharkiv) 22 (1 November): 2–3.


Irena R. Makaryk

Markov, P.A. [1935] 1972. The Soviet Theatre. New York: Benjamin Blom. Marowitz, Charles 1991, Recycling Shakespeare. New York: Applause Theater. Nijinska, Bronislava. 1981. Early Memoirs, trans. and ed. Irina Nijinska and Jean Rawlinson. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Pipes, Richard [1954] 1964. The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, 1917–1923. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Piskun, Ivan. 1957. Ukrainskyi radianskyi teatr. Kyiv: Derzhavne vydavnystvo obrazotvorchoho mystetstva i muzychnoi literatury. Prolektor [Matvii Shatulskyi]. 1923. ‘Mystetske obiednannya Berezil na Ukraini.’ Holos pratsi (Winnipeg) 12 (December): 18–23. Pryhodii, Mykhailo. 1972. Vsesoiuzna konsolidatsiia literatur. Kyiv: Radianskyi pysmennyk. Pylypenko, Natalia. 1968. Zhyttia v teatri. New York: [n.p.] Pysarevskyi, O. 1939. ‘Otello u Zankivchan.’ Derzhavnyi Dramatychnyi Teatr im. Marii Zankovetskoi, Programme Archive [no source provided for this newspaper article], Saksahanskyi papers, State Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinematic Arts (Kyiv), inv. 5113. Revutsky, Valerian, ed. 1989. Les Kurbas: Les Kurbas u teatralnii diialnosti, v otsinkakh suchasnykiv – dokumenty. Baltimore, Toronto: Smoloskyp. Robin, Régine. 1986. Le réalisme socialiste: Une esthétique impossible. Preface by Léon Robel. Paris: Payot. – ‘Robitnychyi hliadach pro teatr “Berezil.”’ 1929. Literatura i mystetstvo (Kharkiv) 2 (8 June): 1. Rudnitsky [Rudnitskii], Konstantin. 1988. Russian and Soviet Theatre: Tradition and the Avant-Garde. Trans. Roxane Permar. New York: Thames and Hudson. Rulin, Petro. [1932] 1989. ‘Berezil v rokakh 1922–1932.’ Repr. in Revutsky, ed., 420–44. Shelest, Iulii, and Volodymyr Shcherbyna. 1997. ‘Siomoho lystopada – den pamiati zhertv komynistychnoho totalitaryzmu.’ Vechirnii Kyiv (Kyiv), 4 November: 3. Shkandrij, Myroslav, ed. and trans. 1986. The Cultural Renaissance in Ukraine: Polemical Pamphlets, 1925–1926. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. Stites, Richard. 1992. Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and Society Since 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ‘Tezy pro teatralnu krytyku.’ 1927. Nove mystetstvo (Kharkiv) 3 (18 January): 10–11; continued in 4 (25 January): 14–15. Tkacz, Virlana. 1990. ‘Les Kurbas’s Use of Film Language in His Stage Produc-

Performance and Ideology: Shakespeare in 1920s Ukraine


tions of Jimmie Higgins and Macbeth.’ Canadian Slavonic Papers (Toronto) 36. 1 (March): 59–76. Vasylko, Vasyl. 1963. Shchodennyk, vol. 5, 1 Jan. 1923 to 14 May 1924. Ms. Vasylko papers, State Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinematic Arts, inv. 10369. – ‘Rezhyser-novator.’ Vitchyzna (Kyiv) 12 (December): 165–74. von Geldern, James. 1995. ‘Introduction’ to Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917–1953, ed. James von Geldern and Richard Stites, i–xxix. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications during Nationalist Periods in Latvia laura raidonis bates

The Bolshevik Revolution: ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary,’ 1907 The 1905 Bolshevik uprising, so brutally suppressed in St Petersburg by Tsar Nicholas II, spread like wildfire across the Baltic States. Fuelled by the desire to overthrow Russian hegemony in the region, native workers staged strikes and massive demonstrations in protest against tsarist rule. Lenin himself praised Latvian Communists, in particular, for ‘having taken the revolution to its highest level’: the defiant declaration – albeit short-lived – of ‘independence’ from imperial Russia (Gj rmanis 1959: 225). Marx and Engels had urged their followers to ‘look back to Shakespeare.’ Still, when they seized control of their nation, Latvian Communists questioned whether Shakespeare was an acceptable cultural icon for those ‘progressive’ times. Inspired by the socialist tenets of Marxism, Communists in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, in the first decade of the twentieth century, believed that they were on the verge of a new political order, one that would privilege the working classes and atone for centuries of serfdom and foreign domination. Because Shakespeare, they argued, himself had lived in, and often written about, an ‘aristocratic and bourgeois’ society, his status in the new order was questionable. This argument engaged the interest of Latvia’s most influential man of letters, J nis Rainis. A poet, dramatist, and revolutionary, Rainis was himself an example – like Shakespeare – of a literary figure appropriated by both Nationalists and Communists. In a statement that simultaneously validated Shakespeare and valorized the proletariat, Rainis emphatically insisted that ‘Shakespeare’s dramas ... are best under-

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


stood by the working man – not the bourgeoisie’ (Vilsons et al. 1964: 49). Connecting Shakespeare to socialist ideology and encouraging contemporary application, Rainis – nearly sixty years before Jan Kott’s dissident use of a ‘contemporary’ Shakespeare to oppose Communist rule in Poland – employed the same approach to promote Communist rule in Latvia. And, in this way, Shakespeare’s continued presence – and multifaceted appropriation – in this politically unstable Baltic nation was ensured. Produced in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, the 1907 Julius Caesar at the R ga Latvian Theatre represented an example of the type of ‘contemporary application’ Rainis suggested. This Caesar played to standing-room crowds of Nationalists and Communists, alike inspired by its spirited portrayal of ‘the struggle against tyranny.’ After the failure of the 1905 uprising, Latvian Communists and ‘progressives’ sympathetic to the working classes were united with Latvian Nationalists in opposing imperial rule. For years, armed clashes continued between the revolutionary elements of the native population and the imperial Russian army, as well as the imperial German Selbstschutz (the local ‘Self-Protection’ agency). Further uprisings were bloodily suppressed by the vastly superior Russian army, with mass arrests, summary executions, and deportations to Siberia. Only in 1908 would the tsarist government proclaim that its ‘state of war’ with Latvia was over. But in addition to the large numbers of casualties, the failed revolution’s legacy included the Latvian peoples’ first hint of freedom. In exile, Rainis wrote: Once, just once, at last We have felt like human beings. Now we know, what it means to be human! Now we feel, what it means to have spirit! (quoted in Gj rmanis 1959: 228)

In the 1907 production, the scene of Caesar’s murder made an especially strong impression. As the rejoicing of the conspirators – ‘Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!’ – swept over the audience, they cheered the death of Caesar and the victory of the republican Brutus. ‘The ecstasy of the conspirators, the consciousness of their triumph – tyranny is dead – so captivated the audience that it could not refrain from breaking into applause in the middle of the act’ (Latvija, 1 May 1907). Audiences readily associated Caesar’s tyranny with that of Russian


Laura Raidonis Bates

imperialism, of Tsar Nicholas II and his notorious premier Piotr Stolypin, so violently expressed in these post-revolutionary times. Not only did the death of Caesar fuel Latvians’ desire for the destruction of the tsar, but also Brutus’s victory strengthened their belief in a new political order. ‘Thus, Shakespeare’s progressive ideas corresponded to the twentieth-century spectator’s longings and hopes, and further developed the masses’ revolutionary consciousness,’ socialist theatre critics claimed, while denouncing what they called the ‘distortion of Shakespeare’s ideas’ in the ‘bourgeois’ theatre critics’ ‘reactionary’ interpretation. Representing newspapers sympathetic to the tsarist government, these critics conversely ‘honoured the tyrant Caesar as genius, thinker, great man, but the republican Brutus was deemed a misguided murderer, who “wants to turn back the wheel of time, to bring to life that which has already quit breathing”’ (Vilsons 1964: 63–4). In these attempts to use theatre to political ends, it is important to recall the fledgling state of Latvian theatre itself. While critics acknowledged Caesar’s ability to rouse its audiences, and argued over its political interpretation, technical shortcomings elicited unfavourable comparisons to the German and Russian theatre, which – even in this nationalistic period – were still revered as artistic models. The Latvian production was criticized for attempting to portray crowd scenes with just a handful of actors; for its antiquated sound-effect machinery, causing a simulated thunderstorm to evoke the image of ‘a large wooden bowl into which potatoes are falling,’ and for its unsophisticated spectators (perhaps not unlike Shakespeare’s groundlings) smoking cigarettes and cracking nuts during the performance: ‘The public watches with bated breath Brutus’s difficult struggle with the thoughts of murder, then “knauks!” a nut is cracked in half and the mood has gone to the devil!’ (Latvija, 11 September 1907). Because Shakespeare’s entrance onto Baltic stages coincided with the Nationalist movement, he played a significant role in the opposition to foreign domination and the definition and creation of the national identity of the indigenous peoples existing under foreign rule since medieval times. During the pre- and post-Nationalist period, both Communists and Nationalists engaged in a pronounced struggle for cultural – and, therefore, political – appropriation of Shakespeare, as privileged cultural property. In a part of the world where national identity is to a great extent expressed in terms of a national culture, cultural hegemony is a precursor to political hegemony. Under both imperial Russian and Baltic German control (before the first period of Latvian independence

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


in 1918), ‘the lack of any possibility of real political action meant that the creation of the nation, and its subsequent defense, was articulated above all in terms of national culture ... [F]or many in the Baltics, the defense of national culture takes precedence beyond most questions of economic and social policy’ (Lieven 1993: xiv). Shakespeare’s political power in this region was recognized as early as the nineteenth century, when German and Russian colonizers refused to disseminate classic works among the largely uneducated native peasantry. The claim that it would be comparable to placing ‘fire in a child’s hands’ (Vilsons 1964: 21) may indicate less a sense of futility than fear. Such fears would prove well-founded, as the native population discovered a powerful nationalist weapon in the literature. Estonian and Latvian national theatres were established during this period of emerging national consciousness, and original dramatic literature shows the marked influence of classic authors, ‘among whom Shakespeare is ranked first’ (Cielens 1957: 14). During the pre-independence period, native Balts fought both Baltic Germans and Imperial Russians not only for political control of the nation, but also simultaneously for cultural control of the national theatre. As in the example of the 1907 Julius Caesar, ‘[s]harp conflicts raged among two opposing camps in the field of culture over the theatre repertoire ... [and] the correct interpretation of the ideas within the classical plays. In such a historical situation occurred the Latvians’ first wide acquaintance with Shakespeare’ (Vilsons 1964: 29). In 1875, the first Shakespeare production in Latvia (Hamlet) was performed in the German language. Shakespearean premieres proceeded at a rapid rate: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1892), Richard III (1893), Othello (1895), Macbeth (1896), The Taming of the Shrew (1898), Romeo and Juliet (1899), Julius Caesar (1900), and King Lear (1900) in J nis Rainis’s landmark translation – unsurpassed to this day. By 1918, thirteen plays had been produced on the Latvian stage: three comedies; ten tragedies. Still, the plays continued to be taught, and often performed, in either German or Russian. In 1884, in a high school in the provincial town of Jelgava, The Merchant of Venice became the first to be performed in the indigenous Latvian language. The role of Jessica was played by a schoolgirl who would later become known as Aspazija, the celebrated dramatist and the wife of J nis Rainis. Merchant was also Estonia’s first nativelanguage production, a few years later. The play’s significance in this region may have three explanations: First, the alleged Eastern European anti-Semitism. Second, the demographic fact that Balts have always


Laura Raidonis Bates

The National Theatre, Riga, Latvia

been a ‘plural society’ (Raun 1991: 57), coexisting with and regarding Jews as curiosities (perhaps not unlike in Shakespeare’s time). Third, the play’s abiding popularity in the twentieth century may be attributable to the fact that Jews had now become associated with Communism. Demographic data confirms that they did constitute a disproportionate segment of the first Baltic Communist Party. The presence of this population may also explain the Soviet popularity of the play – coupled with the prevalent critical interpretation that attempted to portray the Soviet Union as ‘champion’ of discriminated races. The Communist Minority: The Taming of the Shrew, 1918 Following centuries of foreign hegemony, the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia achieved their independence, for the first time, as a result of the post–First World War agreement between the two superpowers that sit geographically on either side: Germany and Russia. During this period of Nationalist rule, the Communist Party was a minority attempting to subvert the ruling party, using Shakespeare and the theatre as weapons – just as Nationalists had in earlier years. Eleven days after the Latvian Nationalists declared independence,

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


Lenin announced that a provisional Soviet government must be established in Latvia. An article in the official Soviet organ Izvestiia stated that ‘Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are directly on the road from Russia to Western Europe and are therefore a hindrance to our revolution because they separate Soviet Russia from revolutionary Germany ... This separating wall has to be destroyed.’ Latvian Bolsheviks loyal to Moscow were ready to oblige: a Soviet government led by P teris Stu ka (brother-in-law of J nis Rainis) was inaugurated. The formal declaration of Latvian independence took place on 18 November 1918, at the newly established National Theatre – and literally shared the stage with the final Shakespearean production of the pre-independent period: The Taming of the Shrew, which premiered on 30 October. Although formally declared in 1918, independence was ultimately achieved only in 1920, after a two-year war waged by the nascent nation against both Germany and Russia. At the time of The Shrew production, therefore, control of the nation, of the theatre – and of Shakespeare – was still strongly contested. It is appropriate that the political ceremony shared the stage with a Shakespeare production, as the political contest for power was at least partially enacted on the theatrical stage, as well. Although this production coincided with the declaration of independence, it was not in any way a Nationalist or revolutionary production. Rather, it was an extreme example of reactionary German sentimentalism – an indication that the contest for Shakespearean appropriation continued to the very brink of Latvian independence. While Nationalists, such as the critic Zeltmatis, argued that the indigenous ‘peasant’ population had achieved cultural maturation through its access to the works of Shakespeare, the final Shakespearean production of pre-independence Latvia – produced by a R ga Latvian Theatre, still under German control – represented the colonizer’s attempt to return to precisely the sort of corrupt and simplified versions of ‘Shakespeare’s’ works that were the focus of the Nationalists’ opposition at the end of the previous century, when the colonizers insisted that ‘an educated Latvian is an impossibility.’ For a full picture of the complicated circumstances surrounding this production, a brief review of the events at the end of the First World War is helpful: In 1917, German forces drove back the Russian army and decisively captured R ga and Kurzeme (western Latvia). A few months later, immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a Latvian Soviet state was declared in Latgale (eastern Latvia). Nevertheless – with two foreign armies occupying its territory – a


Laura Raidonis Bates

Provisional Latvian Government was formed, which issued the following declaration to its people: Latvians! Foreign powers cross their swords over our land and ask to whom it should belong. At this moment, let the voice of the Latvian people resound throughout the entire world: This land is ours; put down your swords! We want to rule in our own land as a free people. We don’t want to be anybody’s spoils ... Seize for yourselves that which history bequeaths to you, and prepare to sweep the foreign oppressors from your doors! Seize for yourselves this land, which our fathers have purchased with their blood-sweat, and raise a better and more just nation than that which is now being destroyed! Long live the free and united Latvia! (quoted in Gj rmanis 1959: 267)

In March of 1918, however, the Russian-German Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk officially partitioned Latvia between the two imperial powers: Germany was to keep R ga and the western region of Kurzeme; Soviet Russia – having given up its historical ‘rights of sovereignty’ over the Baltic states – was granted permission to annex the eastern region of Latgale. The question of Latvia’s central region, Vidzeme, remained undecided. Despite German occupation of the capital, the Latvian Communist Party continued to organize labour demonstrations in R ga. The publication Soviet Youth later recalled that ‘there was not a single street or corner of the city, in which the occupying soldier felt himself safe ... [R]ifle butts and even bullets were too weak to silence the workers’ voices of protest’ (Padomju Jaunatne, 3 January 1959). Latvian Communists were convinced that ‘fighting for the interests of the October Revolution in Russia, we are also fighting for the Latvian workers’ liberation from the black forces of capitalism,’ as reported in The Workers’ Struggle (Str dnieku C nj a, 7 January 1919). In September of 1918, as German defeat in the region seemed inevitable, the Kaiser relinquished German control over R ga and western Latvia. Soviet control, meanwhile, despite all socialist efforts, had at this time spread no further than the remote eastern region of Latgale. Nor had the underground provisional Latvian government, declared in 1917, yet developed into a coherent governing body. On 11 November, the Treaty of Versailles, which would officially nullify the Brest-Litovsk partition and guarantee the independence of the Baltic nations, would be concluded. Thus, an important question must be raised: In October

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


1918 – when The Taming of the Shrew was produced in R ga – who was in control of the theatre, of the capital, and of the country? The political significance of the 1918 Taming of the Shrew resides first in the fact that it took place during the most decisive moment in Latvian history: the founding of the modern nation of Latvia. It is perhaps the only instance of a Shakespearean production sharing the stage with the official ceremonies of a nation’s declaration of independence. Furthermore, the 1918 Taming of the Shrew ironically ‘united’ all three of the contending national factions in a single Shakespearean production: The R ga Latvian Theatre, presenting a German interpretation, in the former Russian Theatre space – just days before the Latvian nation would be declared. In this production, all aspects were contested: the text, the critical response, and even the theatre space itself. Although it had been proposed that the official declaration of Latvian independence take place at the historical R ga Castle, in honour of the ancient Latvian serfs who laid the castle stones, the newly christened Latvian National Theatre was preferred as a venue more accessible to the public. Theatre critic Arturs B rzinj š (Behrsinsch) was an eyewitness, and his detailed account was published the next day: The theatre foyer is full of people. But there is none of the usual chatter and laughter. Anticipation can be read on every face. Soon the entry doors of the theatre are opened and quietly the hall begins to be filled. The stage is draped in greenery and flowers. Stage hands are still running about, completing the decoration. The stage is still being swept. And all of this reminds me of a Saturday evening at a farmhouse. On Saturday evenings, the sweeping and cleaning is done. Saturday evening has arrived for our nation, too. Tomorrow is Sunday; tomorrow a new life begins. A week of serfdom more than seven hundred years long and full of darkness is left far behind us. Stage hands continue to rush here and there. But soon, from the top balcony the red-white flag of Latvia is unfurled. Another appears on the other side of the theatre, and another is spread across the whole of the stage. The table is also covered with a red fabric. All is ready. They can enter now, those who will usher in the republic of Latvia. (Jaunak s Zinas, 19 November 1918)

Inside the theatre, ‘an atmosphere such as permeates the house of God during divine service had descended on all who had gathered to be present at a ceremony which was to give an entirely new turn to Latvian history’ (Spekke 1951: 345). But, on leaving the shining hall, the


Laura Raidonis Bates

participants came out into the dark of night as a light snow fell on the grey, unilluminated streets of war-torn R ga. Externally, nothing yet testified to the significance of this day. At a few houses, hurriedly homemade Latvian flags were displayed. But in the streets ‘resounded the marching footsteps of the occupying German armed forces, and Russian Bolshevik agents like shadows silently slipped away’ (Ozols 1981: 24). ‘Ulmanis’s operetta’ was the disdainful term employed by both Germany and Russia in referring to Prime Minister K rlis Ulmanis’s declaration: ‘Citizens of Latvia! The Latvian People’s Parliament, recognizing itself as the sole higher power in the nation of Latvia, declares the unified Latvian ethnographic regions (Kurzeme, Vidzeme, and Latgale) to be a self-governing, independent, democratic-republican nation.’ And the next day – even while front-page headlines stated, ‘Greetings, new Latvia!’ – prominently placed under the banner at the top of the page, in even larger type, was a notice of the continued, albeit ‘delayed,’ activities of the Latvian Revolutionary Socialist Party: The Latvian Revolutionary Socialist Party’s provisional centre, not wishing that, through the delay of the distribution of the party paper, the organizing work also be delayed, by this notice informs that the party’s provisional bureau is open ... Without delay all previous members of R ga’s, as well as foreign, organizations must sign up, in order to reorganize R ga’s committee on a broader foundation ... Signatures and declarations will be received by the office clerk ... ‘Forward!’ (Jaun k s Zinj as, 19 November 1918)

Why did the theatre, once again, turn to Shakespeare at such a historically crucial time? Part of the answer may lie in one of the reviews of the 1918 Taming of the Shrew, which began by emphasizing Shakespeare’s significance for the Latvian theatre: Shakespeare’s name may, in the fullest sense, be deemed the cornerstone of the Latvian Theatre: by means of his classical works, our – all-in-all still rather young – stage has grown great ... Shakespeare’s plays are and remain those highest standards by which our best artists strive and measure their strengths ... On [director Herman] Rode-Ebeling’s serious artistic foundation, the Latvian Theatre has raised and developed ever further a Latvian classical school ... Latvians also have their own artistic society, which knows how to understand and honour classical works and their

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


productions. Overall, it must be said: there is no other foreign writer whose works have so often crossed the Latvian stage as, precisely, Shakespeare. (Rigas Latweeschu Awise, 2 November 1918)

Theatrical activity had greatly declined during the period of the First World War, though it had not entirely ceased. Four Shakespearean productions were staged in Latvia during the four war years, even as the fiercest front-line battles were being fought near R ga during the Christmas season of 1916. But given the scarcity of Shakespearean productions during this period, the choice of each play takes on added significance. Of the twenty-five Shakespearean texts translated into Latvian by this time, why did the R ga Latvian Theatre choose to produce The Taming of the Shrew – just when the nation was on the brink of achieving its independence? The first answer to this question can be found in the fact that, during the Imperialist period, this piece had been the third most often produced of Shakespeare’s plays in Latvia, after Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. (During the next twenty years of independent Latvian rule, however, it would drop to eleventh place, and it would be superseded by more serious Shakespearean fare, such as Macbeth and Othello. Under Soviet rule, it was one of the first Shakespearean post-war productions, and it was produced every decade – 1951, 1961, 1977, and 1989 – a frequency that is above average in Soviet Latvia.) A closer scrutiny of the data reveals that, during the Imperialist period, the play seems to have been especially popular at the German theatres in Latvia – and in October of 1918, The Taming of the Shrew was produced for a highly charged, openly nationalistic Latvian audience by a theatre that remained under German influence. The R ga Latvian Theatre, at this time, was still called by its Germanized name; it was not R gas Latviešu Te tris, but ‘Rigas Latweeschu Teatrs.’ And the theatre continued its dedication to a classical repertoire initiated by the German leadership of Friedrich Veinbergs to ‘carry the spectator away from contemporary concerns’ – just as the Lord invokes Christopher Sly to ‘frame [his] mind to mirth and merriment.’ Furthermore, the Shrew produced by the R ga Latvian Theatre was not really the one written by Shakespeare, but one by a German theatre director named Deinhardstein. Published in a nineteenth-century compilation by the German Shakespeare Society, the play was recognized as being ‘three-quarters freely created, and not taken from Shakespeare.’ Although less than one-quarter of the text could be thus attributed, the


Laura Raidonis Bates

play had been touted as Shakespeare’s work by the Theatre, and even identified as such in the program. Nowhere was it acknowledged that this play was only very loosely based on Shakespeare’s comedy. Furthermore, the script apparently received – as perhaps such a script deserved – the kind of ‘lowbrow’ production, emphasizing exaggerated gesture and mimicry, song and dance spectacle, that was the trademark of the R ga Latvian Theatre under director Veinbergs. ‘This is the kind of piece that is presented to the people now as Shakespeare’s work!’ an outraged critic exclaimed in the Nationalist publication Baltijas Zinj as. ‘Is this not a complete deception of the people; is this not the same as giving chaff in the place of bread!’ (6 November 1918). Indeed, the appropriation of Shakespeare’s text and the presentation, by a German-controlled R ga ‘Latvian’ Theatre, of a substandard German adaptation to Latvian audiences as ‘classic’ fare for their cultural enlightenment represents an echo of the nineteenth-century Baltic German colonizer’s attitude regarding Latvian exposure to classical literature, when simplified children’s adaptations written by Germans were the only access to ‘Shakespeare’s work’ allowed the indigenous population. That this production took place at a time when German political defeat was apparent suggests that the intent of the Baltic Germans in R ga may well have been to leave behind a legacy of mangled classics; though the comparison may seem extreme, it could be seen as a sort of cultural equivalent to Russia’s traditional ‘scorched earth’ policy. Given the politically reactionary, culturally inferior, German-influenced production, perhaps it is not surprising that the October premiere was not reviewed in the Latvian press. The day before the second performance, however, a notice was published ‘From the office of the R ga Latvian Theatre’ that praised its own premiere, claiming that it had been attended by an ‘audience assembled in large numbers’ that received it ‘with great acclaim and thundering applause.’ The notice acknowledged that critics had not yet reviewed the production, but hoped that their response would also be favourable. ‘Considering the other productions of the time, this production could be called’ – by the theatre itself, at any rate – ‘a success’ (Rigas Latweeschu Awise, 2 November 1918). Veinbergs himself controlled both the theatre and the newspaper, whose pro-German, anti-Nationalist, and anti-Communist sympathies were evidenced in its praise of the ‘lofty foundations’ of German director Rode-Ebeling, on which it claimed the present production was built. The reactionary politics of the paper can also be discerned in the

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


following blatantly anti-Communist anecdote, published in the theatre section: At a contemporary workers’ meeting. Speaker: Workers! Audience: [calls] Bravo! Speaker: You are workers! Audience: [hand waving and calls] Bravo! Bravo!! Speaker: And therefore, because you are workers, you must work! Audience: [protest, whistling, calls] Off with that shameless old man! Out! On the street!

Not only was the text of this Shrew contested, but even the theatre space itself was at this time contested. The former R ga Russian Theatre had been inhabited by the R ga Latvian Theatre since its production of Othello in December of 1916. In October of 1918, when The Taming of the Shrew premiered, it was home to the R ga Latvian Theatre, still subject to its long history of German hegemony. In November, however, after Latvian independence was declared, both the building and the company would be renamed the ‘Latvian National Theatre.’ But in January of 1919, when the triumphant Red Army entered R ga, the theatre was already draped with the red flags of Communism, and ‘somewhere in a corner of a passageway, tossed in a heap, were the redwhite-red [Latvian] tapestries of November 18’ (Te tra V stnesis 9, 1989). On the theatre marquee a new name appeared: The Soviet Latvian Workers’ Theatre. The Fascist Threat: Julius Caesar, 1934 Renamed in the 1919 Communist uprising, the Soviet Latvian Workers’ Theatre would again be renamed the Latvian National Theatre following Communist defeat in 1920. The only government-subsidized theatre during the independent era, the National Theatre’s ‘heavy dependence on the government also in terms of the repertoire’ was condemned by Communist critics (Vilsons 1964: 93). During the years 1921 to 1925, Shakespeare enjoyed a prominent place in the repertoire of the National Theatre, under the direction of J nis Rainis (returned from exile). These five years saw eleven productions: four comedies and seven tragedies. In 1925 Julius Caesar was again staged, but just as the 1920s had brought a new theatre aesthetic to Europe, democracy


Laura Raidonis Bates

had created a new theatre audience in Latvia, exhausted by years of war and the hard work of establishing a new nation. The 1925 production was poorly attended, and critics compared it unfavourably to the 1907 Caesar: ‘For our time, it seems, there is no longer a tragic spirit ... Then tragedy was in the poetry, now tragedy is found in life. He who has watched the sufferings of Laocoon can no longer be frightened by the conspirator’s dagger’ (Jaun k s Zinj as, 31 January 1925). But on 15 May 1934, the ‘conspirators’ daggers’ were again unsheathed, as K rlis Ulmanis led a coup d’état that ended Latvia’s first democratic period. Respected as a leading figure in Latvia’s original independence movement, Ulmanis was able to seize power unopposed, and his dictatorship was in some ways benign. But ‘[m]ost dangerous, still, is that during Ulmanis’s time the people are inhibited from independent thought and interest in matters of state. Not a single party exists anymore, even the Peasants’ society [Ulmanis’s own party] is abolished. Now the leader alone is in charge of everything. There is no one to control and observe his actions. At times, anxious voices are raised: “What will happen if Ulmanis suddenly dies?”’ (Gj rmanis 1959: 360). ‘“A new age of Caesarism has arrived” – today that is heard most often,’ declared one publication (Militarais Apskats 11, 1934) in its review of the first major production of the new theatre season of 1934: Julius Caesar. Produced by the R ga Dailes Theatre (the R ga Art Theatre), directed by and starring its founder, Eduards Smi g‘ is, Caesar once again played to sold-out houses. ‘The idea of Caesarism? That is truly appropriate to the time’ (Leepinsch 1934: 3). ‘Bright and triumphant,’ declared the critics (P d j Br d , 19 October 1934); the theatre pulled out all the stops to ‘reawaken the immortal work in a new life, resonating with these times’ (Jaun k s Zinj as, 19 October 1934). However, not everyone was pleased with the production. Political statements were immediately inferred: ‘The first major production after the establishment of the dictatorship shows the destruction of a dictator!’ (Kundzinj š 1968: 341). The premiere was attended by several government officials, including the ministers of education and justice: ‘To the highest circles of the fascist government this production seemed quite inappropriate, even suspicious. They had to consider whether in the minds of the spectators there couldn’t arise some undesirable, even dangerous, conclusions. The production should be prohibited. But that would appear too severe: after all – Shakespeare’ (ibid.).

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


There could be no doubt that this production, staged at a time when ‘Caesarism and the destruction of democracy have become actual questions in Latvia,’ was intended to instigate revolutionary action. Therefore, the theatre critics of government newspapers, such as Br v Zeme [Free Land], ‘sought to “accurately” explain the principal idea of the play: Brutus goes to his death as an idealistic fighter for a thing oldfashioned and out-lived. Therefore, democracy is old-fashioned, but Ulmanis’s dictatorship, just like Caesarism, is not ... The bourgeois scribes’ sympathies are definitely on the side of Caesar; Brutus is not to their taste.’ Despite these government efforts to control audience interpretation, this production of Julius Caesar proved entirely too ‘contemporary.’ Ulmanis had it closed. ‘In this way, again, as in the reactionary Stolypin years, around Shakespeare’s 300-year-old and still-ever-new tragedy were woven political passions’ (all quotes from Vilsons 1964: 101–2). ‘In Latvia, even Shakespeare is prohibited!’ screamed a headline in the Communist Latvian press (Jaunais Komunars, 19 October 1934). In fact, Ulmanis already had ‘various projects’ in hand by which he hoped to exert his influence over the Dailes Theatre, including ‘even plans to replace the artistic director Eduards Smi g‘ is, or at least to restrict his activities.’ Why did the government want to restrict Latvia’s leading theatrical figure? One answer may indeed lie in his alliances with the Soviet Union, including his collaboration with actor Mikhail Chekhov (although a Soviet emigrant, he was forced to leave his residence in R ga after Ulmanis’s coup d’état). Smi g‘ is was also a member of the Latvian-USSR cultural friendship society, and in 1934 was named its president. Therefore, Ulmanis assigned the fascist Aleksandrs Plensners (later active in Hitler’s Third Reich) to ‘participate in the determination of ideological questions’ at the Dailes Theatre (Gr vinj š 1974: 44–5). As an intriguing footnote to this episode, ten days after the closing of the controversial Caesar, a front-page headline read, ‘President K. Ulmanis yesterday heard Sir Archibald Flower’s lecture about Shakespeare’s significance in our day’ (Jaun k s Zinj as, 29 October 1934). Although the visiting Stratfordian theatre practitioner no doubt spoke in English (in which Ulmanis was fluent), he addressed a Latvian University auditorium as crowded as the Dailes Theatre during its Caesar production. There were so many listeners that, in the throng, some even fainted. After the lecture, that same evening, Sir Archibald Flower and several Latvian government officials – not including Ulmanis – attended the reopened Dailes Theatre production of Julius Caesar.


Laura Raidonis Bates

Indeed, the idea of Caesarism has been ‘truly appropriate’ in Latvia throughout its turbulent history: under German hegemony from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries; tsarist Russian rule until 1918; Soviet Russian annexation in 1939; Nazi German occupation in 1941; and Soviet rule from 1945 until 1991. With its portrayal of dictatorship – and opposition to it – it is no wonder that Julius Caesar was one of the first of Shakespeare’s plays to be translated and produced in Latvia, and that of the twenty-five plays translated to date, its history is one of the most significant. Julius Caesar suffered its least-active period under Soviet rule: fortyfive years passed after the controversial 1934 production – the longest gap of any Shakespeare play in Latvian theatre history. In 1979, after nearly forty years of Communism, ‘Caesarism’s living spirit’ again appeared. Soviet theatre critics, however, supported neither the imperial Caesar nor the democratic Brutus. Instead, they proclaimed the masses the true hero of the drama – ‘because it is precisely the masses who must judge and declare as good either Caesar or Brutus.’ And yet, after so many years – and so many political orders – Soviet critics joined their fascist, Nationalist, and democratic predecessors in complaining that the scenes of the masses were still staged with ‘only a few young actors’ apprentices’ (Padomju Jaunatne, 5 June 1979). During the political upheavals concurrent with Shakespeare’s first century on the Latvian stage, men did indeed ‘construe things after their own fashion.’ Nationalists cheered the death of Caesar – but were silent on the death of Brutus. Fascists praised the dictator – but spoke not of his ambition. And Communists privileged the ‘working man.’ Postscript: Communist Rule The Latvian theatre’s response to the second most decisive moment in the nation’s history – the loss of its independence in 1939 – was another production of The Taming of the Shrew. The secret von Ribbentrop– Molotov pact that had been concluded on 23 August 1939 between the Baltics’ two historical aggressors was still unknown to the Latvian population, although the sudden and massive evacuation of Baltic German residents was indeed suggestive. One review of the play is surrounded by articles related to the massive exodus: employers are urged to grant ethnic Germans a ‘short vacation’ to travel to the Vaterland for ‘urgent personal reasons,’ while the extent to which German repatriation may ‘influence the Latvian banking system’ is debated.

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia


The Taming of the Shrew, frontispiece from the 1938 publication, featuring a traditional Latvian peasant’s wooden ale tankard

The Taming of the Shrew produced in October 1939 at the Dailes Theatre, under the direction of Eduards Smi g‘ is, was in many respects drastically different from that presented in 1918. First, it was written by Shakespeare – although the title had been changed, from The Taming of the Shrew (Sp tnieces savald šana) to The Marriage of the Shrew (Sp tnieces prec bas). Second, in the 1939 production, the Kate-Petruchio plot received a ‘dramatic rather than farcical interpretation.’ Petruchio was portrayed as a ‘warrior’ and ‘despot,’ and Kate was condemned for ‘urging blind obedience and subservience to a greater power’ (Daugava 12, 1939). Having once attained independence, Latvian audiences could ‘no longer accept a person’s conversion by force’ (Students 3, 1939). In the late nineteenth century, the Nationalist movement had begun


Laura Raidonis Bates

with the native people’s opposition to the colonizers’ contention that ‘an educated Latvian is an impossibility’ – and they used their acquisition of Shakespeare’s texts as a measure of cultural maturity. During the first period of independence, the National Theatre, under the direction of J nis Rainis, presented King Lear, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet – three times. During the first decade of Soviet rule, Latvian audiences were presented The Merry Wives of Windsor, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Twelfth Night, and Much Ado About Nothing – three times. Soviet directors apparently agreed with their German predecessors that Shakespeare should carry Latvian audiences away from contemporary concerns. During the Stalinist period the working man was invited to laugh at the comic banter of Beatrice and Benedick rather than contemplate contemporary correlations to Caesar’s tyranny or Brutus’s uprising – despite Marx and Engels’s call to ‘look back to Shakespeare,’ and Rainis’s assertion that ‘Shakespeare’s dramas ... are best understood by the working man.’

REFERENCES Adamovi s, Fricis. 1897. ‘Priekšvards un vesturisks ievads’ [‘Preface and Historical Introduction’] from Julijs Cezars. Riga: Der gas Gr matas. Cielens, Felix. 1957. Latvian Drama. Stockholm: [n.p.]. Gj rmanis, Uldis. 1959. Latviešu Tautas Piedz vojumi [The Latvian People’s Experience]. Uppsala, Sweden: Daugava. Gr vinj š M ris. 1974. Eduards Smi g‘ is: Laikabiedru Atminj as [In His Contemporaries’ Reminiscences]. Riga: Liesma. Kask, K. 1964. Eesti Shekspir [Estonian Shakespeare]. Tallinn: [n.p.]. Kott, Jan. 1964. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Kundzinj š, K rlis. 1968. Latviešu Te tra V sture [Latvian Theatre History]. Vols. 1 and 2. Riga: Liesma. Leepinsch, Olgerts. 1934. ‘Julija Zesara pirmizrahde Dailes teatri’ [Julius Caesar’s premiere at the Dailes theatre]. P d j Br d (Riga), 19 October. Lieven, Anatol. 1993. The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence. New Haven: Yale University Press. Ozols, Alberts. 1981. Latvijas Vesture [Latvian History]. 2 vols. Lincoln, NB: ALA. Raun, Toivo U. 1991. Estonia and the Estonians. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Shakespeare and the Working Man: Communist Applications in Latvia Senelick, Laurence. 1991. National Theatre in Northern and Eastern Europe, 1746–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Spekke, Arnolds. 1951. History of Latvia. Stockholm: M. Goppers. Vilsons, A., B. Gudri e, I. Kiršent le, and V. Hausmanis, 1964. Šeksp rs un Latviešu Te tris [Shakespeare and the Latvian Theatre]. Riga: Latgosizdat.


Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism: The Soviet Affair with Shakespeare arkady ostrovsky

‘Comrades, your congress is meeting at a time when under the leadership of the Communist Party, under the guiding genius of our great leader and teacher Comrade Stalin, the Socialist system has gained final and complete victory in our country [loud applause]’ (Pervyi Sezd 1934: 2). With these words, Andrei Zhdanov, the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, opened the First Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934, the congress that ‘finally and completely’ proclaimed socialist realism as the dominant style in Soviet culture. ‘Truth and historical concreteness of artistic portrayal must be combined with the task of ideologically transforming working people and educating them in the spirit of socialism. We call this method of writing Socialist Realism’ (4). In the same speech Zhdanov pronounced the proletariat ‘the sole heir of all that is best in the treasury of world literature.’ Zhdanov stated: ‘The bourgeoisie has squandered its literary heritage; it is our duty to gather it up carefully, to study it and having critically assimilated it, to advance further’ (5). Among the ‘great treasures’ inherited by the proletariat, Shakespeare held a primary position. A large portrait of the Bard decorated the congress hall – physical proof that on the 370th anniversary of his birthday Shakespeare had been assimilated into the ranks of Soviet writers. Shakespeare was mentioned, often alongside Maxim Gorkii, in almost every speech concerned with drama at the congress. Writers and dramatists gave their oath of allegiance to Gorkii and Shakespeare. One speech, by the critic Sergei Dinamov, was entirely dedicated to Shakespeare:

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


In the literature of the past we choose what is most dear and close to us. And there is one artist of the past that no Soviet writer or playwright dares to ignore. You know this artist. It is Shakespeare. [Earlier in the congress Gorkii had been introduced in exactly the same way.] We need Shakespeare like oxygen ... Shakespeare was a fighter, who at the head of his class, cut his way into life. Our writers with a truly proletarian world outlook must study Shakespeare so our hatred can incinerate the enemies of the socialist motherland, so our love can be the purest, most tender and affectionate love, so our thoughts can storm the world and move humanity forward to the radiant future, which, for the first time, is becoming our present. (Pervyi Sezd 1934: 449)1

The First Congress of Soviet Writers marked the beginning of the 1930s’ affair with Shakespeare, an affair that produced both chilling ideological statements – from artists and apparatchiks alike – and some of the finest productions, translations, and research in the country’s theatre history. The ideological grounds for the cult of Shakespeare was Marx’s famous demand to ‘Shakespearize’ drama. In a letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, he wrote: ‘You will have to Shakespearize more, while at present, I consider Schillerism ... your main fault’ (quoted in Marx and Engels 1934: 260). Shakespearization, as the state policy for Soviet culture, started in 1932 with Gorkii’s article about dramaturgy. Proclaiming the supremacy of the class-character in every play, Gorkii wrote: ‘A teacher, a leader, a builder of the new world must be the main character in contemporary drama. And we must learn how to portray this new character with adequate force and clarity from ... Shakespeare’ (Gorkii 1949–55: 426). The directive was issued: Shakespeare was to become a model for socialist realism writing. Responding to Gorkii’s call to learn from Shakespeare, Nikolai Pogodin, one of the leading playwrights of Stalin’s age, explained in his speech at the 1934 congress that the new subjects of Soviet drama required Shakespearean ‘architectonics.’ As an example of one such subject Pogodin suggested the White Sea Canal – one of Stalin’s first showcase Gulag labour camps, much visited and praised by writers, including Gorkii:2 I’ll tell you one story. We were in the canteen. A young woman ran in – she was almost flying. She ran up to us:


Arkady Ostrovsky – – – – – – –

Are you the writers? Yes. From Moscow? Yes. Do you know who I am? No. I am Pavlova. I had eight convictions, the last time I got ten years. [I was] in Solovki. And now I have an order of the Red Labour Banner.

We learned her story. She told us terrible things. And when we asked her: ‘Tell us, Pavlova, have you ever killed?’ She replied, calmly and with no posing, looking straight up: ‘Of course I have.’ Not just ‘I have,’ but ‘of course I have.’ And this Pavlova, who had killed, told us that Firin [deputy director of the White Sea Canal forced labor camp who was himself later executed on Stalin’s orders] – spoke to her for four hours, she sobbed in his office several times, and went to work on the Canal. I asked an old chekist [an officer of the NKVD, precursor of the KGB] who worked in Solovki: ‘Tell me Borisov, you are a hardened man, you were in charge of many labour camps – did you ever feel tears coming to you eyes?’ ‘Yes, he said, when I saw Pavlova’s brigade at work! This is, comrades, architectonics for you! ... How are we to show it on stage? In what play-form?’ (Pervyi Sezd 1934: 386)

The answer was obvious – Shakespeare was the model. A special set of measures was undertaken to promote Shakespeare in the country. In 1934, to mark Shakespeare’s 370th birthday, the Theatre Union of Russia set up a special Shakespearean Department, which provided consultation for directors (especially those from the provinces). From 1939 the Shakespearean Department organized annual conferences on Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s birthday was celebrated on the scale of a national holiday. By 1939 mass Shakespearization was in full swing. Sergei Radlov, one of most prominent directors of Shakespeare’s tragedies, wrote: ‘Over the past five to six years, Shakespeare has forcefully entered our stage. He has become a friend and a teacher for our audiences; he has become a friend and a teacher for our actors’ (Radlov 1939: 63). In the same article Radlov asserted: ‘In 25 years, in the anniversary year of Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, bewildered Western scholars will have to certify that Shakespeare has changed his place of birth, and

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


[instead] of the countries which speak his native English tongue, he now prefers the variety of dialects and languages of the great family of nations which populate our Union’ (ibid.). In 1944, a year before the end of the Second World War, a large-scale Shakespearean festival was held in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Iosif Iuzovskii, a prominent Soviet theatre critic, described the event: ‘The opening of the Shakespearean conference was broadcast on the radio. On the central square loud speakers were set up. People gathered in great numbers on the central square of Yerevan in complete silence to listen to speeches about Shakespeare’ (Iuzovskii 1947: 187). Delegates were invited to visit a local collective farm: Here, at the foot of the biblical Mount Ararat, in the midst of blossoming peach-gardens, the table was set. The secretary of the local Communist Party committee gave a speech in honour of Shakespeare. Then a collective farmer raised his glass and toasted Desdemona. ... One spectator, who was returning from the conference after the curfew hour was stopped by a patrol. Instead of his documents the spectator produced a ticket with a portrait of Shakespeare. The patrol officer carefully studied the ticket, saluted, and said: ‘Your documents are in order – you can proceed.’ (189)

By 1944 Shakespeare had become part of Soviet mythology. In the strict literary hierarchy of the 1930s, Shakespeare was on the top of Olympus – along with Pushkin and Gorkii. This notion of a vertical hierarchy and Shakespeare’s position in it is reflected in Iuzovskii’s book: In the West people look at the heights where Shakespeare dwells in bewilderment – once, in the past, they were close to him ... But today, unable to cope with these heights, they try to bring Shakespeare down, tame his passions and reduce his ideas ... Their lungs can’t cope with Shakespeare’s atmospheric pressure. ... Not so in the Soviet Union. We breathe freely in Shakespeare’s atmosphere, because we ourselves dwell on those heights. Engels said about Shakespeare’s era: ‘it was the greatest progressive revolution, it was an era which demanded titans and which produced titans.’ But our era is also ‘a great progressive revolution’ and it too ‘demands titans and produces titans.’ This explains our closeness to Shakespeare and his success in the Soviet Union. (5–6)


Arkady Ostrovsky

Not only was the Soviet Union the only country properly able to appreciate Shakespeare, it was also the only country able to produce new Shakespeares. Karl Radek, a journalist and an influential political figure, in his speech at the 1934 congress, assured Soviet writers: I think that the apprehension of our friend Malraux as to whether a newborn Shakespeare might be smothered in the crèches of our country testifies to a lack of confidence in those who mind the children in these crèches. Let this Shakespeare be born – I am convinced that he will be born – and we will lose no time in bringing him into the world ... We who are advancing in tens of millions to storm the heights of culture, have one hundred times a better chance that more Shakespeares will be found among us ... No, we will not smother our Shakespeares, we will foster them! (Pervyi Sezd 1934: 314)

It is easy to dismiss the 1930s obsession with Shakespeare as a result of Soviet state ideology; it is even easier to ridicule official speeches and articles that utilized Shakespeare as a model for socialist realism. The problem is that the overwhelming number of Shakespearean productions in the 1930s was not just the result of state ideology. In talking about the theatre of the 1930s, one must always distinguish directors’ programs and manifestos – often crude and distorting – from the reality of their productions – often subtle and artistically accomplished. The taste for Shakespeare and the wave of Shakespearean productions on the Soviet stage of the 1930s was part of a certain cultural process, which, in turn, prompted many of the ideological statements of the time. The difficulty of studying the theatre of the period is in this hiatus between ideology and performance. Anyone who was anyone in Russian theatre took Shakespeare off their shelves: Stanislavskii had just finished his production plan of Othello, Meierkhold was thinking of Hamlet, Nemirovich-Danchenko was considering Romeo and Juliet and later Antony and Cleopatra and Hamlet. Mikhoels was preparing for a production of King Lear. The list could go on. This revival of interest in Shakespeare in the 1930s (there were hardly any productions of Shakespeare in the 1920s) was dictated by the feeling of exuberance, ebullition, and energy in the country. The force, emotional power, and vitality of Shakespeare’s plays answered the mood of the country. After the deprivation of the 1920s, revolutionary terror, civil war, the devastation of farms, and famine, life started to settle down – or so it

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


seemed. The years 1934–5 presented a short respite before Stalin’s Great Terror. In 1935 the price for bread went down and the ration cards for certain types of food were abolished. The first metro in Moscow was opened and a new plan for the reconstruction of the city was published. The country was about to plunge into its darkest years, but on the streets of Moscow there was an air of jubilation. Leather coats were swapped for silk dresses and open-collar shirts. Stalin’s formula ‘Life has become better, comrades; life has become more joyful’ reflected, as well as dictated, the mood in the country. If the culture of the late 1910s and early 1920s often turned for inspiration to the Romantic age, the Soviet culture of the 1930s saw itself as a direct heir of the Renaissance. Shakespeare entered Soviet culture as the first messenger of the Renaissance. Drawing parallels between the socialist era and the Renaissance became almost commonplace in the 1930s. Symmetry and monumental proportions dominated architecture and stage sets. Vladimir Papernii has observed a number of Palladian features in 1930s Moscow. As Papernii writes in Kultura Dva, open loggias, designed for hiding from the heat in Italy, presented a strange sight in Moscow, covered as they were with snow for six months, but the mythological notion of Moscow as a warm Renaissance city was stronger than common sense (Papernii 1996: 174).3 The connection with the Renaissance determined not only the choice of dramatists – Shakespeare rather than Schiller – but also the choice of Shakespeare’s plays. Preference was given to the southern tragedies and comedies set in the Renaissance period – Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado about Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew. In 1938, there were 100 productions of Othello in the Soviet Union; by 1941 another 143 productions were staged. Romeo and Juliet was in second place with 35 productions in 1938 and another 78 staged by 1941. Northern tragedies, such as Hamlet and Macbeth, and the histories practically disappeared from the stage. It was not just Stalin’s dislike of Hamlet – the dictator considered the main character too hesitant – that precluded directors from staging the play. Neither Hamlet nor Macbeth answered the optimistic spirit of the time. On 8 July 1936, in a letter to his assistant, Olga Bokshanskaia, Nemirovich-Danchenko expressed his apprehension about ‘dark and heavy’ productions without a ‘relieving sigh at the finale’: ‘It is notable that one of the best Shakespeare tragedies – Macbeth – never captivated the [Russian] audience completely.’4 The optimism of the 1930s was based on the fundamental belief that any conflict could and must be resolved, any mistake corrected: a


Arkady Ostrovsky

murderer, Pavlova, could enter the White Sea Canal labour camp and come out – purged. Stalin’s purges had that meaning too. The source of tragedy in the 1930s could be an accident, a misunderstanding, or a mistake as in Othello or Romeo and Juliet, but not the innate conflict or guilt of the protagonist as in Hamlet and Macbeth. Tragic conflict was ruled out by the style of socialist realism. As Inna Soloviova has observed, mysticism (anything that was fantastic or frightening) disappeared in the 1930s as an aesthetic category. ‘The distinguishing marks of Socialist Realism were clarity, truth-tolife, moralism, hard-line didacticism and a striving for clear-cut simplicity. Adjectives like elusive, oblique, fluid, rare, sensitive, mutable, airy melting were no longer part of the critical vocabulary. All these qualities have practically disappeared from the stage, which was distinguished by its power, vitality, its pictorial and emotional energy. Artists are attracted by clearness, the openness of the world. No one, apparently, was attracted by its hidden side. Tragedy was something that arrived from elsewhere’ (Soloviova 1999: 338). As Andrei Platonov wrote in 1937, ‘Socialism and evil are two incompatible things.’ Stanislavskii’s production plan for Othello fitted in with the spirit of the time. He was writing it in Nice while recovering from a heart attack suffered in 1928. Stanislavskii did not know that while he was sending his plan page by page to Moscow, the play had not only already opened, but also failed. The unfinished plan stops after act 3, scene 3 before tragedy sets in – not only because there was no need to continue, but also because Stanislavskii could not find the tragic motifs within himself. ‘There is nothing in the Moor’s goodly, open, courageous nature (or, for Stanislavskii, in the nature of man in general) that could make a response to Iago’s vile “lures.” Evil is something that comes from the outside. It is not revealed from within. It is almost a misunderstanding. What theater wanted most was to resolve misunderstandings’ (Soloviova 1999: 338). Tragedy was alien to Stanislavskii for artistic and personal reasons, but the very category of the tragic was also profoundly alien to the style of socialist realism, unless it was an Optimistic Tragedy – the title of a play by Vsevolod Vishnevskii, one of Stalin’s favourite playwrights, written in 1932. Optimistic tragedy, this uniquely Soviet oxymoron, embodied the style and spirit of many Shakespearean productions in the 1930s. A contemporary critic wrote: ‘Inspired by their thirst for life and occupied with their activities, Shakespeare’s characters have no fear of death. They resemble immortal Olympians ... Dead bodies pile up at the end

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


of Shakespeare tragedies but, in spite of that, the dominant feeling in the end is triumph of life’ (Spasskii 1939: 14). One of the most striking examples of tragic optimism was an endeavour undertaken by Sergei Prokofiev and Sergei Radlov to create the ballet Romeo and Juliet in 1934. According to Prokofiev and Radlov, Juliet remained alive at the end and love triumphed over death. Aleksandr Afinogenov, who was present at the reading of Radlov’s libretto at the Bolshoi Theatre, recorded in his diary: ‘Radlov, the author of the libretto, resurrected Romeo, preventing him from taking the poison – the finale became optimistic and unnatural. [Radlov said that] Shakespeare would have written this finale himself had he lived today’ (Afinogenov 1977, 2: 318; quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 57). In the event, this interpretation was rejected and the ballet Romeo and Juliet opened in 1940 in Leningrad with Galina Ulanova as Juliet. But the original intention is symptomatic of the artistic mindset of the time. Radlov wrote in 1934: ‘Romeo and Juliet is a play about the struggle waged by young, strong, progressive people for the right to love ... It is probably the most komsomol-spirited [‘komsomol’ – the Young Communist League] play of all’ (Radlov 1935a: 23; quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 58). The word ‘tragedy’ does not even figure here. A production of Romeo and Juliet dedicated to the Young Communist League appeared a year after, in 1935, directed by Aleksei Popov, one of the most thoughtful and honest directors of the time, at the Theatre of the Revolution. This was one of the first classical plays staged at the theatre, which mainly concentrated on contemporary drama. The work on Romeo and Juliet was immediately preceded – indeed interrupted – by the staging of Nikolai Pogodin’s play describing the heroic efforts of a collective farm girl, Masha, played by a leading actress of the theatre, Mariia Babanova. Popov approached Shakespeare’s play in the spirit of the time: ‘Optimistic tragedy. The tragedy must be staged in monumental forms and should have a powerful life-asserting sound. Monumental forms should not, however, make the production heavy. It must be light and flexible like monumental sculpture and the architecture of the Renaissance’ (Popov 1986: 45). He was attracted by the harmonious people of the Renaissance and their ‘relevance for the modern man – astronauts, Arctic explorers, politicians, writers, artists, actors, teachers – in other words any worker or farmer.’5 Popov wrote: ‘Dead bodies of Romeo and Juliet ... The play is over, but the song of the triumphal love of Romeo and Juliet lives in the Soviet youth’ (quoted in Turovskaia 1981:


Arkady Ostrovsky

188). Optimism was seen in the fact that it was the tragedy of a different class and of a different historical era. When the curtain parted, the audience saw the stage covered by a rusty-red throw that symbolized a blood-soaked cover of the centuries. The throw was lifted at the beginning and replaced at the end. Ideology aside, Popov, a perceptive disciple of the Moscow Art Theatre, inherited that theatre’s ability to remove the ‘cover’ of the centuries; to transport himself beyond the text of the play into the world of the characters, and to comprehend a distant historical era not as a museum piece but as an everyday reality. Once again, the director’s statements did not fully reflect what was happening on the stage. The energy and hot-headedness of Shakespeare’s Verona and the vitality of the 1930s set the tone and pace of Popov’s production plan: ‘Seething passions, spluttering hatred, raging battle scenes, billowing silk dresses (the dresses in Italian Renaissance paintings foam and inflate like silk cloths in a bucket with soap). Screaming disharmony, screaming poverty, screaming ugliness of a dwarf living next to the divinely beautiful men and women of Renaissance’ (Popov quoted in Zorkaia 1983: 215– 16). ‘Seething, spluttering, boiling, foaming’ were the adjectives that described Shakespeare’s Verona. These were also the adjectives that described Moscow of the mid-1930s. When Nemirovich-Danchenko came to see the play, he told Popov: ‘Such a [physically] active interpretation of Romeo and Juliet would be impossible at the Moscow Art Theatre. The actors are simply not used to making so many movements. Their hearts will not cope with the pace that your production requires. You have gone over the top in this sense’ (quoted in Zorkaia 1983: 212). The production started with a fight scene. Large wide steps with Renaissance buildings on either side led from the proscenium to the backstage; two revolving circles were set at the lower flight of steps; eleven fighting couples were crossing swords on the steps under the blue sky of Verona. The fight started with a trifle, from a lazy exchange of abuses between the two clans but, like a flame, it immediately engulfed the whole stage. Suddenly, a golden-haired youth in a red cloak appeared from stage right – full of life, breathing with freshness, happy to be out in the glorious sun, happy to be wearing a new red cloak, happy to draw his new shiny sword. He threw himself into the middle of the fighting crowd and immediately fell back – dead, without uttering a word. His death caused a short break in the fight; everyone stopped for a second ... and the fight resumed with new energy.6

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


There is no golden-haired youth in Shakespeare – the speechless character was introduced by Popov. There was nothing tragic in his death: when blood is boiling over it often spills out. Blood and vitality went hand in hand, both in the play and in the country in which it was staged. Death itself was not so much a tragedy as an accident. According to Iuzovskii, ‘even the Capulets’ crypt was not as chilling as it appears in Juliet’s imagination. Its proportionate composition makes one forget about the purpose of the building – quite a nice crypt, so to speak ... And the scene in the crypt is not frightening – it is majestic’ (Iuzovskii 1964: 257). Blue skies, hot Italian sun, and harmonious Renaissance architecture seemed incompatible with the tragedy that was to unfold. Here is another extract from Popov’s production plan: ‘The Ball. A table full of food behind the second curtain. Drinking, eating and steam billowing out of pots. Steam, steam! Steam! Carps, pikes, turkeys on large plates’ (Popov quoted in Zorkaia 1983: 221). This scene of a cornucopia in the country where famine and ration cards were a recent memory must have mesmerized the audience. Mariia Babanova’s Juliet was the flesh and blood of this ‘steaming’ life. Popov counselled Babanova ‘to be wary of blue lyricism’ in the portrayal of Juliet. ‘She is a jolly, chubby girl, the daughter of Capulet. Her suicide in this full-bloodedness is ridiculous and easy at the same time. Just as ridiculous and easy was the suicide of Maiakovskii – unexpected and expected at the same time. Ophelia is the moon, Juliet is the sun’ (Zorkaia 1983: 221). This characterization suited Babanova. One of the most popular actresses of her time, she was least of all predisposed to tragedy. She was almost a child, reluctant to grow up and make choices. Iuzovskii pointed to the lack of eroticism and to the excess of infantilism in Babanova’s Juliet. ‘Shakespeare makes Juliet a real woman in the second half of the play. She is not a child any more. Her awakened passions make her more mature, heroic in her free choice between obedience to fate and death’ (Iuzovskii 1964: 274). But there was no build-up of passion, no awakening of ‘a real woman’ in Babanova’s Juliet. Her death was as ridiculous as the death of a child. As Maia Turovskaia remarks in her compelling biography of Babanova, the motif of children who become victims of clan, racial, class, or any other struggle was strangely in tune with the era. The only tragic tones in Popov’s production came from Mikhail Astangov who played Romeo. Babanova and Astangov were the same age, thirty-four, but he seemed at least ten years older. As Turovskaia points out, it was an unlikely partnership: Babanova gravitated to-


Arkady Ostrovsky

wards comedies, Astangov was dreaming of Hamlet. Popov was looking for the same full-bloodedness in Romeo, but Astangov was playing out his own theme in this production. Hamlet showed through his Romeo. His premonitions of imminent death contrasted with the joyful tone of the whole production. I fear, too early, for my mind misgives Some consequence yet hanging in the stars.

These lines were the key for Astangov’s performance. Iuzovskii commented: ‘Astangov shudders at these words and suddenly forgets about the naive and innocent Romeo. This is how the first wrinkles show in Romeo, the wrinkles of Hamlet’ (1964: 264). Astangov played Romeo with a philosophical force unusual for the age. It was not love that was on his mind. Astangov’s words about the ‘loathsome world’ in the scene where he buys poison sounded in dissonance with the world in which the production appeared. There was a nerve and anxiety in Astangov’s Romeo. ‘He is possessed by his ideas and questions. Even in the night-scene with Juliet his anxious thoughts do not leave him for one second. He speaks of love but thinks about something else’ (ibid.: 267). Having perfectly captured Astangov’s acting, Iuzovskii, a man of his time, concluded: ‘Astangov had failed as Romeo.’ Perhaps the critic was right. It was the questions of Hamlet with which Astangov was engaging at a time when the play about the Prince of Denmark had virtually vanished from the Moscow stage. Astangov would yet get his chance to play Hamlet, but that would not be until 1957, after the death of Stalin. It was decided to dedicate the production to the Lenin Komsomol (Young Communist League). The theatre applied to the Central Committee of the Young Communist League and received its permission. Komsomolskaia pravda, the mouthpiece of the League, reported: ‘Comrade Kosarev [the Secretary of the Komsomol’s Central Committee] remarked that the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was staged at the demands of the Komsomol and is part of the plan of introducing Soviet youth to the best samples of the World’s culture’ (Bachelis 1935; quoted in Turovskaia 1981: 191). A Komsomol watchdog was set up in the theatre to monitor discipline, to ensure that the work was completed on time and to see that saboteurs were dealt with promptly. The Komsomol committee controlled and monitored theatrical productions in the same manner in

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


which it controlled and monitored the building of a steel plant or the construction of a hydro-electric power plant. The tight schedule of industrial construction was imposed on the artistic creative process. Here are a few notes: 7 March 1935: The Ball scene scheduled for 11:30 began 18 minutes late. A discussion at the director’s table [carried on] after the ring of the bell. The Komsomol Discipline Control Unit finds all discussions at the directors table after the bell inadmissible. Comrade actors! Solve all your problems and disagreements before and after the rehearsals. You must be economical with the time! Comrades, the opening night is the 23 April. The Komsomol Discipline Control Unit administers a public reprimand to all malicious violators of discipline! (quoted in Turovskaia 1981: 187)

The opening of the production was supposed to coincide with Shakespeare’s birthday; the theatre was working non-stop but was still behind schedule. Soviet Romeos and Juliets reprimanded Popov, accusing him of sabotaging the work on his own production: 23 March 1935: One run-through of ‘the farewell’ scene was followed by a long discussion that lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes and thus upset the rehearsal. We find Popov responsible for upsetting the rehearsal by allowing this discussion of a rehearsed scene. The Komsomol Discipline Control Unit also accuses the brigadier of not being able to stop the conversation. (quoted in Turovskaia 1981: 189)

Popov’s wife recalled how, after one of these shock-rehearsals, Popov, who was usually extremely calm and polite, came home, took a paperweight from his desk, and flung it at the window. Anna Popova had never seen anything like it in twenty years of living with her husband. The production opened on 11 May 1935. One newspaper greeted the production in the same manner in which, as Maia Turovskaia observed, the completion of construction projects for blast furnaces and power plants was usually described at the time: ‘one after another, new Shakespearean productions come into force’ (quoted in Turovskaia 1981: 191). The theatre gave to the country its stainless steel. On the day when the ‘new Shakespearean production came into force,’ Aleksei Popov was not at the theatre. He was in hospital with a severe nervous breakdown.


Arkady Ostrovsky

However, a real Stakhanovite on the Shakespearean front of the 1930s was the Leningrad director Sergei Radlov. The erudite son of a professor of classical literature, history, and philosophy, a graduate of St Petersburg University, Radlov started his theatre career by helping Meierkhold with the magazine Love for Three Oranges and attending his classes at the Studio on Borodinskaia Street in 1914, where Meierkhold experimented with forms of commedia dell’arte. After the revolution, in 1919–20, Radlov co-directed a mass revolutionary spectacle, Towards a World Commune, played out in the streets and squares of Petrograd, while also reconstructing Roman and Elizabethan drama in a theatre laboratory. Unlike Meierkhold, in whom the Revolution opened some new artistic dimensions, Radlov was more concerned with stylistic forms of the revolutionary theatre than with its substance. Radlov was one of the most prolific directors of Shakespeare’s tragedies. By 1939 he had staged four versions of Othello, two versions of Romeo and Juliet, one Hamlet, and the famous King Lear with Solomon Mikhoels. The extent of Radlov’s talent and sincerity has been a subject of some debate among Russian theatre historians, and his work is still awaiting serious evaluation, but the fact remains that he was associated with two of the most significant Shakespeare productions of the time: the 1935 Othello at the Malyi Theatre with Aleksandr Ostuzhev in the lead, and King Lear with Solomon Mikhoels, staged at the Moscow State Jewish Theatre in the same year. Othello was undoubtedly the most popular Shakespearean production of the 1930s, and perhaps more than any other Shakespeare production of the time belonged to what Vladimir Papernii defined as ‘Culture Two.’ In his book Kultura Dva, Papernii describes the transformation from the 1910s–20s to the 1930s–40s as a cyclical change from one type of culture, Culture One, which is characterized by movement, fluidity, and explosiveness, to Culture Two, which is characterized by clarity, centralization of values, settling, and solidifying. Unlike Culture One, which tends to dispose of the past – often by means of fire or explosion, Culture Two preserves what is relevant in the culture of the past and places it in a strict hierarchical order. Vertical structures came to dominate the architecture of that period. The transformation undergone by Radlov himself illustrates the transition from Culture One to Culture Two. In the 1920s, Radlov, influenced by Meierkhold and Piscator, experimented with multiple and simultaneous staging in order to create a sense of continuous flow and modernized Shakespeare in the spirit of the class struggle of the 1920s.

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


In the 1930s, Radlov moved away from his experiments, denounced expressionism, and proclaimed himself a faithful realist. In 1935, he wrote: ‘By the time my theatre was created, expressive gestures, sharp movement, placard-style stage effects ceased to interest me as the main requirement for an actor. They were replaced by simplicity of acting style and the motivation of an actor’s behaviour on stage’ (quoted in Bushueva 1992: 38). In the same article Radlov announced his conversion to the Stanislavskii system, which had been canonized as the only legitimate style of acting. His production of Othello marked the change from Culture One to Culture Two. The principles of realism, as Radlov understood them, were manifested in Viktor Basov’s sets for Othello, with their massive balustrades and bridges, heavy balconies and wide loggias, stone bastions and lavish hangings. The characters of Shakespeare’s tragedy seemed almost chained to Basov’s sets. A prominent Soviet theatre critic and historian A.A. Gvozdev described Shakespeare’s characters in Radlov’s production in the following terms: ‘People of big passions, firmly standing on this earth, moving heavily across the bastions of the Cyprus fortifications, stepping in their heavy boots onto the carpet of the Venetian palace and discharging their coarse jokes’ (quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 90). Basov’s sets reminded Vsevolod Meierkhold of eclectic book illustrations in a lavish late-nineteenth-century edition of Shakespeare plays by Brockhaus and Efron. Mounted on the stage of the former Imperial Malyi Theatre, Basov’s sets did not seem out of place. Radlov saw Othello as a play about a warrior, a general, ‘a new progressive type of man who conquers new territory’: Shakespeare lived in the age of conquistadors. He praised people who were fighting under the British flag for the wealth of Britain. When working on the part of Othello, we cannot dissociate it from great travellers and soldiers of Shakespearean times. We can not indulge in the perception of Shakespeare as some timeless poet of subtle emotions and turn Othello into some anaemic sufferer of the nineteenth century. (quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 90)

The production was staged in a new translation by Radlov’s wife – Anna Radlova – a 1920s poet, a contemporary and competitor of Anna Akhmatova. Her translation broke away from the beautified language of the nineteenth century and grounded Shakespeare in the rough,


Arkady Ostrovsky

contemporary language of the 1920s and 1930s. Just to give one example, in Radlova’s translation Othello’s famous lines ‘She loved me for the dangers I have passed, / And I loved her that she did pity them’ came out more like ‘She loved me for my martial labours [achievements], / And I loved her for her pity.’ This choice of words was not simply a matter of style, but of meaning. ‘Why did Desdemona get so intrigued by Othello?’ asked Radlov on the pages of The Theatre magazine. ‘Because in Shakespeare’s time sailors, travellers and discoverers of new lands were what aviators, who set records, are to us’ (Radlov 1939: 63). The category of the tragic in Radlov’s production was substituted with the category of the heroic. Human sensitivities were cast out. Radlova’s translation was harshly criticized by Kornei Chukovskii, a poet and a translator. But it was the performance by Alexandr Ostuzhev – rather than Basov’s sets, Radlov’s directing, or his wife’s translation that secured this production its place in history. The sixty-one-year-old Ostuzhev, whose famous parts included Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Karl Moor in Schiller’s The Robbers, had lost his hearing in 1910 and was almost forgotten in the 1930s – until Radlov chose him to play Othello. Ostuzhev had a beautiful, melodic tenor voice. In 1900, when Tommaso Salvini toured Moscow, Ostuzhev played Cassio to Salvini’s Othello, and was complimented by the great Italian tragedian on his voice. Brought up on the nineteenth-century translations of Shakespeare, he tried to soften the roughness and coarseness of Radlova’s language. In his diary Ostuzhev noted: ‘I have a lot of changes and corrections to the text, but Radlov does not agree with any of them.’ At one rehearsal Radlov explained his position: ‘We all live and work in the country of a victorious proletariat. And our audience is the victorious proletariat. The proletariat is harsh and austere in its expression of feelings and this is understandable, because it [the proletariat] came to this victory through harsh years of fighting and hardship.’7 In Radlov’s interpretation, Othello was first and foremost a soldier and remained so to the end. Radlov suggested that in the last scene of the play when Othello says, ‘Here is my journey’s end,’ Oztuzhev should play ‘a great commander, who takes down his decorations and breaks his sword over his own head – the sword that has served him for decades.’ This is his last farewell parade. I think this monologue [5.2.260–80] would work particularly well if you could speak it in a baritone register, trying to

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


imagine an uninterrupted line of marching soldiers coming and going before your eyes. I don’t like citing big names, but I would like to remind you that this is how Verdi, who by the end of his life wrote his genius opera Othello, understood this aria – introducing the sound of marching divisions in the orchestral accompaniment.8

Radlov was particularly wary of any tearful notes in Othello’s speech. Ostuzhev, renowned for his lyricism, did not play a conquistador or a great warrior; he did not strain his tenor voice in order to introduce baritone notes into the performance. He felt uncomfortable in the costume designed for him by Basov – a splendid, richly decorated and heavy Venetian costume and large heavy-heeled boots of the period – and insisted that the Moor should be wearing light, free clothes that would not restrict his movements and soft footwear that would not chain him to the floor or make him seem taller. The actors of the Malyi Theatre, like all actors in the Soviet Union, were obliged to perform socialist realist plays. But unlike the Moscow Art Theatre, the Malyi was not saturated with the style of socialist realism. In fact, it never had a dominant style; it had always had an eclectic repertoire and its actors changed styles in the same way as they changed costumes. Ostuzhev’s rendering of the role rested not on Radlov’s interpretation, but on the nineteenth-century Romantic tradition of acting and on Pushkin’s famous idea that Othello ‘is not jealous; he is trusting.’ According to his biographer, Ostuzhev did not deny his Othello human passions and suffering. His Othello was first and foremost a man – noble, magnanimous, trusting, transparent, and remarkably lonely. He was an ageing man who fell in love for the first time and submitted himself completely to this feeling. When this feeling was soiled by suspicion of betrayal, his life fell apart. All critics remembered the way Ostuzhev spoke Othello’s lines in act 3, scene 3, in which he suspects that Desdemona has left him because of his race. Realizing his otherness and solitude, he stared into his black hands as if into a mirror before saying, ‘for I am black.’ Ostuzhev’s intonation was filled with the anguish of an old man who believed that he had found his happiness only to have it shattered. He recognized the reason for Desdemona’s betrayal in his own blackness. Radlova inserted a question mark after these words: ‘for I am black?’ For Ostuzhev, there was no question.9 Although Radlova changed Othello’s ‘pangs’ into ‘martial labour,’


Arkady Ostrovsky

Ostuzhev played pangs and suffering, not martial labours. Ostuzhev was not afraid of those ‘tearful notes’ in Othello against which Radlov warned. ‘What Othello does to Desdemona in act 5, he does through tears. The killing of Desdemona is not rage, not execution – it is a tearful sacrifice to justice. In this scene, Othello condemns to death not just Desdemona but himself: it is impossible to imagine for one minute that, having killed her, he will continue to live’ (Durylin 1956: 511). The solitude of Othello – one of the leitmotifs of the tragedy – was also a personal leitmotif of Ostuzhev the actor. It was not just that being deaf he could hear his own voice only inside his head, he was also a guestperformer in Radlov’s production. (This was not such an unusual situation for an actor of the Malyi Theatre, where the director always played a secondary role to an actor, unlike, for instance, at the Moscow Art Theatre.) In the perceptive words of Konstantin Rudnitskii, ‘Ostuzhev was connected to Radlov and his production only formally, by the fact that he played in the production – but he could have equally played in a different one’ (Rudnitskii 1965: 42). Radlov’s production provoked debates in the press. Iosif Iuzovskii was quick to notice the dissonance between Radlov’s military concept and Ostuzhev’s style of acting. He contrasted the Moscow production with the one staged in Leningrad. Unlike the Leningrad production – clear and simple – the Moscow Othello was unwieldy and shapeless, according to Iuzovskii. Radlov attacked Iuzovskii with the article ‘Is Othello a warrior?’ Iuzovskii answered with an article ‘Is Othello a human being?’ The debate, which largely focused on the qualities of Anna Radlova’s translation, soon moved over to the pages of Izvestiia. Karl Radek defended Radlov and declared his Othello a cultural achievement of socialist culture, and called on others to learn from Radlov (Radek 1936: 3; quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 81–2). Iuzovskii also answered Radek, but the last word belonged to Radek. In an aggressive tone he cautioned Iuzovskii: ‘Who would ever believe Iuzovskii that his arguments in the Soviet press are about Radlova’s translations of Shakespeare? You better leave these tricks, comrade Iuzovskii, for a less knowing audience. Radlov’s Othello was our best Shakespearean production’ (quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 82). Radek was right: it was not about Shakespeare – it was about the party line, and Iuzovskii knew better than to argue with that. (As it turned out, Iuzovskii survived the purges, while Radek himself was arrested in 1937 and killed in jail in May 1939 – probably by cell-mates – on Stalin’s orders.)

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


After Othello, Radlov was pronounced the most successful directorinterpreter of Shakespeare on the Soviet stage. Although ‘interpreter’ is perhaps a wrong word: Radlov saw his greatest achievement in showing a ‘pure’ Shakespeare, free of any director’s innovations or interpretations. Speaking at the Shakespeare conference in 1935, a few months before the opening of Othello, Radlov effectively surrendered the artistic rights of a director: ‘What is more important to me as a director? The play I am staging, or my personal interests in the performance; the theme, interpreted by the author, or my individual success; the way I convey Shakespeare, or the way to show off my director’s face?’ (quoted in Zolotnitskii 1992: 84). In his speech Radlov was reiterating a new party line in the treatment of the classics: ‘We must make no mistake that at this moment, in this era, Hamlet is more interesting than Akimov and Othello is more valuable than Radlov.’ This was a thinly veiled attack on Meierkhold, whose directorial authorship was firmly impressed on every play he staged. While the 1920s sought to modernize and adjust classics to the purposes of the proletarian art, the 1930s demanded a complete ‘faithfulness’ and allowed no diversion from the canon. The new policy had grievous implications both for Shakespeare and for theatre directors, particularly for Meierkhold, who exercised great directorial freedom in all productions, especially of the classics. In 1936, in his famous speech ‘Meierkhold against Meierkholdism,’ Meierkhold tried to fight back: ‘How could it happen that when our [Communist] Party was called to stage Shakespeare, there were some people who said to us: enough, in Radlov’s production and Radlova’s translation we have reached the norms that cannot be overstepped. And we are saying these norms are no good, because the translations are bad’ (Meierkhold 1968, 2: 332). Meierkhold insisted that there was nothing Shakespearean in Radlov’s production of Othello, just as there was nothing Venetian in Basov’s sets. ‘There was anything but Venice [in the sets]. How can this be? It is not for nothing that Shakespeare set the play in Venice; it is not for nothing that he was imagining St Mark’s piazza, or showed us the doge. It is not for nothing that Cassio arrives to attend the council in a gondola. This is what gives charm to the play: the Moor against the background of Venice, with its gondolas, canals and architecture’ (ibid.). Radlov struck back in March 1936, when dark clouds were already gathering over Meierkhold’s head. In a discussion ‘Against Formalism and Naturalism,’ Radlov openly attacked Meierkhold while trying to


Arkady Ostrovsky

distance himself from his name: ‘I must admit that I am repulsed by a director who peeps out of the wings every other second, prompting “this is mine; this is my mise-en-scène; this is my stage; this is my idea; I am the author.” After the articles in Pravda, Meierkhold sees Meierkholdism [read formalism] everywhere, except in his own work. This is not very courageous of him. When I see Meierkhold I want to speak with Shakespeare’s words: “Good signior, you shall more command with years, than with your weapon”’ (Radlov 1936: 198). Radlov was reciting Othello’s noble words, but, used in 1936 against Meierkhold, they sounded more like Iago’s.10 In 1938, following a damning article in Pravda, Meierkhold’s theatre was liquidated as ‘bourgeois, formalistic, and alien to Soviet art.’ According to Aleksandr Gladkov, during those years Meierkhold was dreaming of Hamlet. Having lost his theatre, he was thinking of writing a book about his imaginary production. He pictured Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost on the shores of the cold sea: ‘Leaden-blue sea. Pallid northern sun under a thin veil of clouds. Hamlet is walking along the shore wrapped in his black coat. He sits on a rock and looks into the horizon of the sea. And in that horizon appears the figure of his father. A bearded soldier in silver armour walks on the water towards the shore. He is coming closer. Hamlet gets up. The father steps onto the shore and the son embraces him, sits him down, and wraps him in his black coat, protecting him from the cold. Under the cloak he – Hamlet – wears the same silver armour as his father’ (Gladkov 1990: 163). A year later, in 1939, Meierkhold was arrested, tortured, and killed. The great terror did not spare Radlov and his wife either. Radlov himself survived ten years in Stalin’s Gulag, but his wife Anna Radlova perished in the camps in 1949. In 1942, together with his theatre the Radlovs were evacuated from Leningrad to Piatigorsk in the south of Russia. A few months later the city was taken over by the Germans and the Radlovs ended up in the occupied territory. According to Bushueva, Radlov and his theatre were relocated to Berlin and then to France, where they continued to perform. After the war the Radlovs returned to Russia on the invitation of the Soviet government – only to be sent straight to the Gulag – along with thousands of others who returned from the occupied territories and were accused of treason. Anna Radlova died in the labour camp in 1949. Sergei Radlov was released in 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, and ‘rehabilitated’ in 1957. He died a year later in Riga, where he had staged several Shakespeare productions. In 1935, however, Radlov was one of the most celebrated of Soviet

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


directors. Almost at the same time that he was working on Othello at the Malyi Theatre, Radlov was preparing King Lear at the Moscow State Jewish Theatre (GOSET) – a production that stands out in the cycle of Shakespeare’s tragedies staged in the 1930s. The history of this production deserves a separate study, which is well outside the scope of this paper. The work on King Lear was started by a visionary modernist Ukrainian director, Les Kurbas, who was arrested two months into the rehearsals. The Jewish Theatre first invited Kurbas in 1924, following the success of his modernist production of Macbeth, whose open, expressive theatricality mesmerized Meierkhold (Makaryk 2004: 65, 108).11 ‘For the 1924 Macbeth the stage was painted black, and the audience sat on bleachers facing the stage’s brick black wall.’ Decorative scenery was rejected in favour of bright green screens made of canvas on which were printed giant modernist letters announcing ‘Castle,’ ‘Precipice,’ and so forth. ‘These simultaneously evoked medieval-Renaissance locality boards, contemporary political posters, and ... silent film titles’ (ibid.: 84). The production broke conventions of traditional theatre: actors switched in and out of character, ‘laying bare the pure craft of acting’ (ibid.: 86). Vasyl Vasylko, an actor of Kurbas’s theatre, the Berezil Artistic Association, mentions in his diary, on 27 May 1924, that members of the Jewish theatre from Moscow were actively seeking out Kurbas as their director. However, after a long meeting, the Berezil company managed to persuade Kurbas to stay with them.12 In 1933, almost ten years later, Kurbas finally accepted Mikhoels’s invitation. Kurbas spoke Yiddish, and seemed a natural choice for Mikhoels, who called the Ukrainian director his ‘blood brother.’ Kurbas left Kharkiv for Moscow on 6 October 1933. He was arrested on 26 December. Almost no documents related to Kurbas’s work with Mikhoels survived. But indirect evidence – mostly memoirs – suggest that Mikhoels had discussed his vision of the play with Kurbas and they were on the same wavelength.13 According to the memoirs of the poet Mykola Bazhan, who met with Kurbas numerous times after the rehearsals of King Lear in the Moscow café Metropol, Kurbas told him, ‘This will be an unusual Lear. He is an eccentric and an egotist blinded by the illusion of autocracy, but the bitterness of truth opens his eyes, awakens in him his humanity and his individuality; the storms of life tear off the garments of haughtiness from him, sending him back to earth to be among human beings and their suffering. Exhausted, bald, beardless – Mikhoels will play him


Arkady Ostrovsky

almost without make-up – carrying the dead Cordelia, he must raise himself up in all his human greatness, casting aside the pretensions and rancor of a blind despot’ (Bazhan 1982: 149).14 After the arrest of Kurbas, Mikhoels invited Sergei Radlov, who had already worked at the GOSET in 1930 and 1931, directing plays jointly with Mikhoels. But Mikhoels’s understanding of the play had little in common with Radlov’s interpretation – at least the way he stated it. Radlov, who had an excellent understanding of the political demands and tastes of his time, saw the source of Lear’s tragedy in his failure to understand the progressive forces of history. According to the director, ‘the tragic fault of Lear is not the fact that he is too proud or stubborn or does not allow others to contradict him, but in the fact that he does not understand his historic mission ... that instead of assembling and strengthening a unified English state, he cuts and carves up the map of Britain’ (Radlov 1935b: 2; quoted in Bushueva 1992: 48). Radlov came to the GOSET with a tested set of tools, ready to put together another Shakespeare production. ‘Radlov by that time had wide experience in staging Shakespeare. He had everything ready for King Lear and he planned to stage the play with twenty rehearsals. He could not imagine all the difficulties that were supposed to arise during this work.’ The main difficulty was that Radlov was ‘gliding along the surface of Shakespeare without getting into the depth of his philosophy’ (Mikhoels 1965: 97). Radlov’s advice to Mikhoels was ‘not to philosophize too much’ and just to ‘dive’ into the deep sea that was Shakespeare. This advice did little for Mikhoels, who had been thinking about the part of Lear for most of his life and had no interest in Radlov’s ‘political-didactic’ interpretation of Lear. Disagreements between Radlov and Mikhoels surfaced early in the work. Unsurprisingly, Radlov preferred Basov’s lavish realistic sets in Othello to Alexandr Tyshler’s ‘theatrical’ castle inspired by fair-booth, folkloric, naive forms of theatre. Radlov, who in the 1920s himself pursued experiments in the reconstruction of the Elizabethan stage, in 1935 wrote: ‘Today it is inappropriate for us to highlight the conventional character of the Shakespearean stage ... Tyshler’s striking sculptures,’ which stood on top of the castle, ‘do not seem as correct and befitting as Basov’s wonderful work in Othello’ (quoted in Bushueva 1992: 39). Tyshler’s sketches of a ‘beardless, bald’ Lear also seemed inappropriate to Radlov, who envisaged Lear as a tall, white-haired, proud old statesmen with a beard.15 In a letter to Mikhoels, he refused to carry on

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


working. This was not Radlov’s first attempt to resign as director of the production, but each time he did so, Mikhoels managed to persuade Radlov to carry on. Whether Mikhoels was trying to protect a production initiated by Kurbas with Radlov’s name, as some scholars have suggested, or whether he simply needed Radlov’s professional skills in putting together a production is hard to say, but Mikhoels did persuade Radlov to stay. The program of the production, signed by Radlov, announced that ‘the death of Lear is the tragedy of a subjective and individualistic comprehension of reality. Lear pitted himself and his impulsive will against the objective principles of the development of society and the historically progressive unification of England.’ However, what happened on stage had little to do with any ‘historically progressive unification of England.’ Whatever Radlov or Kurbas contributed to the production, it was first and foremost Mikhoels’s artistic creation. To Mikhoels, King Lear was, above all, a philosophical tragedy of mistaken thought. He saw Lear’s decision to divide the kingdom not as the whim of a senile old man tired of governing the country, not as his ‘failure to understand the historic process,’ but as a carefully planned and thought out experiment. Lear, in Mikhoels’s mind, had reached some greater wisdom compared to which power, the crown, and money had no value. His wisdom was the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: ‘vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.’ Lear’s abdication from the crown was meant to be the proof of his supreme power – the power of free will. Mikhoels drew parallels between the story of Lear’s abdication and Tolstoy’s last act of free will – leaving his house, his family, his past behind and getting on a train in a third-class compartment just to get away from it all and to die at a god-forsaken railway station. Lear’s suffering was caused not so much by the cruelty of his two daughters – the pain they cause him is not the source of tragedy – but by the realization that his own philosophy was flawed, a realization that costs too dear and comes too late. According to Radlov, Lear moved from order to chaos, from prosperity to deprivation, from old age to death. Mikhoels played Lear’s journey from blindness to vision, from greatness to humility, from flawed philosophy to the simple human truth that Lear arrives at in the end. This philosophical tragedy of mistaken thought unfolded in front of a fair-booth castle with swinging gates that intermittently opened and


Arkady Ostrovsky

shut Lear off. But while the castle may have been a toy, and the story may have been a parable, the feelings and the suffering of Mikhoels’s Lear were not abstract. Boris Zingerman in his descriptive essay about Mikhoels as Lear emphasizes this combination of metaphor, philosophic parable, and concrete, moving intimate human feelings with which Mikhoels played the part. Zingerman points out that there was nothing majestic or solemn in Lear’s appearance on the stage. Wrapped in a cloak, he walked in from the side, almost unnoticed, deep in his own thoughts. He gently pulled down the Fool who occupied his seat, climbed up to the throne, and counted everyone by pointing his finger, making sure everybody was present. Then he saw Cordelia, who was hiding behind his throne, and suddenly the silence of the court was interrupted by his laugh – the tremulous, feeble laugh of an old man. The same laugh would sound at the end of the play. Confident in his own greatness, he could afford to be modest and simple. The division of the kingdom resembled a children’s game: ‘Tell me what I want to hear and I’ll give you a third of my kingdom.’ But when Cordelia refused to participate in this game Lear flew into rage, not because he was unable to distinguish flattery from real feeling, but because she was upsetting his planned experiment and pitting her will against his. ‘In any other situation he would have been proud of his daughter’s selflessness and independence; now he cursed her’ (Zingerman 1965: 435). Lear was about to cut his crown into two parts when Kent threw himself in front of the king; Lear raised his sword over Kent’s head, but his eyes suddenly met Cordelia’s and the sword missed Kent’s head. Every expressive gesture, every movement was concrete and precise and served the philosophical meaning of the role. Those who saw and wrote about the production remembered how, after Goneril drove him out of the house, Mikhoels’s hands – fingers spread wide – slid down his face, as if removing scales from his own eyes. ‘Restrained and ironical a second ago, he was trying to be as crude as possible, revealing the lowest, physiological meaning of his words. Cursing Goneril and wishing her “sterility,” Mikhoels beat himself in the stomach with his hand’ (Zingerman 1965: 437). These spread-out fingers sliding down Lear’s face and the hollow sound of Lear beating himself in the stomach were the hallmark of Mikhoels’s performance. Nemirovich-Danchenko had once defined Stanislavskii’s director’s plans as ‘thoughts captured in a mise-en-scène.’ In Mikhoels’s case these were thoughts captured in his famous gestures. Gordon Craig, who had worked with Stanislavskii on Hamlet in 1908–11, and who visited Moscow in 1935, was mesmerized by Mikhoels’s performance, which he saw four times.

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


Solomon Mikhoels as King Lear (State Jewish Theatre, Moscow, 1935)

Nothing in Mikhoels’s performance was abstract: when Goneril and Regan argued about how many knights he was allowed to keep, Mikhoels touched the corners of his eyes with two fingers, and then immediately pulled them away and looked at the fingertips still wet with his tears before saying, ‘No, I’ll not weep.’ He was making his pain visible when


Arkady Ostrovsky

he thrice knocked on his bold skull, diagnosing himself calmly and solemnly: ‘I shall go mad!’ According to Mikhoels’s original intention, the storm scene was only supposed to take place inside Lear’s head. Radlov insisted on proper stage effects. Standing bare-headed he was trying to grasp a reality that was beyond comprehension: ‘What is the cause of thunder?’ he interrogated Kent, as if trying to get to the essence of all things. ‘All the familiar, trustworthy philosophical categories could not be applied to this reality, gave no key to its comprehension. Everything had to be learned from experience: what is man and what is thunder’ (Zingerman 1965: 438). Throughout the whole storm scene Mikhoels led Lear to the simple realization that man was not the centre of the universe but just a twolegged animal. When he arrived at this point, Mikhoels’s Lear lost his ability to speak and began to bark: the chaos and horror that he encountered could not be described by means of human language. The last scene with Cordelia was the high point of Mikhoels’s performance and Lear’s enlightenment. His last monologue was the light and catharsis of the tragedy. At the end, Lear gently lowered Cordelia’s dead body to the ground and a suppressed, strangled moan burst out of his chest. He stood up, slowly walked along a semicircle of soldiers, his eyes asking how this could have happened. When he realized that there would be no answer, he went back to Cordelia and another, this time louder, grieving moan pierced the silence of the scene. He lay down next to Cordelia, stretched his hand to her lips and then kissed his fingers which had just touched those lips; thrice he shook his head and then died. Just before he died, he hummed a simple hunting tune and laughed with that feeble, tremulous laugh. Between these tremulous laughs lay the tragedy of Lear. Mikhoels’s Lear at the Moscow State Jewish Theatre was a unique and truly tragic performance of Shakespeare on the Soviet stage of the 1930s. It did not fit into categories of socialist realism but rose above them, like the great poetry of Osip Mandelshtam or Anna Akhmatova. Like any significant work of art, Mikhoels’s King Lear was more than just a talented performance; it related to life outside the theater and revealed much about the time in which it was created. The tragedy of ‘mistaken thought’ would soon lead the entire country to the madness and inhuman suffering that cost twenty million lives. One of those lives would be that of Mikhoels himself – killed in 1948, long before he could see the enlightenment of his own country.

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


NOTES 1 Dinamov’s own future was far from radiant. Like many others at the 1934 congress, he was arrested in 1937 and shot in 1939. 2 A group of 120 writers visited the White Sea Canal labour camp on 17 August 1933. The visit resulted in a book about the camp edited by Gorkii in 1934. In 1937, following the arrests and executions of many of the camp’s bosses, the book was destroyed. On the history of the writers’ visit to the White Sea Canal see Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (1989: 69–108). 3 For the same reason there was an increase in the sales of ice cream in Moscow, especially during the winter in the 1930s and 1940s. The production levels of cold refreshments meant that each year Muscovites could each eat 40 kilograms of ice cream and drink 500 litres of chilled drinks (Papernii 1996: 174). 4 Nemirovich-Danchenko Archive, Moscow, Museum of the Moscow Art Theatre, MS, N-D, 519. 5 Popov’s Director’s Plan for Romeo and Juliet, quoted in Zorkaia (1983: 216). 6 For a detailed description of the production see Iuzovskii (1964: 256–80). 7 The shorthand report of the rehearsal on 3 October 1935; quoted in Rudnitskii (1965: 41). 8 Ibid. 9 The motif of the black man’s sufferings had peculiar overtones in the Soviet 1930s. In 1936, one of the most popular Soviet films, The Circus, was released. It was a Hollywood-style story about a white American circus actress who bears a black child and flees Kansas in fear of racists. She finds shelter in the Soviet Union and falls in love with a Soviet actor. But an evil German ringmaster threatens to reveal her secret and expose the black baby if she stays in the USSR. In the last scene, the ringmaster comes out into the arena and shows the black baby to the audience. But he only makes a fool of himself, for the Soviet people know no difference between black, white, or yellow children – they take the baby and pass it from hand to hand, while singing a lullaby in half a dozen languages of the Soviet nation, including Yiddish (sung by Solomon Mikhoels). This was the context in which the Moor was seen in the 1935 Moscow. ‘Only in the Soviet country,’ wrote one critic, ‘where there is no national hatred and racism, can an actor find the key to the role in Othello’s blackness.’ 10 Radlov’s cowardly attacks provoked a rebuke from Aleksei Popov, who also took part in the discussion: ‘Radlov, who had just spoken here, was very offended that he was included among Meierkhold’s pupils. I would like Radlov to tell us how he is growing and developing what is he using



12 13 14


Arkady Ostrovsky as a base ... There can be no independent path or further artistic development, there can be no victory of Soviet theatre, if this or that artist lacks courage, honesty and seriousness to say that all his work is based on the highest step in theatrical culture which at present is represented by the names of Stanislavskii and Meierkhold’ (1986: 199–201). I am extremely grateful to Irena Makaryk for allowing me to read part of the manuscript of her now published book, Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn, dealing with the 1924 Macbeth. Irena Makaryk kindly pointed me to this and other documents related to Kurbas’s work with Mikhoels. Before inviting Radlov, Mikhoels had also tried an unremarkable director from the Malyi, Nikolai Volkonskii. Moisei Belenkii (now a citizen of Israel) claims that Mikhoels’s widow Anastasiia Pavlovna Pototskaia told him in the 1960s that ‘Kurbas had discussed the conception and even individually rehearsed with Mikhoels. This had to be done secretly, hidden from the public, since agents were following Kurbas in Moscow, too. According to Pototskaia, Mikhoels kept a diary of rehearsals in which he noted all the director’s instructions, and kept this diary up to the beginning of the war. Only the possibility of a search and the danger of arrest compelled him to burn the diary’ (quoted in Chechel 1999: 73–4). In 1955 Radlov staged King Lear with a white-bearded, statesman-like Lear at the Russian Theatre in Riga.

REFERENCES Afinogenov, Aleksandr. 1977. Izbrannoe. 2 vols. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Bachelis, I. 1935. ‘Romeo i Dzhuleta’ Komsomolskaia pravda (Moscow), 20 May. Bazhan, Mykola. 1982. ‘U svitli Kurbasa.’ Vitchyzna (Kyiv) 10: 148–9. Bushueva, Svetlana. 1992. ‘Shekspir u Radlova.’ In Zolotnitskii, ed., 22–54. Chechel, Natalia. 1999. ‘Did Kurbas Stage King Lear in Moscow? Unraveling the Mystery of Les Kurbas’s Last Production.’ Trans. Andrew Sorokowsky. Slavic and East European Performance 19.2 (Summer): 69–79. Durylin, S. 1956. ‘A.A. Ostuzhev.’ In Ezhegodnik Malogo Teatra: 1953–1954, 497–516. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Gladkov, Aleksandr. 1990. Meierkhold. Moscow: STD. Gorkii, Maxim. 1949–55. Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, vol. 26. Moscow: Goslitizdat. Iuzovskii, Iosif. 1947. Obraz i epokha: Na shekspirovskie temy. Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel.

Shakespeare as a Founding Father of Socialist Realism


– 1964. ‘Romeo i Dzhuletta.’ In Zachem liudi khodiat v teatr ... Stati, ocherki, feletony raznykh let, 256–80. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Makaryk, Irena R. 2004. Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn: Les Kurbas, Ukrainian Modernism, and Early Soviet Cultural Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Marx, Karl, and Friederich Engels. 1934. Sochineniia. Ed. V. Adorotsky. Vol. 25. Moscow: Partizdat. Meierkhold, Vs. E. 1968. Stati, pisma, rechi, besedy. 2 vols. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Mikhoels, Solomon. 1965. ‘Moia rabota nad Korolem Lirom Shekspira.’ In Rudnitskii, ed., 94–133. Papernii, Vladimir. 1996. Kultura Dva. Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie. Pervyi Vsesoiuznyi Sezd Sovetskikh Pisatelei. 1934. Stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow: GIKhL; repr. 1990, Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel. Popov, A.D. 1986. Tvorcheskoe nasledie: Rabota nad spektakliami, izbrannye pisma. Moscow: VTO. Radek, Karl. 1936. ‘Na Shekspirovskom Fronte.’ Izvestiia (Moscow) 151 (4 July): 3. Radlov, Sergei. 1935a. ‘Iunost teatra.’ Teatr i dramaturgiia (Moscow) 6: 20–5. – 1935b. ‘V boiakh za Lira.’ Sovetskoe iskusstvo (Moscow), 5 January: 2 – 1936. ‘Ne putat poniatii.’ Teatr i dramaturgiia (Moscow) 4: 196–210. – 1939. ‘Rabota nad Shekspirom.’ Teatr (Moscow) 4: 61–9. Rudnitskii, K. 1965. ‘Mikhoels – Obraz i mysli.’ In Rudnitskii, ed., 5–59. Rudnitskii, K., ed. 1965. Mikhoels: Stati, besedy, rechi. Vospominaniia o Mikhoelse. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Soloviova, Inna. 1999. ‘Socialist Realism, 1929–1953.’ In A History of Russian Theatre, ed. Robert Leach and Victor Borovsky, 325–57. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr. 1989. Arkhipelag GULAG, vol. 2. Moscow: Sovetskii Pisatel. Spasskii, Iu. 1939. ‘Shekspir bez kontsa.’ Teatr (Moscow) 4: 13–32. Turovskaia, M. 1981. Babanova: Legenda i biografiia, Moscow: Iskusstvo. Zingerman, Boris. 1965. ‘Mikhoels-Lear.’ In Rudnitskii, ed., 427–41. Zolotnitskii, D.I. 1992. ‘S.E. Radlov: Iz shekspiriany tridtsatykh.’ In Zolotnitskii, ed., 55–103. Zolotnitskii, D.I. ed. 1992. V sporakh o teatre. St Petersburg: Rossiiskii Institut Istorii Isskustv. Zorkaia, N. 1983. Aleksei Popov. Moscow: Iskusstvo.

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew laurence senelick

Why do certain plays survive in repertories? Why do they retain their favour against all odds, while others, whatever their worth, drop out of sight? Why, despite literary or theatrical shortcomings, do some plays achieve classic status and perennial revival? What fashions or exigencies bring them out of obscurity and into sudden popularity? A largely overlooked factor is the actor’s desire to assume a role; but without a reciprocal response from the audience or the management, such a desire has to go unfulfilled. When the play in question is a foreign one, one also has to take into account issues of cultural transmission and the accessibility and quality of translations. In the repertories of national theatres, under the control of bureaucracies whose concerns are less artistic or commercial than political and administrative, it is sometimes easier to ascertain the whys and wherefores of a play’s admittance and persistence. The vagaries of fashion coalesce with state policies. This was particularly the case in Russia from the early nineteenth century to the age of Mikhail Gorbachev. There, not untypically, Shakespeare’s tragedies have occupied more critical and theatrical space than his comedies, since the uprooting of comedy from its original social and linguistic contexts is more damaging to its properties. And, to a Western eye, those comedies most frequently performed in Russia were not necessarily the likeliest choices. The Russian Romantics paid passing attention to The Merchant of Venice and The Merry Wives of Windsor, chiefly because of the characters of Shylock and Falstaff; between the 1840s and the 1860s, new translations were published of Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Taming of the Shrew. By the end of the century, The Shrew had become a staple at the Imperial

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


theatres of Moscow and St Petersburg, in part because of Aleksandr Ostrovskii’s ‘translation.’ Probably made from a literal prose rendering (Ostrovskii knew no English), and never staged,1 it served as an impetus for the first ‘complete’ Shrew performed in Russia, in 1865 at the Malyi Theatre, where Ostrovskii wielded powerful influence. Another contributory factor in the play’s popularity was the attraction of the leading roles. The Malyi star Aleksandr Lenskii was famed for his Petruchio and G.N. Fedotova and M.G. Savina for their Katharinas in Moscow and St Petersburg, respectively.2 Elizabethan and Jacobean comedies continued to be produced after the Revolution and, in many cases, right through the Second World War. At a time when progressives and leftists were calling for the overthrow of the old repertories and troupes and for the establishment of a proletarian drama – what Meierkhold called a ‘theatrical October’ – these works survived. One of the earliest utterances on this subject, the first bulletin of the Repertory division of the Theatrical Section of NARKOMPROS (13–16 April 1919), when listing appropriate foreign plays, recommended three of Shakespeare’s: Othello, King Lear, and The Taming of the Shrew. They were deemed consonant with a revolutionary epoch, reflecting contemporary events; they were also considered easy to stage, peopled with peasants and workers and capable of raising a laugh (Iufit 1968: 45). One wonders just how familiar the arbiters of NARKOMPROS were with these plays. Four months in advance of the official suggestion, the Imperial Alexandra Theatre of St Petersburg, renamed the State Pushkin Theatre in Petrograd, had mounted The Taming of the Shrew in a translation by veteran dramatist and administrator Piotr Gnedich. The erstwhile middle-class and court audience was replaced by proletarian theatre parties, provided with tickets at their places of work. Gnedich, a shrewd observer, considered the production ‘nasty’ and the individual performances perfunctory; as he wrote to the actor/playwright Iuzhin: In general, instead of the grotesque and commedia dell’arte they droned their way through a kind of requiem mass. Moreover, the intermissions, thanks to eight-hour work days, drag on longer than the scenes. The public sits in galoshes and caps and talks not without satisfaction about herrings and potatoes. And what the hell use is Shakespeare to them? However, there’ve been full houses. (Iufit 1968: 221)

Gnedich’s disappointment that The Shrew had not been treated as a grotesque comedy derivative of the commedia dell’arte is revealing. The


Laurence Senelick

fashion for commedia had been endemic during the literary Silver Age preceding the Revolution: playwrights and directors had experimented with the traditional masks and intrigues with what eventually became predictable regularity. The state theatres, however, continued to regard Shakespearean comedies as sub-operatic costume pieces, and produced them without the liveliness and inventiveness that sparked the experiments of Meierkhold, Tairov, and Evreinov. It is also telling that an experienced practitioner of pre-Revolutionary theatre like Gnedich saw no point in introducing the great unwashed to Shakespeare. The full houses he mentioned were due to free tickets and employer pressure, not to any taste on the part of the public for Elizabethan high jinks. The former intelligentsia, as Stanislavskii’s letters often reveal, was reluctant to share its culture with the people, and was dubious about the results. Left-wing artists, such as Maiakovskii and Meierkhold, shared this lack of interest in introducing the masses to an earlier, so-called bourgeois art, preferring to start from a cultural point zero. It was Bolshevik officialdom, led by People’s Commissar for Enlightenment Anatolii Lunacharskii, that insisted on tempering experimentation with exposure to the best of past Western civilization, which included the perpetuation of Shakespeare. The Taming of the Shrew was endemic during the Soviet Russian theatre’s infancy, particularly in Moscow. No sooner did Lenin’s New Economic Policy come into force in 1921 than Tairov’s Kamernyi Theatre began to prepare the comedy under the direction of V.A. Sokolov; and ‘Ars,’ the studio connected with the commercial Korsh theatre, opened a new production directed by Andrei Petrovskii. The play was also rehearsed at the Second Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre, while the First Studio presented a major staging in April 1923, co-directed by Valentin Smyshlaev and Aleksandr Cheban. The First Studio (later the Second Moscow Art Theatre) was one of the most innovative and exciting troupes of the 1920s; its tutelary spirit was the late Evgenii Vakhtangov, whose touchstones had been theatricality and the grotesque. Smyshlaev instructed his actors not to play the role (igrat rol) but to play as a role (igrat roliu). This was typical of the Studio’s protoBrechtian philosophy, summed up by Norris Houghton: ‘The actor must both give the image of the character and then make his own comment upon it. This method requires subjectivity plus objectivity’ (Houghton 1936: 128). The play’s Induction constituted the only reality, since it was the true life of Christopher Sly: all the rest was performance. ‘The prologue,’ Smyshlaev explained to the actors, ‘lets the spectator under-

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


N.A. Shifrin’s costume design for Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew at the Central Red Army Theatre (Moscow, 1937). Collection Laurence Senelick


Laurence Senelick

stand and feel that the theatre is a mighty magician, transforming our everyday life into another more beautiful existence. And those who are transformed (the Lord & co.) must be in a specially exalted, almost ecstatic state’ (Trabskii 1975: 140; see also 163, 164–70, 179). This accorded with the First Studio’s belief that theatre was a surrogate for life, capable of intense spiritual movement; but it also managed to chime in with the revolutionary call to build a new and improved life. The scenography was devised to implement highly physical and presentational playing, with continuous action and easy scene changes: staircases, multi-levelled platforms, particoloured and movable screens were components that lent variety and ingenuity to the mise-en-scène. (The use of screens, in particular, was far more fluid and successful than in Gordon Craig’s Hamlet for the parent Art Theatre in 1912.) The spirit of the production was that of an improvised romp, with the Induction performed before a pink and purple curtain, and the characters entering by means of ladders. Gross physicality was downplayed, so that Petruchio’s traditional whip-cracking and moustache-twirling were omitted, and the taming became a matter of will between two protagonists of slight physique (Carter 1927: 222). This production had been conceived and carried out at a time when the Russian theatre still had latitude to engage in high spirits and creative exploration. It bore vestiges of an earlier generation’s concerns with the history of theatricality, popular entertainments of the past, and the theatre’s value as a communal experience, capable of raising its participants and audiences to a higher sphere. (The First Studio’s fiftyseat house made intimacy between actor and spectator possible.) As Smyshlaev’s notes make clear, his interpretation was a carry-over of the commedia experimentation that had once seemed highly relevant to a proletarian theatre. After all, Konstantin Miklashevskii, the first Russian scholar of the commedia, had defined it as a primitive form of actors’ collective, with the performer paramount; he also promoted an idealized notion of the commedia’s popular origins, an element of the gusto necessary to infuse vitality into the Russian theatre (Clayton 1993: 65–6). The basic concept of all Russian Shrews of the New Economic Policy (NEP) period was to make it a playground for actors, a spectacle put on by strolling players, motley, madcap, and uncomplicated. In reviewing the First Studio’s season, the critic Pavel Markov noted that its Shrew revealed the actor’s attempt to free his creativity from all the trammels of directorial oversight (Markov [1922] 1976: 45).

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


Yet the independence of the individual artist was dangerous because unpredictable. For all the emphasis in the early Soviet theatre on popular forms such as commedia and circus and on eccentric performance, it was dominated at one level by directors and at a higher level by apparatchiks. By 1929, when Stalin had come to power and the NEP had been abrogated, a dogmatic servitude of the theatre to the state became the norm. Actors were stripped of whatever autonomy they still possessed. Any communication between stage and public was thoroughly mediated to make sure that the message was unambiguous, socially progressive, doctrinally sound, and stylistically grounded in socialist realism. To make it intelligible in terms of class warfare, even Much Ado About Nothing was produced by the Vakhtangov Theatre (1936) as a ‘social drama of contending classes’ (Brown 1938). The All Trades Union Theatre in Moscow set forth principles of production in a manual which ordered that colourful scenic effects were to have no other purpose than to ‘make clear the social content of the play,’ and the Primer of Instructions distributed by the International Revolutionary Theatre Society enjoined that ‘before the play is produced a careful study should be made of the relations of the classes, the conditions of the class war, the peculiar forms and solutions employed in the social struggles of the period, and all ideas concerned with class war’ (ibid.: 54). Comedy was also enlisted in this struggle; reference was regularly made to Marx’s statement that the last phase of a universal-historical phenomenon was its comedy. His notion that humanity broke with its past in a merry mood was often cited to justify comic interpretations of The Cherry Orchard in the early 1930s, and was readily applicable to the theatre of the Renaissance. Seen through the Marxist prism, Shakespeare’s comic heroes had to overcome obstacles, vestiges of the feudal past, on their way to evolving a human personality suitable for a new life. The comedy was to emerge from this conflict, since the heroes invariably triumphed. If the matter of the Elizabethan theatre could be adapted to the needs of twentieth-century Soviet Russian audiences, its scenic conventions, opined the ideologues, could not. Soviet critics pointed out that the taste and artistic culture of the Russian public required realistic spectacles, and that attempts to copy Shakespeare’s stage led to ‘refined stylization,’ a term of abuse (Nels 1938: 73). Typically, when Stalinist theatre historians began to condemn commedia treatments of The Shrew, they did not mention Russian productions of the 1920s, but referred


Laurence Senelick

caustically to Max Reinhardt’s staging. (They also condemned Kiss Me, Kate as a flashy vulgarization.) This was in line with the xenophobic policy that all things bad came from outside the Soviet Union. The reading of The Shrew in A.A. Smirnov’s Shakespeare, a Marxist Interpretation provides the party line on this play. (Smirnov’s work was widely disseminated and translated; a Communist group in New York made it available in pamphlet form in 1937.) The words ‘grotesque’ and ‘commedia dell’arte’ are nowhere to be found; Smirnov refers to the play as a ‘realistic comedy,’ ‘one of the foremost expositions of the new humanist morality, though apparently ... lacking in ideological content.’ This new humanism is most manifest in the treatment of Katharina, whose shrewishness is over by the start of the second act; henceforth there is ‘only a woman fighting for her dignity and unreasonably insulted by her husband.’ Shakespeare ‘negated the traditional ethics through his treatment of the central character ... His recondite ideas are more valuable and revealing than all the surface elaboration’ (Smirnov 1937: 39, 41). In other words, Shakespeare wrote this play to confute and counteract traditional ideas of marriage and woman’s place in it. In essence, if one ignores the plot machinations and quirks of character, the play is a sort of embryonic Doll’s House. Smirnov’s exegesis was in step with Bolshevik reforms of domestic life. Marx had, after all, attacked the family as a rotten pillar of the capitalist system, the source of socio-sexual inequality and the reduced model of bourgeois economic oppression. Its traditional patriarchy was seen to be especially oppressive of wives and daughters. Lenin assailed bourgeois marriage for its ‘decay, putrescence, and filth ... its license for the husband and bondage for the wife, and its disgustingly false sex morality and relations’ (cited in Stites 1978: 378). Even without the encouragement of Marx and Lenin, Russian drama from Fonvizin through Ostrovskii to Maxim Gorkii had long pointed up the corruption and oppression generated within the family circle. In Russia the emerging female emancipation movement was coopted by Marxist ideology. So, after 1917, the Bolsheviks nominally reconstructed women as proletarians, wielding increased power in economic production, rather than as ‘bourgeois feminists’ segregated from the ‘economic relations of production.’ Women were expected to rally to the regime as recipients of new rights and opportunities, and to alter the systems and pressures that shaped their behaviour; to this end, the Zhenotdel (Zhenskii otdel) or Women’s Section of the Communist Party was founded. One of the first legislative reforms of the October Revolu-

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


tion was no-fault divorce, and in 1918 a new family law recognized marriage as civil rather than religious, and allowed each party in a marriage to take ‘that property earned by his/her labour’; a later domestic code (1926) established community property and legally recognized housework as a valid claim on property rights. Lenin felt moved to boast in 1919: ‘In the course of two years of Soviet power in one of the most backward countries in Europe, more has been done to emancipate woman, to make her the equal of the “strong sex,” than has been done during the past 130 years by all the advanced, enlightened, “democratic” republics of the world taken together’ (Lenin 1960–70, cited in Warshovsky Lapidus 1977: 119). In addition to the re-education of women with a view to their entry into political life, the Zhenotdel mounted an assault on the patriarchal family and its prescribed roles; any kinship or emotional relationship that obstructed the direct bond between women and the new regime was to be destroyed. Under such a dispensation, how could Katharina’s submission to Petruchio be construed as Shakespeare’s attack on bourgeois marriage? True, the theme could be reconfigured as that of a woman fighting for her dignity, though at the risk of reducing comedy to Trauerspiel; but what was to be made of the denouement? Did not Petruchio’s brutality and triumph and Katharina’s newfound humility and submissiveness look like an illustration for the Domostroi, the sixteenth-century Russian handbook for housewives? Here we must factor in another, less idealistic element of the Bolshevik attitude towards the liberated woman. While the male party leadership and Soviet publicity celebrated the ‘new man’ for his toughness and honesty, they tended to characterize the ‘new woman’ as ‘grim, mannish, plain, and armed.’ Masculine consciousness cast a distrustful eye on feminine spontaneity and independence. The autonomous Amazon was feared and mocked in the guise of Kerenskii’s Women’s Death Battalion (as caricatured in Eisenstein’s film October), and Trotskii sounded like a reactionary paterfamilias or Ostrovskiian samodur (household tyrant) when he warned that revolutionary woman, if exclusively focused on the women’s movement, would act as a dissolvent of family life (Golub 1993: 71, 84). As early as 1923, the Twelfth Party Congress passed a resolution warning of the danger of feminist tendencies that ‘could lead to the female contingent of labor breaking away from the common class struggle’ (quoted in Warshovsky Lapidus 1977: 123). A particular cause of suspicion was the call of such revolutionary feminists as Aleksandra Kollontai for open sexuality, devoid of ties of


Laurence Senelick

domestic responsibility or romantic trappings. Officially speaking, romantic egoism was replaced by camaraderie: ‘nobody is one, but one of’ (Golub 1993: 72). The new man and the new woman were to share a sense of having invented one another. Kollontai, in her essay ‘Make Way for Wingèd Eros’ (1923), contrasted vulgar love with sublime proletarian love. The former was a tawdry excrescence of bourgeois society, the instinct for reproduction, mere physical ‘possession.’ Proletarian love, the wingèd Eros, was, by contrast, liubov-tovarishchestvo, ‘love-comradeship,’ an aggregation of affections, sympathies, and passions that could help inculcate a spirit of solidarity in the collective and attain the working-class ideals of camaraderie and unity (Stites 1978: 352–3). It sounds like a heterosexual version of the homoerotic ‘love of brothers’ that had inspired the adhesion of the ancient Theban Band. Kollontai’s radical ideas were appealing to a younger generation, but not to the older party dignitaries who ran the government. Stalin, in particular, was no believer in women’s equality, and cherished a conservative, not to say reactionary, notion of hearth and home. In 1930 the Zhenotdel was formally liquidated, and its work subsumed under Agitation-and-Mass-Campaigns. That same year, loud organized protests were raised against free love and revolutionary sex. The ‘woman question’ was eclipsed by the larger scheme of social engineering launched by the First Five-Year Plan. This trend culminated in the marriage reforms of 1936, which condemned abortion on demand and rendered the divorce laws more rigorous. These reforms were not unilateral measures initiated by Stalin, but rather the resurgence of long-standing traditional attitudes within the party. Implicitly, the nuclear family was reconfirmed as the basis of Communist society and woman’s role as wife and mother reinforced as her primary contribution to that society. At the same time, a massive influx of women poured into industry, eventually to constitute some 40 per cent of the workforce. The utopian visions of feminists of an earlier decade were reinterpreted to show that the employment of women bespoke both the imminence of perfected socialism and their freedom from traditional roles. Woman was now doubly tasked: she had to fulfil her domestic obligations at the same time as she was to become a hero of labour by serving her country’s industrial needs. That these changes did not correspond with women’s own desires may be guessed. At a discussion of the 1936 law in Krasnaia Presnia park, a Moscow district with long-standing working-class sympathies, one woman declared, ‘Destroy all the men and everything will be in order’ (Goldman 1993: 336).

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


It was during this period of the first two Five-Year Plans, when the Great Purge was under way and diktats from on high stifled artistic experiment, that The Taming of the Shrew resurfaced in a number of important productions. The climate was congenial for a play about the transformation of a wayward female into a useful signatory to the social contract. The Shrew was revived at the Theatre of the October Revolution in Odessa in 1935, and the next year the Leningrad Comedy Theatre followed suit. However, the most significant and influential staging was that directed by Aleksei Popov in 1938, which in some respects went against the grain of Stalinist marriage reform and reverted to the wingèd Eros of Aleksandra Kollontai. A student of Stanislavskii, Popov believed that the main element in a stage production was to make the audience feel that what is being done on stage is a reproduction of an actual event in real life; he claimed that he sought to reconstruct the past rather than to reinvent it as a theatrical event. His study of the performance tradition of The Taming of the Shrew led him to reject both the situation-comedy and the comedy-of-character approaches that, Popov said, turned the play into an extravaganza of improvisation, what he sneeringly called, alluding to Vakhtangov’s Princess Turandot, Turandotage. Popov deprecated such attempts to turn Shakespeare into Gozzi. He decided to direct the play according to principles of socialist realism by finding and expressing the period’s way of life, and then giving the audience the ‘feel’ of being present at a specific point in history. His revision of Romeo and Juliet at the Theatre of the Revolution had explored the social causes of the family feuds, and been highly successful. Socialist realism required not only an accurate evocation of a historical period, but a clear path to the judgment the audience was to make on the way of life of that period. It should, however, be stressed that this sort of preachiness and didacticism was camouflaged by a director as expert as Popov. His approach was in some respects eclectic; dealing with The Shrew as a psychological study, he relied on the production style to put across the farcical component and left an impression that the characters were free to speak for themselves. Popov had just been appointed director of the Central Theatre of the Red Army, and The Taming of the Shrew, an unlikely choice for that monumental venue, initiated his tenure there. The play was accused of being ‘ideologically unsound,’ feudal in its message, and unsuitable for a military theater; at first sight, it seemed remote from contemporary concerns. Defending his selection against these charges, which, he slyly


Laurence Senelick

noted, echoed ‘bourgeois, philistine critics,’ Popov countered that, despite appearances, the comedy was not a sermon in support of the Domostroi. ‘Shakespeare’s humanism is understandable and congenial to our men and to our officers,’ he insisted. Citing Engels and apparently drawing on A.A. Smirnov, the Shakespearean critic, Popov offered the impeccable Marxist rationale: ‘The absolute solution to the problem of the completely harmonious human personality is only possible in the classless society which we are struggling to establish’ (Popov 1940; in Samarin and Nikoliukin 1966: 163–76). The European Renaissance provided a forecast of the Soviet Renaissance man (and woman); and The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s depiction of ‘a ruthless struggle for human dignity,’ was a fount of information on how to form an ideal homo sovieticus. This perfection of human character is demonstrated in Katharina and Petruchio, who, in Popov’s words, ‘leave the play ... quite different people from those we met at the beginning,’ having evolved into individuals superior to the paltry and narrow-minded world around them. A contemporary observer noted that, unlike the characters in Akimov’s Merry Wives of Windsor, Popov’s dramatis personae ‘create their own personalities’ (Gurvich 1940: 80–3). As with a modern American malefactor who pleads childhood abuse as a mitigating factor, so Katharina’s faults were attributed to the withholding of love; she was filled with ‘the naive despair of a misunderstood human being who sees lavish praise and caresses showered upon her sister – a soul-less doll set up for her emulation.’ But Popov deleted the incident of Kate drubbing her sister, since both women thirst for a better life. Bianca’s submission is not natural, but a shrewd compliance with the norms of society, masking her real desires. The more forceful individual, Katharina is disgusted by Bianca’s defensive hypocrisy; her shrewishness is the protest of a progressive-minded woman pining away in the philistine atmosphere of Baptista’s home. The Petruchio of Pestovskii was no bully, but a practical young man in need of money to invest in his business. He was played calmly and realistically, an honest English gentleman, in contrast with the shady Latin types, bombastic Lucentio and effusively sentimental Hortensio. (These national stereotypes were deeply rooted in popular Soviet folklore: the cool but efficient Briton pitted against the excitable, untrustworthy Mediterranean.) Like the good Stakhanovite he prefigured, Petruchio recognized that the contradictions in Kate’s character occur because she is at war with her environment, surrounded by hypocrites

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


whom she despises, especially her money-grubbing father and her sneaky, secretive sister. The smile that wreathed his face whenever he saw her made it clear that his victory lay not in ‘taming a shrew’ but in freeing Kate from the armour plate in which she had encased herself. In love at first sight, Petruchio was eager to cure her of a vice he knew was not innate. His task was to bring Kate to an awareness of the ineptitude of the devices she uses to attain her admirable goal. To borrow a title from the Soviet playwright Iurii Olesha (1929), they enter into a ‘conspiracy of feelings,’ to carry out a mutual taming. ‘I know it is the moon’ signals that Katharina is aware that Petruchio is merely teasing. She indulges him and ends up morally ‘rearmed.’ The final banquet scene pointed up Popov’s psychological direction for the play. He made it clear that Kate is not a woman cowed by force and fear, but a woman cured by love and understanding. Her submission was an act put on for the guests; when Petruchio ordered her to trample on her hat, she meekly did so, but took care to give him a broad wink when she removed it. Her final monologue not only revealed her complicity with Petruchio, but teased Lucentio and Hortensio and their refractory wives, conjuring up a picture of their unpleasant futures. Throughout it ran the unspoken subtext, ‘Let people think that I am your obedient slave. We understand each other, you and I.’ The power of love was seen to lead to the kind of inter-gender camaraderie devoutly to be wished. As Popov summed it up, ‘[T]he union of man and woman is only possible on a basis of mutual love and respect. And this makes Shakespeare a great ally in our struggle for a happy, self-respecting and strong humanity’ (Popov 1963: 235). The foregrounding of the love interest was not in itself a novelty. Pavel Markov in 1922 had noted that the ‘glory of the play lies not in the recipe for taming shrewish wives nor in the anecdotal details, but in the tale of love awakening in an ungovernable Italian girl’ (Markov 1976: 45). Popov’s originality lay in harnessing this love to the progress of socialism. He had originally staged The Shrew at the Theatre of the Far East, an area where protest against female emancipation had been virulent and where even blood was shed. Popov had used the play to promote social reform within the bivouac, for as he recalled, ‘The wives of our commanders were breaking out of the hermetic circle of domestic interests into the arena of social activity.’ The Shrew reverberated with the burning question of what constituted family happiness (Popov 1963: 236). Once the play was conceived as a psychological comedy, the Induc-


Laurence Senelick

tion had to be cut, so that the Paduans could be treated as living people and not as English players pretending to be Paduans. However, as Boiadzhiev, one of Popov’s assistants, pointed out, the prologue had served the important function of conjuring up, at the very outset, a mood of Old English frolic and knockabout, the ‘Shakespeare of the people, the Shakespeare of the “Flemish school” who was at home in the Mermaid Tavern drinking sack with Falstaff and his cronies.’ In the absence of Christopher Sly and the Hostess, this Brueghelian element had to be somehow restored. Popov accomplished this by introducing a swarm of colourful serving-men, reminiscent of the motley throng in Brueghel’s Kermesse, who frolicked silently all over the stage from the outset. These figures regularly reappeared in intermezzi to add a dash of theatricality to the general realism and give unflagging impetus to the carnival atmosphere. Nevertheless, Popov made sure that these proscenium servants, as Meierkhold might call them, were equipped with the full kit of innerlife armament. Stalin had declared the Moscow Art Theatre and its style of psychological realism to be the pattern for all Soviet theatres; so Popov and his staff, in addition to working out mime routines in rehearsals, provided each of these supers with a complete biography to justify his slightest move. Another device, which seems to prefigure the practice of the Berliner Ensemble, was to characterize the households by means of their domestic staffs, who often made ironic comment on the meretricious or mercenary motives of their masters. Petruchio’s servants tended to be rough and ready: former soldiers, sailors, poor relations, or farmboys. Baptista’s home was more respectable, with a nurse who plans to carry on as nanny to Bianca’s children, and Lucietta, a scattered-brained country girl who adores and imitates Kate. The residual effect was not of masks from the Italian comedy, but earthy retainers from a Dutch genre painting. This also conveyed a socialist message. One critic, in comparing Petruchio with Marlowe’s Tamerlane, a ‘Michelangelesque giant,’ explained, ‘[J]ust as Tamerlane is connected with the plebeian masses, so Petruchio loves his servants and is loved by them. This is a hero of early, sunny humanism’ (Morozov 1939: 166). One might construct a set of syllogisms: In his drastic and bloody restructuring of his society, Stalin is accomplishing a heroic task for the sake of the proletariat; Marlowe’s Tamerlane drastically restructures the known world of his time for the same ends;

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


Ergo, Tamerlane can be seen as the forerunner of the positive hero of socialism. Tamerlane and Stalin are both heroic in their radical perestroika; Petruchio undertakes the reclamation and restructuring of a valuable human being; Ergo, Petruchio is, on the comic plane, the equal of Tamerlane and Stalin. In an age when Stalin’s taste prescribed sumptuousness and monumentality as tenets of stage decor, the original intentions of Popov and his designer Nissin Shifrin for spareness and simplicity were provocative. Artificial props and set pieces were to be avoided; instead, real wood and real tapestries would create a sense of Tudor domesticity set within an Italianate frame. A unit set would allow for freedom of action. The colours were bright, but not garish; elements in the period costumes that resembled modern dress were sought and emphasized. The proscenium was framed by a massive carved wooden frame, stained to look like oak: the interludes took place between it and the scene curtain, and the play proper went on behind it. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the scenography were horses based on European carousel animals, built life-size of papier mâché from plasticine and wooden models; centred on a pivot that moved up and down, they allowed Petruchio, Kate, and Vincentio to ride across the stage. This scene was regularly interrupted by applause (Shifrin 1966: 346–55). These elements from popular entertainment were another signal of the staging’s alleged proletarian roots, leading one critic to proclaim, ‘In this production, the feeling of contemporaneity is combined with genuine historicism. The spectator is penetrated by the drama of people of the past, whose life is full of great passions. It is a true people’s performance’ (Nels 1960: 462). Audiences felt a joie de vivre coursing through the actors’ work and gathered that collective effort could be productive of joy. For all his inventiveness, Popov was exonerated of any hint of otsebiatina, or devising things off his own bat, a lethal accusation when launched at directors who chose not to follow the party line. Popov was essentially doing the kind of tricky balancing act required of artists in a time of extreme repression and conformity. While his public pronouncements on the play stressed Marxist dialectic and the preoccupations of socialist realism, privately he may have been more

N.A. Shifrin’s sketch for the tapestry ‘A Square in Padua’ to back the first scene in The Taming of the Shrew (Central Red Army Theatre, Moscow, 1937). Collection Laurence Senelick

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


concerned with its theatrical life. When his production was revived in 1956 at the start of the Khrushchev Thaw, he wrote to his assistants from a sanatorium that the main things to remember were ‘1) romanticism; 2) spontaneous humour (improvisational state of being); 3) tempo – we Russians have forgotten it, but it is a powerful device’ (Blagoobrazov 1966: 258). This signalled a return to Vakhtangovian principles, a movement in the post-Stalin theatre also evinced by the revivals of Maiakovskii and Evgenii Shvarts. Nevertheless, it was Popov’s public stance in the 1930s that inspired the next important Soviet Shrew as a polemical retort. Its director, Iurii Zavadskii, had been dismissed from the directorship of the Central Theatre of the Red Army before Popov’s appointment; like Popov, he had begun his career as a student of Stanislavskii, but a more lasting influence had been his work with Vakhtangov at the First Studio. Zavadskii’s removal to the Gorkii Theatre at Rostov-on-Don might be seen as punishment for his attachment to his master’s theatricality. Zavadskii had earlier described his own style as ‘selective socialist realism’ which, although it gives full opportunity to the actor, also takes heed of accuracy in furniture and props but keeps these to a minimum. He distinguished sharply between theatricality, which is the essence of the theatre, the way in which theatrical behaviour differs from life, and theatricalism or mere staginess. ‘The director,’ he said, ‘must assist the actor to develop his role both creatively and physically; he must reveal the actor to himself; he must stimulate him to take part in every step of the creation, carrying him away with a contagious enthusiasm. Then the director must ... unify the entire acting collective by a realization of the common purpose, philosophy and style of the production’ (Zavadskii 1936: 726–30). For his production of The Shrew in 1939, Zavadskii retained the Induction, and preserved the tradition of a commedia dell’arte rendition of the main plot, with the proviso that these strolling players were Stanislavskii-trained actors who lost themselves in their roles. Two centres of reality thus emerged, the Lord’s manor house and Padua, and theatrical convention could be justified as a kind of attenuated naturalism. Props were kept to a minimum and scenery and buildings merely suggested; sets resembled nothing so much as the sketchy gardens and landscapes seen on old-fashioned greeting cards. Caprice was the ruling idea of the production, a note set by the Lord’s whim in the prologue and caught up by Petruchio’s and Kate’s whimsicality, so that the emotional stakes were lower than in Popov’s interpre-


Laurence Senelick

tation. The play was a charade in which everyone took everyone else at face value. ‘In this comedy everyone is masquerading,’ Zavadskii explained, some consciously, as for example the Lord who disguises himself as Sly’s servant, or Tranio who passes himself off as Vincentio, or Lucentio and Hortensio who pretend to be teachers, and others unconsciously, as, for example, Katharina who, without realizing it herself, acts the part of a shrew, or Petruchio who also merely acts the part of an arrogant, loutish man ... Finally Sly is forced to act a part. (Zavadskii, quoted in Morozov 1947)

Zavadskii quoted as his motto ‘All the world’s a stage’ but, in Russian, his formulation ‘Ves mir litsedeistvuet’ literally translates as ‘All the world dissembles,’ since litsedei means both a histrion and a hypocrite (Nels 1960: 49). It is possible to surmise that, for all his playfulness, Zavadskii was commenting on a society in which masks were enforced for the sake of survival, and in which the caprice of the few could instantly alter the fates of the many. Zavadskii treated the love story not as a psychological struggle but rather as another merry sport. It is not until Kate (Vera Maretskaia) and Petruchio (Nikolai Mordvinov) realize that they love one another that they both stop pretending to be what they are not and so acquire human dimensions as real people amid the world of make-believe created on the stage around them. The masks drop, and a genuine life begins (Nels 1960: 449–51; Morozov 1947: 54–5; and Macleod 1943: 155). One of the leading Shakespearean commentators of the period, Sofia Nels, congratulated both Popov and Zavadskii on approaching the play realistically and renovating it from the standpoint of ‘our world view’ (Nels 1960: 448). But another critic, describing Popov’s treatment as an oil painting and Zavadskii’s as a watercolour, used the word ‘feminine’ (zhenstvennyi, which may also be translated as ‘effeminate’) as his summing-up of the latter approach (Gurvich 1940: 83). Within the Stalinist world, where ‘virile,’ ‘manly,’ and ‘masculine/courageous’ (muzhestvennyi) made up the vocabulary of praise, this was a damning characteristic. Ultimately, it was Popov’s production that had the greatest influence on the many revivals of The Shrew over the next decade, including that of the amateur Acting Club at the Caoutchouc Rubber Factory, its all-

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


worker cast advised by members of the Vakhtangov ensemble (1939) (Ilin 1940), and that of Mark Kurabelnik, a young graduate of the Moscow Institute of Dramatic Art, who produced the comedy as his entry in the national directors’ competition of 1943. Having interviewed Popov and studied his production thoroughly, he too dropped the Induction to simplify the comedy’s layers of reality. Extremely popular with servicemen at the front during the war, The Taming of the Shrew was the first play to be produced in the newly reopened theatre in Stalingrad after the siege. After the Red Army had launched successful counteroffensives against the Nazi invaders in 1944, Kurabelnik’s production was revived in the city of Gorkii. Heavily influenced by the circumambient war effort, the scene on the road was played as heroic comedy with monumental horses. The idea was to show the spirit of the men and women of Gorky City embarking on a great adventure. Once more, comradeship had effaced and replaced romantic love as the affinitive desideratum, and sexual attraction was channeled into civic duty.

NOTES 1 See P.P. Gnedich 2000: 187. The standard Russian translation of Shakespeare’s title is a literal one: Ukroshchenie stroptivoi. Ostrovskii called his version Usmirenie svoenravnoi, ‘The Pacifying of a Wilful Woman,’ which is something else again. 2 The great actress Ermolova was displeased with the interpretations of Lenskii, ‘a buccaneer who wants to come off as a university student,’ and Fedotova, ‘too refined and sweetly capricious.’ In a long letter to N.P. Shubinskii (6 May 1876), she sketched out a more interesting and vivid characterization of Katharina. The literary tradition of Shakespeare’s comedies is discussed in Alekseeva 1965. REFERENCES Alekseeva, M.P., ed. 1965. Shekspir i russkaia kultura. Moscow-Leningrad: Nauka. Atkinson, Dorothy, Alexander Dallin, and Gail Lapidus Warshovsky, eds. 1977. Women in Russia. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Blagoobrazov, V.S. 1966. ‘Drug aktiora.’ In Kalashnikova, ed., 258.


Laurence Senelick

Brodsky Farnsworth, Beatrice. 1977. ‘Bolshevik Alternatives and the Soviet Family: The 1926 Marriage Law Debate.’ In Atkinson, Dallin, and Warshovsky Lapidus, eds, 139–66. Brown, Ben. 1938. Theatre at the Left. Providence: The Booke Shop. Carter, Huntley. 1927. The New Theatre and Cinema of Soviet Russia. London: Chapman and Dodd. Clayton, Douglas J. 1993. Pierrot in Petrograd. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Ermolova, M.N. 1939. Pisma M. N. Ermolovoi. Ed. S.N. Durylin. MoscowLeningrad: VTO. Gnedich, P.P. 2000. Kniga zhizni: Vospominaniia 1855–1918. Moscow: Argraf. Goldman, Wendy Z. 1993. Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life 1917–1936. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Golub, Spencer. 1993. The Recurrence of Fate. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. Gurvich, A. 1940. ‘Zametki o komedii.’ Teatr (Moscow) 12: 80–3. Houghton, Norris. 1936. Moscow Rehearsals. New York: Harcourt, Brace. Ilin, F. 1940. Rabochi i teatr. Vol. 2. Moscow. Iufit, A.Z., ed. 1968. Russkii sovetskii teatr 1917–1921. Dokumenty i materialy. Leningrad: Iskusstvo. Kalashnikova, Iu.S., ed. 1966. Rezhissior, uchitel, drug. Sovremenniki o tvorchestve A. D. Popova. Sbornik vospominanii. Moscow: VTO. Lenin, V.I. ‘Soviet Power and the Status of Women.’ Collected Works, 1960–70, 4th ed. Vol. 30. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. Macleod, Joseph. 1943, The New Soviet Theatre. London: Geo. Allen & Unwin. Markov, P.A. [1922] 1976. ‘Teatralnoe obozrenie’ 2. In Dnevnik teatralnogo kritika. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Morozov, M.M., ed. 1939. Mastera teatra v obrazakh Shekspira. Sbornik. MoscowLeningrad: VTO. – 1947. Shakespeare on the Soviet Stage. Trans. David Magarshack. London: Soviet News. Nels, Sofia. 1938. ‘Ukroshchenie stroptivoi v Tsentralnom teatre Krasnoi Armii.’ Teatr (Moscow) 12: 73. – 1960. Shekspir na sovetskoi stsene. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Popov, Alexei. 1940. ‘Shekspir i teatr.’ In Ukroshchenie stroptivoi v TsTKA. Sbornik. Moscow-Leningrad: VTO; English trans. in Samarin and Nikoliukin, eds, 163–76. – 1963. Vospominaniia i razmyshleniia o teatre. Moscow: VTO. Samarin, Roman, and Alexandr Nikoliukin, eds. 1966. Shakespeare in the

A Five-Year Plan for The Taming of the Shrew


Soviet Union, A Collection of Articles. Trans. Avril Pyman. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Shifrin, Nissin. 1966. ‘Rezhissior i khudozhnik.’ In Kalashnikova, ed., 346–55. Smirnov, A.A. 1937. Shakespeare, a Marxist Interpretation. Trans. S. Volochova. New York: Critics Group. Stites, Richard. 1978. The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism 1860–1930. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Trabskii, A.Ia., ed. 1975. Russkii sovetskii teatr 1921–1926. Dokumenty i materialy. Leningrad: Iskusstvo. Warshovsky Lapidus, Gail. 1977. ‘Sexual Equality in Soviet Policy: A Development Perspective.’ In Atkinson, Dallin, and Warshovsky Lapidus, eds, 199. Zavadskii, Iurii. 1936. ‘Conversation with a Young Regisseur.’ Theatre Arts Monthly (New York), September: 726–30.

The Forest of Arden in Stalin’s Russia: Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties alexey bartoshevitch

In October 1936, Much Ado About Nothing premiered at the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow. The public expected a theatrical feast and these expectations were fully realized. The colourful curtain rose to reveal a cloudless world, full of poetry, music, bright light, dazzling colours, brisk and buoyant movement. Beautiful women and handsome youths in vivid costumes were falling in love, singing, and tirelessly frolicking amidst elegant, almost weightless arches. The scene of the masquerade epitomized the tone: Variegated lanterns with intricate figures painted on gleaming walls, light-coloured silks and velvets, amusing and artless masks – this whole theatrical assortment in the style of commedia dell’arte was presented on stage. The flutter of fine clothes, the quiet jingling of bells matched the soft and melodious music; and, in front of the curtain, costumed characters performed graceful mimes, whispering declarations of love to each other. Don Pedro and Hero made a jubilant and decorous couple. (Alpers 1936: 3)

Admiring the splendour of the spectacle, critics nevertheless mildly reproached the company for treating the title of the play too literally and thus muffling the play’s dramatic overtones, assuaging the sharpness of contrast, and shifting the tragic history of Claudio and Hero into the background. ‘The motifs of light and of artless foolery and amusing accidents prevailed in the production ... The cloudless tones and sense of surface exhilaration with the comic intrigue became dominant’ (Alpers 1936: 3). The public responded to the production with enormous enthusiasm.

Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties


Instantly, it ranked among Moscow’s most popular shows, performed six hundred times to invariably packed houses. Paradoxically, in 1936, when the city was savouring this serene spectacle, the country had already entered the darkest period of its history. The ‘Great Terror’ was gaining momentum. The campaign of political trials snowballed through profession after profession. Quickly, the authorities turned to the arts. In January 1936 an article in Pravda entitled ‘Cacophony Instead of Music’ delivered a shattering blow to Dmitrii Shostakovich and the whole of modern Russian music. In February the Second Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT-2), one of the country’s best theatres, was closed. In March Mikhail Bulgakov’s play Molière was taken off the repertory at the Moscow Art Theatre. In the same month V.E. Meierkhold, internationally respected theatre director and innovator, made a desperate attempt to avert the imminent threat by writing a report, ‘Meierkhold Against Meierkholdianism.’ This sinister calendar would be endlessly repeated day after day, month after month, year after year. Meierkhold only postponed his fate (he was shot in prison) by a few years. Yet precisely at that same time, theatres, motion pictures, vaudeville, music, and painting were producing the kind of art that radiated unshakable optimism, a sunlit joie de vivre. The merriest musical comedies, the most cheerful marches, and the most colourful paintings were being created. Significantly, the authors of these works were neither fanatics nor self-servers. Huge masses of people accepted this art with great enthusiasm. Never in the history of the Russian theatre were so many classical comedies produced as in the thirties and forties. Comedies by Lope de Vega, Molière, Shakespeare, Goldoni, even Moreto and Fletcher, were staged in hundreds of theatres across the country. These stagings were laden with ingenuous gaiety, exultant colours, and sprightly music. The Vakhtangov Company was not unique in muffling the dramatic and dark overtones in Shakespearean comedy. When in 1934, two years before its closing, the MAT-2 presented Twelfth Night, the director rewrote the text of Feste’s melancholic final song: ‘During a storm, when the wind is raging, it’s nice to make merry and drink wine.’ It is clear that, whether consciously or not, art was affirming and disseminating the myth of ‘The Clear Path,’ the optimistic ideology of the ‘winning class.’ In fact, Grigorii Aleksandrov used this party-line slogan as the title of his 1940 film; it might have served equally well as the name of dozens of works in music, painting, cinema, and theatre.


Alexey Bartoshevitch

Much has been written about this fact both in my country and in the West. In 1935 Stalin proclaimed, ‘Comrades, life has become better, life has become more joyful.’ The utterance took on a proverbial life. This simple and clear formula of state optimism was shared by many of those who created art and those for whom art was created. Ruben Simonov, appearing as Benedick in a Vakhtangov production, defined his character’s philosophy with charming naivety: ‘In general, life is good and I am overjoyed.’ Deliberately or accidentally, the actor echoed the ‘great leader’ almost word for word. Unlike the Russian artists of the avant-garde movement of the twenties, who openly proclaimed their aversion to tradition, the artists in the thirties conceived of Soviet art as the legal heir to world culture, which, first and foremost, encompassed the Renaissance, understood unproblematically as humanity’s bright and cloudless dawn. Addressing the First Congress of Soviet Writers, Maxim Gorkii called upon them to learn from the classics, particularly from Shakespeare. To be sure, not all classical authors or works fell in line with the objectives of official propaganda: Lope de Vega, but not Calderón (except perhaps for a few early plays), Romeo and Juliet, but not Hamlet, which was virtually censored; but, significantly, Shakespearean comedies were adored. Theorists interpreted Shakespeare in the spirit of ‘historical optimism.’ The view of Shakespeare as the ideologist of the aristocracy, bemoaning the fall of the feudal world, that prevailed in the Russian critique of the twenties (primarily in V. Friche) gave way to the concept of Shakespeare as the poet of the rising class, infinitely excited by the coming of the life-affirming age of great discoveries and great inventions, and shaking up the feudal world at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus, reviewing S. Radlov’s 1934 production of Romeo and Juliet Adrian Piotrovskii stated, ‘If the history of literature according to Friche labels Shakespeare as a pessimist, in Radlov’s production he appears as an absolute optimist’ (Piotrovski: 18). Piotrovskii fully supported the ‘optimistic air’ of the production, admiring Radlov’s use of every ‘opportunity to make his audience laugh at this “lamentable tragedy”’ (Piotrovskii: 19). However, even though Piotrovskii praised the actor’s ‘life-affirming’ portrayal of Romeo as basically correct, he still expressed his fear that the characterization was slightly overplayed with a ‘Young Communist League cheerfulness’ (Piotrovskii: 18) Three years later, Piotrovskii was arrested.

Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties


The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Alexei Popov, at the Central Red Army Theatre (Moscow, 1937). Petruchio – Victor Pestovskii, Katherine – Liubov Dobrjanskaya

It is worth recalling that Alexei Popov dedicated his widely acclaimed 1935 production of Romeo and Juliet at the Moscow Theatre of the Revolution to the Young Communist League: ‘Only our remarkable youth, the boys and girls of our socialist state, can profoundly understand and feel the magnitude of the images of Romeo and Juliet’ (Popov 1935: 7). This same director commented on his 1937 production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Central Red Army Theatre: ‘The Red Army Theatre is required to stage plays not only about the army, but also for the army. No army of the world pursues such lofty humanistic goals as our Red Army. And therefore Shakespeare’s humanism is intimately understandable to our soldiers and commanders’ (Popov 1940: 31). In retrospect, these declarations cannot fail to sound bitterly ironic. However, the question remains whether, or to what extent, modern historians are just in identifying such declarations (made by many directors) with the realities of the art created by them. Often, the sincerity of these declarations could not be doubted. After all, many artists


Alexey Bartoshevitch

shared the same social illusions and faith in the great utopia as the overwhelming majority of the people. On the other hand, classical texts offered a unique opportunity to break away from the clutches of official mythology or, at least, to combine the requirements of the current political regime with those of honestly serving dramatic art. Pushkin and Shakespeare provided artists with an aesthetic shelter, the opportunity to breathe the air of world culture, the air of freedom. In 1940 Boris Pasternak, having finished his translation of Hamlet, wrote to O. Freindberg: It is an elevated, unmatched joy to read aloud, if only half of the text, without cuts. For three hours you feel like a human being in the loftiest sense of the word: something wordless, unconstrained and warm holds you for three hours in the spheres, something known from birth and from the first half of your life; and then, exhausted by the output of energy, you fall down into nothingness, return to reality. (Pasternak 1990: 166)

Pasternak is echoed by Grigorii Kozintsev, who years later wrote in his secret diary, ‘In the foul-smelling room, the window breaks open and in bursts the air of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Tolstoi’ (1994: 56). Not many theatre people could write as eloquently, but, in the difficult moments of history, they all addressed the great works of the past, finding in them spiritual support, hope, and, ultimately, the opportunity of realizing their creative gifts. Ultimately, the more or less naive argumentation of the directors in the 1930s in support of the political correctness of their productions matters much less than the fact that they were able to create a series of excellent Shakespearean productions. Their work has gone down in the history of the Russian stage. One can make all sorts of satirical remarks concerning the artistic appropriateness of turning Shakespeare’s Katherine into a fighter for the rights and freedom enjoyed by Soviet women (as was done by the critics of Popov’s production – indeed, by Popov himself). Still, those who saw the play at the Red Army Theatre (where it ran for many years) will never forget the powerful, vital colours of the picture that opened onto the stage, a picture both realistic and abounding in theatricality. The poetry and comedy arose from a Renaissance life style brimming with vitality, action, and, significantly, violent passions. Popov cut the Induction with Christopher Sly, but the ‘Falstaffian’ tenor of these scenes was introduced into other parts of the play. Petruchio’s servants, for example, were ‘Sly-like’ in their behaviour

Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties


at the hunter’s hut (a bachelor’s den of brigands), where the taming took place. The actors gave the impression of being living characters (not thinly veiled ideas), the strong and free people of the Renaissance. The production focused on the encounter of two extraordinary personalities whose wills clashed as, all the while, they admired each other. If there was a taming, it was taming by love. This production, bright with sunshine and freshened by freedom’s breezes, premiered in 1937 – the most horrible year in Russian history. It was created and enjoyed by people who existed in the atmosphere of a Kafkaesque nightmare. During the day, these people unanimously voted the death sentence for ‘Trotskyist mad dogs,’ but, at night, they could not sleep, listening to every rustle and every footstep that might signal the arrival of the all-powerful secret police, the NKVD (later KGB). The almost absolute domination of this radiant, smiling optimism and naive romanticism in the Soviet art of the period may be ascribed to the obedience with which the artists carried out the will of the authorities. Such an explanation, however, would be incomplete, for it does not account for the overwhelming success of these life-affirming myths, the artistic ‘feast during the plague.’ In some very vital way, this art satisfied the needs of the ‘collective unconscious’ of the nation, suffering from a socio-psychological neurosis. It satisfied the latent desire of the people to doze off in a ‘golden dream,’ even if the dream was about the happy life of collective farmers. Quite unintentionally, this art served as an opiate. It helped one cope with or escape from intimidating reality. Art, however, not only serviced the escapist impulses of mass consciousness; it also became a form of self-preservation of the nation, a crystallization of its vital forces, a way of averting the deadly threat. ‘The West,’ said Czeslaw Milosz, ‘tends to regard the fortunes of the converted nations in terms of violence and coercion. Apart from ordinary fear, the desire to escape poverty and physical extermination, there is also the craving for inner harmony and happiness’ (1980: 18). The productions of Shakespeare’s comedies provided people with salutary illusions and satisfied what Milosz called ‘the craving for harmony.’ Comedy could, however, take a darker turn, one more suited to the real mood of the country in the aftermath of the ‘Great Terror’ and in anticipation of the Second World War. In 1940 Nikolai Khmelev and Maria Knebel staged As You Like It with the young actors of the Ermolova Theatre in Moscow. The ambience of the palace of Frederick, the usurper and tyrant, was devoid of fairy-tale conventions. It was the cruel and


Alexey Bartoshevitch

real world of fear and submission; all the inhabitants spied upon each other. Even good-natured Le Beau was shown as the Duke’s lackey when he secretly spied upon Rosalind. Her flight to the Forest of Arden was inevitable. Free of pastoral artificiality, the forest in this production was the lush green woodland of English ballads, Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, where simple, genuine poetry reigned. It seemed to represent an island of freedom where its inhabitants could breathe freely and where the web of subtlest bonds between hearts was spun, arousing an enchanting feeling of harmony and unity. Rosalind’s practical joke took the form of refined psychological play in which Orlando was not the touchstone of his beloved’s wit but an equal partner in the game. It did not take him long to recognize Rosalind in Ganymede, and she, in her turn, did not fail to realize his discovery. The young lovers rejoiced not only in the breathtaking love-game, but also in their ability to follow the hints that they read in each other’s eyes. The final scene of the play was changed. The world of the court was too grim for comedy, the power of authority too unrelenting, too intimidating. There was no possibility of a repentant Duke Frederick. Illusion was preferable to reality. The lovers remained in the happy Forest of Arden. The ‘escapism’ of Shakespearean productions had nothing to do with a flight into the artificial world of aesthetic mirages. Quite the contrary, the theatre, the stage accommodated real life, authentic feelings, and psychologically valid human relations. The bright bold colours and sounds induced the audience to forget the exterior drabness. Fears subsided as the world outside the theatre seemed increasingly phantasmal. I am far from suggesting that the theatre of the thirties pursued some conscious goal of awarding audiences with an ‘elevating delusion,’ let alone of opposing itself to the regime. Directors staged and actors performed Shakespeare. They derived enormous pleasure from their contact with great dramatic literature. But whenever they tried to explain verbally the social meaning of their work, they did it in the jargon of official ideology. The living matter of their art, however, could not completely blur into the blueprints of totalitarian mythology. The essence of art was sketched in solid lines. Aspiring to create a peculiar world of its own that would have no resemblance to intimidating modernity, this art unquestionably ran the risk of losing its vital energy. The producers, directors, and actors of the classics at this time swore allegiance to the principles of realism and

Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties


As You Like It, directed by Nikolai Khmelev and Maria Knebel at the Ermolova Theatre (Moscow, 1940). Jaques – Vsevolod Iakut


Alexey Bartoshevitch

psychological truth in the Soviet theatre. In an attempt to reconcile these modes, their works often took on the traits of operatic sugary sweetness and pompous idealization. This danger manifested itself even in the works of the best directors. In 1941 Alexei Popov staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The stage history of this comedy in Russia is rather brief. Traditionally, the Russian theatre has shown a bent for full-blooded comical characters, the prose of life. The romantic fantasy of the Dream and the pastoral utopianism of the forest scenes were found to be artificial by Russian actors who preferred Katherine, Petruchio, and Benedick to Titania and Oberon. Popov produced the play in that interval between the ‘Great Terror’ and the breakout of the war. In Europe the war had been already raging for two years. The rehearsals were conducted in the atmosphere of the approaching storm. But the director struggled to suppress both his and his actors’ fears and anxieties. The very fact of producing this most harmonious Shakespearean comedy was meant to prove that the storm of war would bypass Russia. Bloodshed and deaths were out there, but in here were magic, music, and the poetry of love. ‘While on the other side the world is gripped by the imperialist war, the Red Army Theatre in Moscow presents one of Shakespeare’s most humanistic, poetic, cheerful, and life-affirming works’ (Popov 1941). Popov’s reiteration of the period’s optimistic clichés reflects the desire to exorcize and avert the impending calamity with the help of Shakespeare. The production opened in a newly built gigantic, ridiculous building with an implausibly huge stage and auditorium. A critic wrote: ‘The design and equipment of the Globe has as much affinity with the design and equipment of the Red Army Theatre as Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon has with an American skyscraper.’ Popov and his set designer, N. Shifrin, created a grandiose spectacle in the romantic style: a huge gauze curtain, luminescent colours in the sets and costumes in the forest scenes, faeries gliding in the air like fire-flies, weirdly shaped trees, ‘branches moving, moss crawling, webs flying, and the country demon Puck jumping’ – all called up the ghost of that good old Victorian, Herbert Beerbohm Tree. The main character was the music by Mendelssohn. Popov deliberately ‘Mendelssohnized’ the play so that the dramatic sweep of the music would drown out the thunder of war. ‘Where Mendelssohn happens to be at variance with Shakespeare, the latter is adjusted’ (Stein 1941: 4). There were many comical moments: Titania forced Bottom to listen to

Shakespeare’s Comedies in the Soviet Theatre of the Thirties


Mendelssohn and the poor ass, bored to death, burst out roaring. The transformed Bottom led himself around the stage on a rope and tied himself to a column. But these witty scenes collided with the overall tone; generally, farcical scenes were overlaid with a more romantic flavour. The mechanicals in this production would have suited the critics Tieck and Hoffman. The elevated romanticism that Popov strived to achieve not only worked against Shakespeare’s comedy but also proved alien to the nature of Popov’s talent. The show abounded in effects, but seemed cold. There was much movement but little life, as sometimes happens to that art which fences itself off from reality. The production could not fill the mammoth theatre. It certainly could not avert the mammoth reality of war. The premiere was held on 12 May 1941, just a month and ten days before Adolph Hitler invaded Russia. The production was not destined to live a long life. It closed on 22 June when the Red Army and its belligerent patron had very different problems to deal with.

REFERENCES Alpers, B. 1936. ‘Mnogo shuma iz nichego.’ Sovetskoe iskusstvo (Moscow), 11 October: 3. Kozintsev, Grigorii. 1994. Chernoe, likhoe vremia. Moscow: ART. Mastera teatra v obrazakh Shekspira. Moscow: VTO, 1939. Milosz, Czeslaw. 1980. Zniewolny umisl. Paris: Instytut Literacki. Pasternak, Boris. 1990. Perepiska B. L. Pasternaka. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia Literatura. Piotrovskii, A. 1934. ‘Romeo i Dzhuletta.’ Rabochi i teatr (Moscow) 14: 18–19. Popov, A. 1935. ‘Romeo i Dzhuletta,’ Teatralnaia dekada (Moscow) 13: 6–7. – 1940. ‘Ukroshchenie stroptivoi v TsTKA.’ In Vstrecha s Shekspirom, ed. M.M. Morozov, 29–40. Moscow: VTO. – 1941. ‘Son v letniuiu noch.’ Teatralnaia nedelia (Moscow) 17: 5–8. Stein, A. 1941. ‘Komediia liubvi.’ Literaturnaia gazeta (Moscow), 15 June: 4.

This page intentionally left blank

PART TWO World War, Cold War, and the Great Divide

This page intentionally left blank

World War, Cold War, and the Great Divide


The purges of the 1930s encompassed the torture and execution of Vsevolod Meierkhold and Les Kurbas. Alexander Tairov went mad. Others shot themselves. With the Stalinist terror on the one hand and the insistence on socialist realism on the other, exciting experimental work such as that carried out in the 1920s was quickly replaced by timorous and, for the most part, banal Shakespearean productions. These frequently turned back to nineteenth-century models for inspiration, since Stalin preferred his theatre grandiose: opulent sets and costumes, a ‘realistic’-heroic style of acting, and ballet-divertissements. At the centre was a hero who reminded Stalin of himself: a man of action and an outsider not very comfortable with words. Favouring the cinema over the theatre because of its controlled and exact repeatability, Stalin especially disliked that vacillating intellectual, Hamlet. On the eve of the Second World War, political criticism of the West reached a high point and extended to Shakespearean literary criticism, especially of the Freudian variety. During the war, propagandistic and nationalistic Russian plays, with some notable exceptions, squeezed Shakespeare off the boards. After the war, Stalin purged many Western sympathizers and mobilized writers to propagate ideas of Soviet supremacy. Shakespeare was relegated to the margins, where he lived primarily on the page, notably, in the work of translators such as Boris Pasternak, who thereby escaped the spiritual desolation of the times. Stalin’s death in 1953 initiated the ‘Thaw’ in literary policy and sparked Hamlet fever. The pusillanimous Hamlet now became a ‘titan of conscience’ and a brother-in-arms in the battle against residual Stalinism. Some brave critics argued that Shakespeare, a symbol of human culture, needed to be defended from the dictates of uncultured men in power. In 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected, separating East from West, symbolizing their confrontation, and preventing intellectual ‘contamination.’ Dividing a city and a nation, East from West, the Wall solidified what had become, since 1949, two German states. While Shakespeare was played on both sides throughout the 1940s and 1950s and remained reasonably detached from the cold war context, after the erection of the Wall the situation changed fundamentally. In the German Democratic Republic, as in the 1920s in the USSR, the theatre was placed on firmly ideological tracks, and the earlier, generally ‘laissez-faire’ attitude vanished. The venerable centennial German Shakespeare society, Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft, in a reflection of the situation of the German nation, split into two in 1963, and was not to be reunited until 1993. As


Part Two

in the past, however, Shakespearean ‘appropriations’ proved to be more slippery and less resistant to single uses than official ideologies expected or permitted. Once again, profound social and intellectual fissures were in evidence in the staging and critique of the Bard. And the physical and intellectual boundaries concretized by the Wall were more permeable and much less solid than they appeared. IRM

Wartime Hamlet irena r. makaryk

Hamlet ... thinks. There is nothing more dangerous. (Kozintsev 1967: 250)

The Moscow Art Theatre was on tour in Minsk, Belorussia, when the bombs first began to fall in the early summer of 1941. German troops, numbering nearly 3.2 million out of a total German field force of 3.8 million (Bullock 1991: 718), had begun their massive invasion of the western flank of the Soviet Union. ‘The Great Patriotic War,’ the ‘Great Fatherland War,’ or the ‘War of National Liberation’ – as the Second World War was variously styled by the Soviets – had begun. On this front in particular the war was to prove ‘the longest, most intensive and brutal conflict between two nations in history, costing them in combatants alone twice as many dead as those of all nations killed on all fronts in the First World War’ (Bullock 1991: 718–19). Stalin was completely unprepared. Worse, like Hamlet, he seemed paralysed by the cataclysmic event, unable to believe that Hitler had betrayed the secret Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939. Locking himself up for over a week, Stalin did nothing. His generals came and went, but their ever more distressing news could not bring Stalin out of his silence and stupefaction. It was not until August – nearly three months later – that Stalin finally assumed control and named himself supreme commander of the Soviet forces. Later, in her published memoirs, Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Allilueva, would write about his deep depression at the start of the war. It was, she wrote, an ‘immense political miscalculation. Even after the war was over he was in the habit of repeating, “Ech, together with the Germans we would have been invincible”’ (Allilueva 1969: 392).1


Irena R. Makaryk

Unforeseen by Stalin, the war necessitated reassessments of affiliations in all spheres of endeavour, including in the theatre. Shakespeare, who had received so much attention in the 1930s, hurriedly receded into the background in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). As in the revolutionary years, during the civil and First World War, and even throughout the 1920s, so too in this new time of tribulation Shakespeare generally failed to reverberate with much meaning for Soviet Russians. Hamlet in particular attracted scorn in official discourse and was tacitly banned up until Stalin’s death in 1953. It is generally known that Stalin detested Hamlet, mostly, it has been argued, because he is a character who thinks. Certainly Hamlet’s formidable intelligence and his ironic questioning of authority were also significant factors, as were his wit and polish, qualities that Stalin seriously lacked, as many, including Lenin, had pointed out. One may speculate further, on the basis of Stalin’s response to the German invasion, that Stalin’s dislike of Hamlet may have run even deeper. It may, in fact, have been caused by a less apparent, perhaps subconscious, motive: Hamlet held up the mirror to Iosif Dzhugashvili, who, preferring to think of himself as a powerful man of action, had refashioned himself from an erstwhile obedient Georgian Orthodox seminarian into something much more dramatic. In his adolescence, Dzhugashvili would only answer to the name ‘Koba,’ a legendary Robin Hood–like figure based on a real historical figure, who, in the 1840s, avenged the rights of his Caucasian friends and peasants, and defied the Russian conquerors (Bullock 1993: 6–7). In his twenties, Dzhugashvili transformed himself once again, this time into the Soviet ‘Stalin,’ ‘the steel one,’ more Russian than Russians. Indeed, the interesting point is that very early on in his political activism Dzhugashvili came to identify closely with the Russian victors, not with their Georgian victims. Hamlet as play and as character could hardly serve Stalin’s selfimage. Within the nineteenth-century Russian literary tradition, Hamlet had acquired the negative characteristics of weakness, decadence, ‘psychologism,’ even pusillanimity; he was thus expendable – the ‘superfluous man.’ It is not surprising that, getting wind of an impending production of Hamlet in 1941, Stalin expressed his great displeasure. His response was enough to elicit an unofficial ban on the play that would last for the duration of his lifetime. Stalin was not, however, the only one to feel that Hamlet was a threatening or, at the very least, inappropriate play to stage during the Second World War. For Andrei Siniavskii, the ‘superfluous hero’ was

Wartime Hamlet


‘more suspect’ than the clear-cut negative enemy, since the latter was ‘like the positive hero ... straightforward, and in his own way, purposeful’ (cited in Shanor 1985: 38). N.N. Chushkin explained that ‘the very idea of showing on stage a thoughtful, reflective hero who takes nothing on faith ... seemed to some people almost “criminal”’ (Rowe 1976: 135). In its lead article in 1941, the official mouthpiece of the Union of Soviet Writers, Literature and Art (Literatura i iskusstvo), called for an art and literature that would become ‘a weapon’ ‘to foster the fighting spirit of the people, to consolidate the force of patriotism, to fan the hatred for German-Fascist invaders, to call for revenge ... to show the moral greatness of the Soviet people, their tenacity, their faith in the coming victory’ (cited in Struve 1971: 319). Shakespeare, and especially his Hamlet, could have little part to play in serving such a cause. As will be seen, when Hamlet was alluded to in official discourse, it was in a parodic and oppositional manner. In those republics that bordered the RSFSR, however, Hamlet remained an attractive play that could serve the same nationalist and humanist purposes it had served Western European countries in the nineteenth century. Within the RSFSR, those who remained attracted to Shakespeare formed a little band of brothers subject to strong critique. Only in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he had been evacuated, could Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko write without penalty (but also without hope of publication) of the necessity of staging Hamlet, especially in Boris Pasternak’s new translation (Nemirovich-Danchenko 1967: 235). Having spent most of 1940 translating the play, Pasternak transformed the Prince into a ‘dedicated, self-sacrificing hero’ ‘virtually without the verbal irony, cutting mockery, and cynical witticisms of Shakespeare’s hero’ (Rowe 1976: 148). His Hamlet was made more heroic and more serious than Shakespeare’s, the satire and cruel sexual imagery were muted, and sometimes completely excised (the mad Ophelia’s overtly sexual songs). Later, in an essay on translating Shakespeare, Pasternak would explain that ‘Hamlet is not a drama of weakness, but of duty and self-denial ... [C]hance has allotted Hamlet the role of judge of his own time and servant of the future. Hamlet is the drama of a high destiny, of a life devoted and preordained to a heroic task’ (Pasternak 1956: 131). Although in espousing a heroic Hamlet Pasternak overturned the prevailing Russian interpretation of the hesitant, weak Prince, the changes were not enough to grant the play permission for production. As the war dragged on and the staggering number of human losses mounted, it became even more necessary than before to evoke a ‘heroic


Irena R. Makaryk

myth’ of Communist ‘dedication, discipline, and conspiratorial prowess.’ Yet, the hold of Communist internationalism proved unhelpful in mobilizing the kind of idealism, emotionalism, and dedication touted by the propaganda machines. As had his Western allies as well as his German antagonists, Stalin was forced to turn to an exploration of nationalism, not world classics. Soviet patriotism was now ‘proclaimed to be the basic feature of the new Soviet outlook, it was in turn based on the glorification of everything Russian’ (Struve 1971: 372). To harness the republics and to suggest the unity of the various nationalities against German imperialism, Stalin sanctioned and encouraged ethnographic plays, and permitted one major film epic per nationality. Although some nationalist sentiment could be expressed in the republics, it had to be balanced by the theme of friendship between the minority nationalities and the Great Russian nation. Such ‘friendship’ was also projected into the past (Kenez 1995: 171), where, if necessary, historical facts were changed to accommodate propagandistic needs. Not internationalism, but ‘Slavic solidarity’ and Russian nationalism were revived in the fight against Hitler. Completely turning away from world classics such as Shakespeare’s, directors were commanded to stage plays of little dramatic but of enormous propagandistic value. Patriotic Russian plays about the heroes of the Napoleonic wars and the First World War such as I. Bekhterov and A. Razumovskii’s Suvorov the Commander (1939), Vladimir Soloviov’s Field Marshal Kutuzov (1940), and O. Litovskii and K. Osipov’s Alexandr Nevskii (1942) presented a ‘retouched’ history (Gorchakov [1943] 1957: 358) that ‘showed the infinite patriotism of Russians in the past as they defended their country. All the great military commanders and sovereigns seemed to be inseparable from the people, and they triumphed in the name of the nation’ (ibid.: 368). They confirmed Stalin’s vision of Russians (and of himself) as decisive men of action, not Hamlets. The genre of the chronicle history itself, however, conjured up images of that absent and more subtle presence, Shakespeare. Although Hamlet had been implicitly banned, Shakespeare was by no means fully absent from the stage nor was Stalin above permitting Shakespearean motifs when they suited his cause. Such adapted Shakespeare or, more accurately, Shakespearean motifs, could be found in Oleksander Korniichuk’s Partisans in the Steppes of Ukraine, which had been awarded the State Prize in 1941, and was turned into a film in 1943. Peopled with characters like Chasnyk (Garlic), Redka (Radish), and Pup (Belly-button), Partisans was the semi-serious sequel to an

Wartime Hamlet


earlier comedy. In this second part, the argumentative Punch and Judyish characters, all collective farm workers, took up the cause of the Fatherland. Where arguments and knockabout characterized the first play, the sequel displayed the character’s concord and unity in the face of the enemy. In a crucial scene of the play, we are presented with a famous bit of stage business employed to challenge directly the humanist values of the Danish Prince. Old grandad Opanas picks up a skull from the ground. Rather than leading to philosophical speculation, as does Hamlet’s contemplation of Yorick’s skull, Opanas’s monologue leads to a call for revenge. Admiring the multi-wounded skull that suggests to him a good death in a good cause (an important feature of Soviet ‘optimistic tragedy’), Opanas meditates upon the eternally living tradition of the narod, the people, who never submit to their enemies. Praising the wounds, Opanas concludes by calling upon his sons and daughters to avenge the land and cleanse it of its enemies. Turned inside out, one of the most famous scenes of Shakespeare thus became, in the words of an official account, an appeal to ‘the patriotism of the nation, its moral-political monolith, and its community’ (Posudovskii 1964: 85). When Korniichuk’s dramaturgically weak play was attacked in the Moscow journal Teatr, a letter of support from Stalin himself silenced all criticism (Revutsky 1985: 147). Not without irony, Partisans was released as a film along with Korniichuk’s more famous play, The Front, in 1943, in ‘Shakespeare’s’ month of April. Both plays and films were subsequently shown throughout the vast territories of the USSR, becoming, according to one official source, part of the ‘spiritual armour of the Red Army’ (Posudovskii 1964: 92). Official wartime and later Stalinist accounts of the theatre, sketchy in the extreme, continually insist upon the homogeneity of the wartime Soviet repertoire, doubtless to suggest that the theatre was a barometer of the unity of Soviet peoples in the face of fascism. Officially sanctioned theatre histories and overviews of the repertoires of the various republics of the USSR, including those of Kirghiz, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmen, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, Bashkir, and Buryatia (such as those of Dmitrieva, Dzhumabaev, and Vishnevskaia), all offer variants of the same, seamless stage history. To read one is to read them all. Problematic productions, such as those of Hamlet, are glossed over, while others are made to conform to acceptable pre-war categories of social realism or romantic-heroic action. Korniichuk’s Partisans and The Front, along with Simonov’s The Russian People, are cited again and again as the most popular and successful


Irena R. Makaryk

plays of the war period produced and apparently lauded throughout the territories of the USSR. Such official theatre histories convey the image of a single, unified Soviet people, happy to take up plays that actively celebrated ‘Russianness,’ even in such far away and culturally alien places such as Buryatia. Still very much an understudied area of Shakespeareana in the USSR, wartime Shakespeare is only just being rediscovered with the opening up of hitherto inaccessible archives. Up until 1991 Soviet discourse regarded wartime theatre, especially away from the active front as well as on German-occupied territories, as an act of betrayal, as a collaboration with the enemy, or (often quite rightly so) as outright nationalism rather than Communist internationalism. Consequently, such a theatre history was taboo, its existence barely if at all acknowledged. Comments such as those of Iurii Lutskii are representative of this view. While admitting that little was known about this period of theatre history, he asserted, ‘We do know that German Fascists and their ... lackeys from the bourgeois-national camps put on anti-Soviet ideological material’ (Lutskii 1969: 189). The recently opened archives are beginning to reveal that such ‘anti-Soviet ideological material’ included world classics such as Shakespeare. Far to the east of the theatre of war, Armenia became the home of a series of annual All-Union Shakespeare conferences/festivals. While the Western world was plunged into the horrors of world war, in Yerevan from 20 to 30 April 1944 the sixth All-Union Shakespeare conference and festival joyously and extensively celebrated the 380th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. Yerevan also saw productions of Stalin’s least favourite play. Hamlet, directed by Arshan Burdzhalian, was produced on 1 February 1942, the third time this director had staged the play in the Sundukian Theatre (Arutiunian 1969: 342). It was such a popular production that it remained in the theatre’s repertoire for a whole decade. Post-war Stalinist accounts of this production assure us that all three of Burdzhalian’s Hamlets had been active protagonists without a hint of indecisiveness. Strengthened by the context of the battle against fascism (ibid.), his Danish princes ‘directly approached the struggle with evil and punished it.’ All of the director’s changes to the text (we are not told what they were) were said to underscore the decisiveness of the prince, who was ‘obsessed with a single passion – to avenge truth, which had been trampled underfoot’ (ibid.). The production had moved its audience by its appeal to ‘the passions’ as well as by its ‘humanistic striving for justice’ (ibid.: 343).

Wartime Hamlet


This is, one strongly suspects, a creative rewriting of theatre history to make it consonant with post-war Soviet mythology concerning the unity of all Soviet peoples in their struggle against fascism, no matter how far from the theatre of war and how uninvolved in the action. The fact that the six-volume official history of the Soviet theatre entirely omits reference to any Armenian or Georgian Hamlets confirms that they were not quite so easily reconciled with the Stalinist ethos, and thus it would be better to pretend that they didn’t exist at all. Indeed, one Armenian scholar casually mentions that Burdzhalian’s Hamlet had incited polemical discussions about its ‘one-sidedness’ (Arutiunian 1969: 343), a hint that the production was something other than what official discourse later claimed. Perhaps even more interesting – because more poignant and dangerous – than productions staged safely far away from the front are those that were performed in the midst of war. Of these, one of the best documented is a Ukrainian Hamlet produced in September 1943 at the Lviv Opera Theatre.2 An ancient city held at various times by Turks, Swedes, Austrians, and Germans, from 1919 it belonged to Poland. During the Second World War Lviv (Lw w in Polish) was almost constantly occupied alternately by the Nazis. (It was formally ceded to the USSR in 1945.) Working under conditions of Nazi occupation (which lasted from 30 June 1941 to 27 July 1944), theatre artists regularly experienced ‘moral shock’ and ‘psychological trauma,’ as Valerii Haidabura, who interviewed some of the survivors, has recently shown (Haidabura 1998: 66). Between June and October 1943, the Nazis publicly executed 1541 Ukrainian insurgents in the province in an effort to maintain control over the region (Boshyk 1986: 257). In the wake of their defeat at Stalingrad, they launched a massive propaganda campaign in June 1943 as part of their declaration of ‘total war’ (Kosyk 1992: 424). While traumatized by Nazi atrocities, the actors also lived in fear of the opposite: a return of Soviet forces. As Richard Stites explains: [L]ess well-known to the general public inside and outside the country [Russia] at the time and even now is the grim unholy war of Russian atrocities. This part of the war was largely hidden from the public; the final campaigns were couched in triumphalism and the rhetoric about heroic liberators of enslaved peoples and inmates of the Nazi death camps of Poland. The rhetoric was by no means fake but it also obscured the story. Between 1939 and 1941, while the USSR was an ally of Hitler, about a million and a half Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Jews, Lithuanians,


Irena R. Makaryk

and others were forcibly deported to the arctic North, Siberia, and Central Asia. In the nightmare of nocturnal arrests and searches, looting, cattle cars, resettlements, and executions, almost 300,000 people perished. (Stites 1995: 3)

Poised between the Scylla and Charybdis of two competing and terrifying ideologies, Ukrainians turned to Hamlet to protest the inhumanity of the times and to voice their despair at their diminishing hope of finally achieving independence. The atmosphere of fear evoked by the first scene of the play, the military references, and, in particular, the allusion to the senseless invasion of a ‘little patch of ground’ in Poland held special reverberations for the audience of the 1943 production. By then, Galicia was the battleground for a number of armies: Soviet troops, Nazis, Ukrainian nationalist, Polish (Armija krajówa), and Soviet partisans, all of whom vied for this territory. Of Hamlet’s premiere on 21 September 1943, Ivan Nimchuk wrote: Finally we, too, have received our holy-day: a production of Hamlet in the Ukrainian language. How many theatres in the world have staged and are staging this living tragedy of a living person, how many people admired this work of genius, how many scholars around the world have added their commentaries to it, thereby enriching the literature about Shakespeare, but hitherto the everywhere-abnormal circumstances under which our nation lived did not permit Ukrainian theatres to stage this play. (Nimchuk 1943a)

Directed by Iosyp Hirniak, the play starred Volodymyr Blavatskii. He later wrote of the Lviv theatre ensemble’s Hamlet as the ‘crowning’ point of all of its activities, the test both of its artistic maturity and of the Ukrainian theatre as a whole (Blavatskii 1951: 20).3 Despite wartime tensions and the ever more closely approaching Soviets, the play’s twenty-five performances were sold out, many of the spectators returning again and again, some as many as ten times. Freed from the brief period of Soviet-imposed theatre and rhetoric with its ‘operatic, stylized, melodramatic, posed, monumental, utopian, and panegyric’ style (Stites 1995: 4), Hirniak turned to Shakespeare, hoping to create a real Ukrainian theatre, and ‘not the one I found in my fatherland’ (cited in Revutsky 1985: 160). For Hirniak, Hamlet was a declaration of war against art as propaganda and as tribalism. Moreover, he later explained, the Prince himself was an especially meaning-

Wartime Hamlet


ful character: ‘Hamlet condensed in himself much that, under the conditions of occupation at the time, lay under dozens of prohibitive seals and censorship. But oh, how one wanted to talk it out!’ (cited ibid.: 159–60). The play traditionally associated with questions about the meaning of life and the value of action spoke to the historical moment in a pointed way, since there seemed little possibility of any meaningful action or escape from the consequences of the clash between fascism and Communism. For Hirniak and Blavatskii, Hamlet allegorically represented Ukraine and its destiny: to be swallowed up by either the Nazis or the Soviets. The significance of this theatrical event and its interpretation was not lost on the Ukrainian populace, who attended in massive numbers, many coming from outside Lviv.4 Ukrainian reviews of the Hirniak production are buoyant, triumphant witnesses, and not as cautious as one might expect from articles subject to the Nazi censor – although it is a truism that freedom of the press grew in proportion to its proximity to the battlefront. The most detailed and hence revelatory are the articles of Ivan Nimchuk, who published three reviews and one lengthy piece on the eve of the premiere, suggesting the importance he attributed to this production. The stress in each of his articles on the contemporaneity of Hamlet is tempered by reference to its timelessness and its universality. A carefully placed reference to Goethe’s interpretation and praise of the SchlegelTieck translations (preferred by Hitler) seemed to yield primacy to German thought, scholarship, and Geisteskultur. The bland allusion to the ‘hitherto everywhere-abnormal circumstances’ that prevented earlier productions of a Ukrainian Hamlet also seems calculated to flatter the Nazis – as if the German occupation were ‘normal,’ and, because of the permission to produce Shakespeare’s work, perhaps even better than other times. Nimchuk’s phrase could even have been read by the Nazis (unlikely to know the history of past attempts to stage a Ukrainian Hamlet) as a reference to the immediate past, that is, the Soviet occupation. All in all, there seemed to be nothing politically objectionable here. Blavatskii’s acting style was favourably compared by German spectators to Willi Birgel and Rudolph Ferau – comments that were again suggestive of the cultural deference paid to the occupant. The souvenir booklet of the production, produced after the premiere, played up the flattery, with the blunt observation that the Ukrainian theatre had revived only with the advent of the German army (Tarnavskii 1943: 11). Indeed, calculated flattery seems to have dulled the censor. All the

128 Irena R. Makaryk 1943 production of Hamlet at the Lviv Opera Theatre, directed by Iosyp Hirniak (Lviv, under the Nazi occupation). Photo: Hirniak Collection (New York)

Wartime Hamlet


signs of a grand premiere were here. The auditorium of the magnificent, classically designed Lviv Opera Theatre was filled with spectators who exuded an excited, anticipatory mood. When the play began, a ‘growing tension’ was felt, which ‘overflowed’ and was finally released by ‘spontaneous ovations at the end of the third act’ (Nimchuk 1943a). Nimchuk described the production as ‘realistic’ with only a ‘hazy’ hint of romanticism. Hirniak’s Hamlet centred on an active and resolute hero, ‘full of purpose and passionate individuality,’ who is destroyed by ‘circumstances that were stronger than he was’ (Nimchuk 1943c: 8). Nimchuk’s brief precis was, no doubt, read by the least skilful Ukrainian reader as not only the plot of Hamlet but also, by the late fall of 1943, as the evident and imminent tragedy of Ukraine. Keying his Hamlet to the times, Blavatskii attempted to create a complex, kaleidoscopic portrait of an intellectual attempting to act well, act humanely, in inhumane circumstances. Hirniak later revealed that in Hamlet’s hesitations and delays in committing revenge both he and Blavatskii saw the position of Ukraine, which found itself wedged between the two evils of Bolshevism and Nazism. Displaying a full spectrum of emotion, from strong will and firm intellect to melancholia, from apathy to action, sudden fits and starts to self-castigation, and traversing the borders between conscious and unconscious madness, Blavatskii’s Hamlet struggled with the insane truth of life in 1943. Although ‘tragically broken’ and ‘disillusioned’ (Nimchuk 1943c: 9) by his sudden knowledge of evil and corruption, Blavatskii’s Hamlet, nonetheless, seemed no weakling; rather, he appeared to struggle heroically against his fate (Melianskii 1943: 3). In this interpretation of a strong Prince, the Ukrainian translator, Mykhailo Rudnytskii, unknowingly echoed Pasternak’s creation. Whether a slip of the tongue (as Blavatskii claimed in 1943) occasioned by overwork or perhaps a gesture of bravado, at the premiere Blavatskii began Hamlet’s famous soliloquy with the words ‘Dobre chy ne dobre’ (Is it good or evil ...), instead of ‘To be or not to be.’ Rather than the metaphysical issue of being, for at least one performance, this Hamlet posed the question about evil and action as directly as could be. Although suffering from tuberculosis and from nervous disorders associated with the dangerous conditions in which he was working, Blavatskii performed particularly strongly and confidently in those scenes that gave him scope for directly attacking hypocrisy and corruption: the encounters with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Polonius, and Osric. In


Irena R. Makaryk

Volodymyr Blavatskii as Hamlet (Lviv, 1943). Drawing by S. Hruzbenko. Nashi dni 10 (October 1943): 8

Wartime Hamlet


most others, he exhibited an intellectual and physical restraint. Thus, for example, in the Mousetrap scene Blavatskii permitted himself only minimal facial expressions and no expressions of manic delight when his suspicions about Claudius were confirmed. Duality and deception provided a major interpretive line for the whole production, which focused on two centres of interest, Hamlet and Claudius. Opposing the intellectual and strong-willed Hamlet was Bohdan Pazdrii’s Claudius: although a carouser and a duplicitous villain given to great anger, he was represented as being fully in control of events and insidiously aware of how to rule effectively, as shown by his firm, unhesitant handling of Laertes’ rebellion. Yet Pazdrii also knew how to move the audience to near sympathy in the prayer scene, almost moving some to believe in the sincerity of his repentance (Revutsky 1992). The dark-eyed, elegant beauty of Gertrude (Vera Levytska) at least partially explained why Claudius committed fratricide. A passive, patient, uninquiring wife, Gertrude was ignorant of her second husband’s crime. Her generally ‘pallid’ personality acquired colour only in the closet scene when, in a reversal of traditional interpretations, she (rather than Hamlet) was driven into an angry frenzy. The set design was modest rather than extravagant because of the difficulty of obtaining materials during the war. At the back of the stage, heavy curtains emblazoned with lions were pulled back to reveal a painted medieval-looking stone wall with a rounded arch. The properties were limited to a few chairs and a table. The actors wore an assortment of late medieval and Renaissance costumes that safely removed any obvious contemporary references to tyrants, rotten kingdoms, military threats, and powerless individuals. In this very large cast, performing in a generally faithful translation of Shakespeare’s play, the notable omission was Fortinbras. The play ended with the lights slowly dimming on the dead Hamlet as solemn music accompanied Horatio’s tender parting words, ‘Goodnight, sweet Prince.’ No reviewer made reference to Fortinbras’s absence, although in an extended piece in the journal Our Days (Nashi dni) Nimchuk remarked that the director’s creative talent was also revealed by the intelligent cuts he made to this sprawling play (Nimchuk 1943c: 8–9). The souvenir booklet provided an accurate precis of Shakespeare’s play (including the ending), but other than blandly noting that the text was shortened after discussions between the translator and director, no further expla-


Irena R. Makaryk

nation was provided. No doubt the contemporary parallels between the foreign occupational forces and Fortinbras’s military presence at the end of the play were too close to reality to require or permit commentary. A German reviewer, G. Hauswald, summarized his views about the production with the approving phrase ‘On the whole, a strong, effective [show].’ Indeed, this was a Hamlet that would live on in Ukrainian theatrical memory. By 1944 the Soviets were once again in control of Lviv. Ukrainian national consciousness, circumspectly encouraged by Stalin in the last two years of the war, was repressed immediately after, and the old familiar internationalism – the brotherhood of nations, the glorification of the Soviet state – was invoked. The first productions ordered on the boards were The Russian People, Partisans, General Briusylov, and Nazar Stodolia – once again, a mixture of nineteenth-century ethnographic plays and Soviet Russian propaganda about the unity of the national minorities – the very repertoire that Hirniak had vehemently opposed. Two years later, an All-Union Communist Party regulation ‘Concerning the Repertoire of Drama Theatres and the Means for Its Improvement’ demanded, among other items, that the works of ‘foreign bourgeois playwrights,’ and historical plays, especially those about kings and tsars, be removed (Revutsky 1971: 650). Shakespeare was out in the cold. While orthodox theatre histories referred to the post-war decade in the Ukrainian theatre as ‘a triumphant march’ into the future (Shumskii 1964: 113), Iosyp Hirniak (by that time an emigrant to the United States) sadly characterized this period as one of bland provincialism. Like the rest of the USSR, Ukraine had to await Stalin’s death in 1953 and the ‘Thaw’ of the Khrushchev years before another Hamlet could be found on its stages. Then, stage and film directors throughout the USSR rushed to put on the play about the Danish prince. But official Soviet theatre histories, right up to the collapse of the USSR, remained silent about or denied that any Ukrainian theatre had existed during the war. In 1956, Iaroslav Helias was proclaimed the first Ukrainian Hamlet. He was an excellent choice for the part, already having had experience with the play. The First Player in Hirniak’s production now aptly took on the part of a young man who struggled to come to terms with an attempted erasure of memory, with deception, corruption, and mortality. His Hamlet endured an unspoken dialogue with the past – a production that, in 1956 and in years to come, could not be acknowledged to have taken place.

Wartime Hamlet


NOTES 1 In this regard, it is interesting that Stalin’s Order of the Day for the anniversary of the Red Army on 23 February 1943 did not even mention the Western allies, but presented the war as an event between two opponents, the Soviet and the German. See Mastny 1979: 75–6. 2 The Lviv Opera Theatre (LOT) encompassed four sections: opera, operetta, ballet, and drama. Nearly 600 people were employed by LOT during the German occupation (1941–4), producing 18 operas and operettas, 5 ballets, and 24 plays in three years. Hamlet was directed by Iosyp Hirniak, and starred Volodymyr Blavatskii as Hamlet, Bohdan Pazdrii as Claudius, Vera Levytska as Gertrude, and Eliza Shasharovska as Ophelia. Music was by Mykola Lysenko and Lev Turkevych, set and costume design by Myroslav Hryhoriiv. 3 Some of the material concerning Hirniak’s production was first presented as ‘Hamlet and Delay: Shakespeare in Ukraine’ at the ‘Shakespeare and Nationalisms’ seminar chaired by Werner Habicht, Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1994. 4 Dramatic performances were intended for Ukrainian audiences, while the German occupational forces saw ballet, opera, and operetta. The week was divided between ‘German days’ (Friday to Sunday) and ‘Ukrainian days’ (Tuesday to Thursday) (Ivasivka 1975: 326). It is not clear how many Nazis attended dramatic performances. Each play text and prompt book had to be submitted to them for inspection and approval. See Drewniak 1983: 133. REFERENCES Allilueva. Svetlana. 1969. Only One Year. Trans. by Paul Chavchavadze. New York: Harper & Row. Arutiunian, B. 1969. ‘Virmenskii teatr.’ In Vishnevskaia, ed., 333–64. Blavatskii, V. 1951. ‘Try roky Lvivskoho opernoho teatru.’ Kyiv (Philadelphia) 1: 20–2. Boshyk, Yury, ed. 1986. Ukraine during World War II: History and Its Aftermath. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. Bullock, Alan. 1991. Hitler and Stalin. Repr. 1993. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. Dmitrieva, Iu.A., and K.L. Rudnitskii, eds. 1984. Istoriia russkogo sovetskogo dramaticheskogo teatra, vol. 1: 1917–1945. Moscow: Prosveshchenie. Drewniak, Bogus aw. 1983. Das Theatre in NS-Staat: Szenarium deutscher Zeitgeschichte 1933–1946. Dusseldorf: Droste Verlag.


Irena R. Makaryk

Dzhumabaev, B. 1969. ‘Kirgizskii teatr.’ In Vishnevskaia, ed., 423–32. Gorchakov, Nikolay A. 1943, 1957. The Theatre in Soviet Russia. New York: Columbia University Press. Haidabura, Valerii. 1998. Teatr, zakhovanyi v arkhivakh. Kyiv: Mystetstvo. Hauswaldt, G. 1943. ‘Ukrainisches Schauspiel.’ Krakauer Zeitung (Cracow) 23 (September): 4. Hirniak, Iosyp. 1995. ‘Vybrani lysty.’ In Maria Rewakowycz, ed., Svito-vyd (Kyiv, New York) 4.21 (October–December): 50–73. Ivasivka, Mykhailo. 1975. ‘Ukrainskyi Opernyi Teatr u Lvovi.’ In Luzhnytskii, ed., 321–54. Kenez, Peter. 1995. ‘Black and White: The War on Film.’ In Stites, ed., 157–75. Kosyk, Volodymyr. 1992. Ukraine during World War II: 1938–1945. Trans. Roman Osadchuk. Kyiv, Paris, New York, Toronto: Council for Defense and Relief of Ukraine – UCCA, Prometheus Foundation, and Ukrainica Research Institute. Kozintsev, Grigorii. 1967. Shakespeare: Time and Conscience. Trans. Joyce Vining. London: D. Dobson. Lutskii, Iu. 1969. ‘Ukrainskii teatr 1941–1945.’ In Vishnevskaia, ed., 182–226. Luzhnytskii, Hryhor, ed. 1975. Nash teatr: Knyha diiachiv ukrainskoho teatralnoho mystetstva, 1915–1975, vol. 1. New York, Paris, Sydney, Toronto: Association of Ukrainian Theatre Artists. Mastny, Vojtech. 1979. Russia’s Road to the Cold War: Diplomacy, Warfare, and the Politics of Communism, 1941–1945. New York: Columbia University Press. Melianskii, Bohdan. 1943. ‘Z taemnykh hlybyn aktorskoi tvorchosti: Rozmova z dir. V. Blavatskym pro ioho pratsiu nad roleiu Hamleta.’ Lvivski visti (Lviv) 1194 (1708, 30 October): 3. Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vl.I. 1967. ‘Mysli o stsenicheskom voploshchenii Gamleta. Iz Stenogramm besed i repetitsii (1940–1943).’ In Shekspirovskii sbornik, ed. A. Anikst, 229–49. Moscow. Nimchuk, Ivan. 1943a. 1943b. ‘Velykyi den ukrainskoho teatru u Lvovi.’ Krakivski visti (Cracow), 19 and 26 September: n.p. – 1943c. ‘Vystava Hamleta u Lvovi.’ Nashi dni (Lviv) 10 (October): 8–9. Pasternak, Boris. 1956. ‘Translating Shakespeare.’ Trans. Manya Harari, in I Remember: Sketch for an Autobiography, trans. David Magarshack. New York: Pantheon. Posudovskii, Pavlo. 1964. Pid hurkit harmat: Ukrainskyi teatr v roky Velykoi Vitchyznianoi Viiny 1941–1945. Kyiv: Mystetstvo. Revutsky [Revutskii], Valerian. 1971. ‘Theatre and Cinema.’ In Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia, vol. 2. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Wartime Hamlet


– 1985. Neskoreni bereziltsi: Iosyp Hirniak i Olimpia Dobrovolska. New York: Ukrainian Writers’ Association in Exile, ‘Slovo.’ – 1992. Letter to the author, 3 December. Rowe, Eleanor. 1976. Hamlet: A Window on Russia. New York: New York University Press. Shanor, Donald R. 1985. Behind the Lines: The Private War against Soviet Censorship. New York: St Martin’s Press. Shumskii, Iurii. 1964. Opovidannia i statti: Zustrichi, vrazhennia, obrazy. Kyiv: Mystetstvo. Stites, Richard. 1995. ‘Introduction.’ In Stites, ed., Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia, 3–8. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Struve, Gleb. 1971. Russian Literature under Lenin and Stalin 1917–1953. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Tarnavskii, Ostap, ed. 1943. Hamlet Viliama Shekspira. Lviv: Zkw Druckereibetrieb. Vishnevskaia, I.L, ed. 1969. Istoriia sovetskogo dramaticheskogo teatra v shesty tomakh, vol. 5: 1941–1953. Moscow: Nauka.

‘Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all’: New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet laurence senelick

The Hamlet directed by Nikolai Okhlopkov1 that opened in Moscow on 16 December 1954 occupies a prominent place in Soviet theatre history. It was the first really important Russian staging of a Shakespearean play since the outbreak of the Second World War and the most original interpretation of Hamlet since Nikolai Akimov’s grotesque revision of 1932 at the Vakhtangov Theatre. Although it provoked controversy among the critics, Okhlopkov’s Hamlet won such favour with the authorities and the public that it was promoted as a flagship production, featured in publicity on the glories of Soviet art, and cited as a must-see for the theatrical tourist. Okhlopkov was awarded the Order of Lenin by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the highest honour available to a Soviet director. ‘Denmark’s a prison,’ Hamlet’s provocation to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, governed every aspect of the production, particularly Vadim Ryndin’s spectacular set.2 Two massive bronze gates, covered with armorial bearings, huge locks, and steel spikes, could open up into twelve separate sections to reveal cells for stage action. This metallic superstructure was always present as the overriding metaphor of incarceration and repression, the ‘confines, wards, and dungeons’ that hem in the human spirit. This dominating physical presence evoked various images. For some, the glittering ostentation of Claudius’s court made the segmented set resemble an iconostasis. Others were reminded by the segmentation of a honeycomb or hive, bizzing and buzzing with the frantic activity of courtiers and warriors. Western spectators could not help thinking of the ‘Iron Curtain’ that Winston Churchill had figured as a threat to world peace eight years earlier. Such was the technical solution contrived by Ryndin to incarnate

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


Oil sketch for ‘The Mousetrap’ configuration, in Vadim Ryndin’s setting for Hamlet (Maiakovskii Theatre, Moscow, 1954). Collection Laurence Senelick

Okhlopkov’s personal vision of the play. The lowering weight and brutality of the design and the lumbering movement of the gates suggested the mechanical maw of an ominous state, half living, half automaton. The only creatures capable of surviving in such an infernal machine would be the maggots scuttling about to find safe interstices in their relation to the King. Any healthy human being would feel dwarfed and alienated in such an environment. Audiences did not see this vision undiluted, however, for it had undergone alteration after the generalnaia repetitsiia (dress rehearsal). Not enough has been written about this remarkable institution of the Soviet Russian theatre, for it was at these semi-private premieres that


Laurence Senelick

the fate of a production was sealed. The representatives of the Committee for Artistic Affairs or the Ministry of Culture, party officials, some select journalists, and invited colleagues would watch the all-but-finished product of months, perhaps years, of work. Then the powers-thatbe would determine if it would open to the public, with minor emendations or major changes, or not. After Hamlet’s general rehearsal, the verdict was handed down that the production was too gloomy and oppressive. It failed to chime with the tenets of socialist realism that prescribed optimism and a definitive resolution of conflict. To meet these objections (which overlooked the nature of tragedy), a number of details were ameliorated. Instead of the original stark black-and-white colour scheme, with gates of cast iron, much gilt and bronze was overlaid to provide a sense of official grandeur and magnificence – what might be called ‘totalitarian baroque.’ There is a certain irony in refurbishing Claudius’s castle to suit the tastes of the recently defunct Great Leader and Teacher. A line of columns in Claudius’s throne room designed to look like shackled hands straining upwards was eliminated. Laertes’ departure, originally staged before a snowy Brueghelesque landscape, now took place on a bright autumn day. Ophelia’s funeral had been conceived as a nightmare vision, with monks processing down a narrow flight of stairs as the gates formed a slit and the coffin was carried through a narrow cleft in the gates and lowered into a trap in the apron. The gates were now opened more widely to reveal a realistic nocturnal countryside. The monastery was dissolved. These enforced changes were particularly galling to Ryndin, who, eager to avoid scenic illusionism, had tried to do away with painted drops; now he was saddled with an abundance of literal backgrounds. Despite all these compromises, there was enough originality in the concept to create controversy among the critics. Most of the negative comment had to do with excess, the overabundance of the design element: the ponderous opening and closing of the gates was said to slow down the flow of the action. One critic pointed out that if the surroundings were so obviously oppressive, Hamlet must have been a simpleton indeed to take so long to combat them. But others welcomed the novel ‘theatricality’ of the production and felt it was in essence ‘Shakespearean’ (Berezkin 1974: 120–36).3 In his biography of Ryndin, Viktor Berezkin credits the special importance of the design in reasserting the right of a stage setting to be metaphoric in regard to the classics (ibid.: 131).

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


Metaphoric staging was to become part of the ‘Aesopic’ vocabulary of the Soviet theatre until the era of glasnost. The next generation of directors, pre-eminently Iurii Liubimov and Anatolii Efros, were brilliant at identifying a central scenic emblem that could encapsulate the contemporary meaning of a play, though occasionally the metaphor might overburden or simplify the work. The graveyard in Efros’s Cherry Orchard or the wrought-iron gazebo in his Month in the Country, the blood-stained door in Liubimov’s Crime and Punishment or, more appositely, the mobile curtain in his Hamlet were highly theatrical graphic expressions of the directorial interpretation. In Okhlopkov’s Hamlet, however, the scenic metaphor was forced to coexist awkwardly with remnants of a traditional style. Whereas the metaphors of Liubimov and Efros were lightning shorthand, quickly apprehended by an alert public adept at decoding hidden messages, Okhlopkov’s and Ryndin’s carcerous honeycomb was too grandiose, too monumental, too explicit. Stalin’s love of pomp had dictated sumptuous sets and costumes and orotund acting, and even a production that opposed all he stood for perpetuated these aesthetic practices. Significantly, young Efros was unimpressed at the time: he found that when the great gates opened one felt the ‘style’ begin and too often what was revealed within was ‘emptiness and untruthfulness’ (Efros 1956: 65). In his review of the production on its opening, the prominent critic and Shakespeare scholar Aleksandr Anikst praised it for its ‘stamp of authenticity,’ despite the startling novelty of the staging (Anikst 1955: 62–81). Eight years later, with the production still playing, at a seminar on Shakespearean production Anikst addressed the problems of Okhlopkov’s Hamlet. Speaking elliptically, he drew attention to the director’s experiences in the Stalin era: When Okhlopkov in his director’s notes repeats after every two words that his concept is to show Hamlet struggling against Denmark the prison, then all of us watching the production understand completely what he’s implying by this ... He intended to portray Hamlet’s struggle against a prison-state ... but his production turned out otherwise. It emerged not as a tragedy, but as a joyous, festive production expressing his gratification that Denmark the prison is no more, that he – the artist – has been unfettered, that he has freedom to create. (quoted in Berezkin 1974: 135)

The heavy hint that Okhlopkov’s lapses into excess were caused by his exuberance at the prospect of a meed of freedom derives from more


Laurence Senelick

V. Samoilov as Hamlet (centre) against Vadim Ryndin’s setting for Hamlet (Maiakovskii Theatre, Moscow, 1954), directed by Nikolai Okhlopkov. Collection Laurence Senelick

than hindsight. In 1963, when the Khrushchev thaw was rapidly recongealing, Anikst’s observation dripped with irony, for the prospect had once more begun to fade. The director’s notes to which Anikst refers was a thirteen-page, doublecolumn essay entitled ‘From the Director’s Explication of Hamlet’ that appeared in the January 1955 issue of the journal Teatr (Ohklopkov 1955: 60–73). It is a leisurely exploration of Okhlopkov’s concept, proceeding from the epigraph ‘Denmark is a prison.’ Most of the essay is devoted to an analysis of Hamlet’s character and motivations, although there is a long discursus that offers a doctrinaire Marxist interpretation of sixteenth-century European society. In referring to ‘the fermenting irreconcilable contradictions of a world in which vestiges of feudalism and the Middle Ages, hand in hand with England’s development as a bourgeois power, were preparing to attack the rights and principles of Renaissance humanism’ (Dubrovskii 1982: 88), Okhlopkov was echoing the line taken by A.A. Smirnov and other standard authorities. At first sight, his remarks seem unobjectionable even to the most strait-laced

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


party ideologues. Indeed, as the official history of the Maiakovskii Theatre was to put it, ‘at a time when Leninist norms were being correctly and undeviatingly re-established, the theme of faith in humanity was of social significance.’ The same holds true of Okhlopkov’s characterization of Hamlet as a humanist at war with despotism, an activist who must take up arms against repressive forces that are bound to lose. What is new and somewhat bold is Okhlopkov’s description of Claudius’s methods and Hamlet’s vacillation. The atmosphere of the Danish prison-state, as he depicts it, is so poisonous with cant and hypocrisy that people must crouch into moral dwarfs and abandon any scruples. Ideas are bound in a web of falsehood tighter than any iron chain. There wisdom is tormented. There the human spirit is tortured ... It is a prison of strong walls, compressing everything living, human, noble, inspired. These walls are a mixture of savagery, philistinism, hypocrisy, and baseness. They resemble cast iron funeral slabs. ... The cold prison of life surrounding Hamlet has made him its prisoner, but the prisoner has become a rebel. (1955: 60–1)

Okhlopkov’s instances of tyranny and terrorism were drawn from the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation, the persecutions of Giordano Bruno and Jan Hus, but astute readers could make the connection with their own times. Okhlopkov’s vivid word-painting of a court saturated with corruption, fear, and mendacity conjured up the purges of the late 1930s and the Doctors’ Plot (Stalin’s planned liquidation of Jewish intellectuals) of the early 1950s. In the research for our documentary history of Soviet theatre, my colleague Sergei Ostrovskii and I found in the archives of the Maiakovskii Theatre a number of rehearsal transcripts for an unrealized Hamlet initiated in 1945. These documents include an earlier draft of the Hamlet essay that sheds light on Okhlopkov’s state of mind at a period usually left murky in his biography (the standard chronicle of his life, for example, leaves out 1945–6). A comparison of the first draft with the published version reveals additions, deletions, and revisions that speak volumes about the changes in Soviet cultural life over the course of ten years. Before I turn to such a comparison, it is important to sketch in the political situation that affected Okhlopkov’s work and ideas. In the 1930s he had been one of the most innovative and successful of Vsevolod


Laurence Senelick

Meierkhold’s students. At the small, inaptly named Realistic Theatre, as an eager destroyer of proscenium arches, he sought to merge actor and spectator in a bond similar to the Symbolist communion, but without any mystical overtones. Like his teacher, he borrowed freely from the Asian theatre and the commedia dell’arte, and spliced plays into discrete cinematic episodes. His troupe was made up primarily of young actors, supple to his will, and he preferred to adapt novels rather than cultivate the talents of playwrights. Okhlopkov’s most successful experiments were with Maxim Gorkii’s The Mother (Mat, 1933), staged in the round, Alexandr Serafimovich’s The Iron Flood (Zheleznyi potok, 1934), in which the action took place on peninsulas of platform thrust into the audience, and Nikolai Pogodin’s Aristocrats (Aristokraty, 1935), which incorporated the conspicuous props-man of the oriental stage. His one Shakespearean venture of the period, an Othello of 1936, was more remarkable for visual images than for a coherent interpretation. From the mid-1930s, the enforcement of socialist realism as the expression of Communist art declared war on all manifestations of ‘formalism.’ Chevied and cried down by the press and the Committee for Artistic Affairs (Komitet po delam iskusstva), which administered the theatres, any modicum of originality or novelty was exterminated. A dreary sameness of playwriting and staging resulted, known in the USSR as ‘levelling’ or ‘standardization.’ ‘Deviationists’ and ‘internal émigrés’ were expected to engage in self-flagellation and confessions of political betrayal. To avoid controversy, directors turned to adaptations of nineteenth-century novels, and the predominant directing style became a kind of timorous naturalism. Those who, like Meierkhold and Aleksandr Tairov, pursued a personal aesthetic were relentlessly criticized. In 1937 Okhlopkov’s troupe was merged with that of Tairov’s idiosyncratic Chamber theatre, but after thirteen months he was transferred to the Drama Theatre, then to the Vakhtangov, before being evacuated to Omsk in 1940; eventually, he took over the Drama Theatre, which had been merged with the Theatre of Revolution on its return to Moscow from Tashkent. But, whereas Meierkhold was tortured and shot and Tairov went mad, Okhlopkov endured. His survival of the anti-formalist campaign seems due in part to the politically correct content of his plays, in part to the fact that (unlike the Jewish Tairov and the German Meierkhold), he looked and sounded like the strapping scion of Russian peasants. Moreover, he was an actor who was valued for impersonating praiseworthy proletarians. Throughout the war, the vehicles on which he worked,

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


increasingly in film, were impeccably patriotic in theme, unassailably socialist-realistic in style, winning him a succession of Stalin prizes. Okhlopkov had been preparing to stage Hamlet as early as 1942, when he discussed design ideas with Ryndin (Berezkin 1974: 120). Under any circumstances, the choice of Hamlet is an ambitious undertaking, but in the context of Russian society and history, the choice is ineluctably rife with socio-political nuance: the protagonist’s predicament, whether or not to act in the face of crime and injustice, had a compelling fascination for Russian intellectuals. Stalin’s reported objection to Hamlet’s indecision, his belief that the play had nothing to say in a time of action, had banned it from the Soviet stage for two decades. Such intrepid directors as Meierkhold and Vladimir NemirovichDanchenko had set out to scale this massif, but had never got beyond preliminary discussions. Yet, surprisingly enough, Okhlopkov took up the play after a disastrous run-in with the authorities. His 1944 production of Pogodin’s drama of the siege of Stalingrad, The Ferry-Boat Girl (Lodochnitsa), had created so much controversy that, two years later, it was cited as a bad example in a party directive ‘On the Repertoire of Dramatic Theatres and Measures for Their Improvement.’4 One colleague recalls that Okhlopkov at this time was frequently assailed for formalism, even though his work was much less stylized than it had been in the 1930s (Pimenov 1986: 169). Under these pressures, Okhlopkov began his table rehearsals of Hamlet. The first discussion with the theatre’s creative collective took place on 29 May 1945, when the Battle of Berlin was over and the war in Europe all but ended. Yet it was the war that permeated the discussion. Okhlopkov began by stating that the last three years had compelled him to re-examine his own life and that of his nation. At first, he had hoped to use his evacuation to Siberia to escape the war and immerse himself in Hamlet to forget, in turn, the blizzards howling outside his window: But, luckily for me, I became convinced that a place by the fireside and the cast-iron stove could not help me find the secret to Hamlet. On the contrary, I immediately began to understand much more deeply the philosophic kernel of this play, without vulgarizing Shakespeare or dragging him by the hair into modern times. I tried to understand why this play is eternal, why Shakespeare’s voice comes to us from the depths of time and will go farther, a powerful, mighty voice, the voice of a fighter.5


Laurence Senelick

If the war exemplified the eternal recurrence of a struggle of two ideologies or Weltanschauungen, the collision of humanistic ideals with the denial of basic human rights known as fascism, then Hamlet was similarly a battleground between two historical forces. The result of his three years’ contemplation was a big pile of notes, which, presumably, became the ‘explication’ that he presented to the actors. Already in these preliminary remarks there are references to Denmark as a prison, but a prison that pretends to be a paradise, and to the huge gates that open and close only by dint of strenuous human agency and much screeching of bolts, like the binding of a massive Bible. In describing the need for extreme tension, high voltage, and a heightened rhythm in the acting, Okhlopkov alludes again to wartime conditions: ‘You know outside Moscow stand enormous towers and on them small notice boards with a skull and cross-bones and a bolt of lightning, and you feel if you but touch it, you will cease to be.’ So, in Hamlet as in wartime, normal life and its quotidian choices become charged with the lethal current of an electrified fence. Within this scheme, Hamlet ‘can say for the time being that he doesn’t recognize the secret of life consisting in struggle, the secret of the force of circumstances, when a man exists not so much because he has a mind, but according to the force of the circumstances against which a man reacts and to the strength of the mind of the man contending with these circumstances.’ In other words, Okhlopkov was already sketching out an active or, at least, re-active Hamlet. Emerging from a world war, Okhlopkov envisages Hamlet and Claudius as titans grappling in a battle of cosmic proportions. How then to deal with Hamlet’s doubts, his recourse to equivocation? Okhlopkov considers this on 25 September 1945 in the discussion of the section of the play beginning with ‘To be or not to be’ and proceeding until, in Okhlopkov’s concept, Hamlet realizes that Claudius and Polonius are spying on him. In accordance with Stanislavskian principles, Okhlopkov is trying to find a name for the section of the play when Hamlet’s ‘dam of internal feelings, a dam of thoughts about doubts, vacillation, contempt for the world, for Claudius, [for] the cynicism of the people around him, bursts’ and ‘everything overflows the banks.’ I would say there is no other moment in the play where this breakthrough of accumulated doubts is made evident with such clarity and with internal strength. This does not mean that Hamlet will not have doubts and vacillation later on, that Hamlet’s morale will not be lowered, that he will

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


not again weigh, revaluate, and compare various burning issues. But it does mean that in the soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’ these doubts reached their highest peak, driving Hamlet to thoughts of suicide.6

For Okhlopkov, even if the soliloquy is to be played pianissimo, it is a crescendo, the most febrile oscillation of Hamlet’s uncertainty. At this point in his deliberations, Okhlopkov moves away from the play itself and begins to extrapolate Hamlet’s dilemma on to common humanity. He describes the moment when a person is faced with issues demanding an ultimate resolution. As he conjures up the urgency of this decision, it becomes obvious that Okhlopkov is recollecting the experiences of his own society over the past decades. [S]uch paroxysms, such catastrophes, such climaxes occur; when ‘yes’ or ‘no’ determines a person’s entire fate, when this decision will be tied to all one’s past and future life. In one case, a person will feel honest, noble, believing the great moral worthiness of his actions, believing that his heart and mind are dictating the right decision. Or a person says ‘no.’ And then he wavers; he starts to check, doubts whether, having taken one step or another, he is still valorous, whether he will accomplish a crystalline feat that corresponds with his understanding of morality, ethics, with his understanding of man – ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’

At this point, Okhlopkov comes down to cases and tells an anecdote of a man in the far north, remote from any assistance, who has to amputate his wife’s gangrenous leg with an axe: Where is the inner strength needed to take an axe and strike where necessary at the right spot? And before you lies not just any person, but a person to whom you are tied by every fibre of your being. You must decide ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ What wavering, what mental confusion, what tears, what barely restrainable sobs, what hopelessness, and what trembling of horror this person feels.

Then, turning back to Hamlet, Okhlopkov, rather surprisingly, cites Jesus Christ as a precursor to Hamlet, though he is careful to identify Christ as the historical founder of a religion. Christ’s life was a sequence of responses to extreme circumstances, in which he had to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The problem for Hamlet is that if he says ‘yes,’ he is committing himself to a linked series of actions, each opening into the next: he must


Laurence Senelick

stage the murder of Gonzago, which will cause Claudius to reveal himself, which will bring home to Gertrude the enormity of her conduct, but which will also embarrass Ophelia by disclosing to her the sores of the world in which they live. Then Okhlopkov draws an image from the newly discovered concentration camps: ‘A doctor can even calmly display a person’s skeleton from a German oven.’ But hypersensitive Hamlet envisages the shock waves his actions will induce, and, unlike a clinician, cannot impassively ‘show us a gangrenous sore, some plague, the fallen-off nose or pus on the face of a syphilitic patient.’ An unqualified ‘yes’ means taking up the swords against a world of hypocrisy, baseness, sanctimoniousness, and bloody intrigues. In addition, saying such a ‘yes’ would run counter to Hamlet’s whole education, the humanistic traditions he has imbibed. Having balanced yes and no in the scales of his soliloquy, Hamlet comes down on the side of ‘no,’ which allows the world to run on in its usual sinfulness, baseness, and greed. Okhlopkov’s formulation of Hamlet’s predicament seems to me a very familiar one in Russian life and literature. It is the intelligentsia caught in a cleft stick between the ethical values of civilization and the ugly actions necessary to combat an ugly life. Okhlopkov even toys with calling this section ‘What Is to Be Done?’ after Nikolai Chernyshevskii’s famous didactic novel. Okhlopkov’s Hamlet is a cousin to the heroes of Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov, and Anton Chekhov, but brought up to date: the world with which he must cope is post-Revolutionary, post-Holocaust, post-Gulag. He knows too much, and, as Okhlopkov says, Hamlet clearly understands ‘that the world won’t be improved by killing Claudius.’ Hamlet’s crise de conscience had evidently been experienced by Okhlopkov and his circle, and only the ability to direct hostility at the German enemy relieves this burden. The abandonment of the Hamlet project was probably due to Okhlopkov’s awareness that the time was out of joint for such a production. The post-war world was not shaping up to be the triumph of humanistic ideals he envisaged. That year the Central Committee of the Communist Party adopted the aforementioned resolution on improving the repertory of dramatic theatres, which recommended that they be purged of foreign plays.7 Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin’s mouthpiece in the Politburo, regularly castigated any hint of pessimism, introspection, or disillusion that might hinder the industrial progress of the post-war five-year plan. Hamlet with all his doubts had been officially men-

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


tioned as the sort of decadent for whom Soviet art had no place. To judge by rehearsal transcripts, Okhlopkov’s work on Hamlet continued at least until late February 1946. Then it suddenly ended. In April he requested and received permission to dramatize Konstantin Fadeev’s novel about Komsomol resistance to the Germans in the mining town of Krasnodon, The Young Guard (Molodaia Gvardiia). The resulting production was so stirring and powerful in its patriotism that Okhlopkov was forgiven any previous lapses in aesthetic orthodoxy. He was named a People’s Artist, and his company toured Poland and Czechoslovakia to serve as a model for all Eastern-bloc theatres. Over the next few years, his creativity lay dormant but his career thrived. In 1952, during a dangerous resurgence of persecution, as Stalin was planning another round of purges and not long after such great actors as Solomon Mikhoels and Veniamin Zuskin were murdered by the NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB), Okhlopkov joined the Communist Party and was appointed a Deputy Minister of Culture with special portfolio to select foreign films for distribution. By the time he returned to Hamlet in 1954, he was so well ensconced in the establishment that an epigram went the rounds of Moscow, holding that the lavishness of the Hamlet sets and costumes were directly attributable to Okhlopkov’s influence at the Ministry of Culture: Gamlet po okhlopovski – omlet po ministerski, roughly, Okhlopkov’s Hamlet is the Ministry’s omelet (because so many ‘eggs’ had to be broken to obtain the ingredients). Was Okhlopkov a shrewd and lucky survivor or an opportunistic time-server? Can such distinctions be made of artists under such a surrealistic and unpredictable regime? Our values are so conditioned by Christian ideology that we exalt the martyr’s crown above the survivor’s coat-of-many-colours. Meierkhold attacked his competitors ruthlessly, truckled to the government, gave in under torture, and denounced a number of innocents; yet the fact of his murder expunges earlier base behaviour and invests him with the odour of sanctity. Okhlopkov’s successes in the late 1940s, time-serving though they may seem, must be set against his own internal struggles, the wrestling with his conscience, the dogged insistence on mounting Hamlet against all odds. The guilt feelings of survivors are well known. On opening night he was a nervous wreck, fully expecting a flop and the end of his career (Shtein 1986: 284–5). Recall that Okhlopkov became a party member in 1952 and re-established rehearsals for Hamlet two years later. The significant event in between these two dates was, of course, the death of Stalin in March


Laurence Senelick

1953. The end of a twenty-nine-year reign – mostly of terror – released the Soviet Union to begin a slow and tortuous process of developing the conditions of its national life along more normal lines. Up to this juncture, Okhlopkov’s work at the Moscow Drama Theatre had centred on the relatively ‘safe’ field of heroic war themes. His first post-Stalinist production also looks safe: Aleksandr Ostrovskii’s nineteenth-century tragedy Thunderstorm (Groza). But this was to become a characteristic ploy for Soviet directors seeking a new freedom in the first flush of Stalin’s absence. By mounting a classic in a non-traditional fashion, Okhlopkov was insinuating the primacy of the director in relation to the literary text; he was initiating a return to the ‘directors’ theatre’ of the 1920s. Plays were used as pretexts for a reinterpretation shaped to meet the changing needs and conditions of contemporary society and the state of the art itself. One of Okhlopkov’s colleagues reminds us that ‘he understood the tasks of Soviet theatre as actively political. More than any other director, he pragmatically turned the stage in every one of his productions into a tribune for artistic and political education’ (Pimenov 1986: 170). In this case, he was re-educating his public away from the socialist-realistic tradition. Thunderstorm was reviled by conservatives, but the Pravda review, suggestively titled ‘The Theatre’s Rights and Duties,’ pronounced definitively in the production’s favour with the revolutionary sentence ‘In art there are no single right answers’ (‘Pravo i dolg teatra’ 1953: 3). This may have emboldened Okhlopkov to resume his engagement with Hamlet. But in exhuming his notes from the 1940s, he had to alter the central conflict: the fight against fascism was no longer timely. The new emphases can be made clear if we compare the newly discovered typescript offered to his acting company in 1945 with his well-known essay, published in Teatr in 1955.8 For one thing, the cultural range of reference is narrowed in the later variant; allusions to S.T. Coleridge, Anatole France, Gustave Flaubert, Giacomo Leopardi, Maxim Gorkii, William Cobbett, Heinrich Heine, and Romain Rolland and a quotation from Boris Pasternak’s poem ‘A Definition of Poetry’ all disappear, in line with attacks on ‘cosmopolitanism.’ So does a comparison of Hamlet with the Russian intelligentsia in the nineteenth century. Whenever the original text suggests that Hamlet’s predicament can be extrapolated on to the present, the statement disappears. ‘Prisoners of the “prison-world” know that man in “Claudius’ world” cannot stand erect’ (1945: 44) gets changed to ‘Hamlet knows that man ...’ A reference to the ‘struggles and dreams of Hamlet and his camp’ ends

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


with a full stop after ‘Hamlet.’ In 1945, Okhlopkov states that one had to have a particularly keen mind to see through the criminals and scoundrels of Claudius’s court to the whole mendacious age ‘in order to understand the significance not only for Elsinore Castle but for the whole world, which has become a “prison” for Hamlet.’ In 1955, the phrase about understanding the greater significance is struck and replaced with ‘Hamlet possesses this keenness of mind.’ In other words, Hamlet is isolated as an individual and no explicit similarity is drawn between his world and that of Soviet society. When making these changes, Okhlopkov probably had in mind the notorious January 1949 issue of Teatr that had savagely attacked a number of prominent Shakespeare critics for ‘antipatriotism.’ In particular, Iu. Iuzovskii and A. Gurvich, ‘partners in cosmopolitanism,’ had been singled out for their ‘vulgar idealism.’ Out of step with Soviet drama, they dared to exalt the doubting Hamlet as not only an exponent of profound feelings and ideas, but a beacon of hope ‘in our struggle.’ ‘For Iuzovskii,’ the editors fumed, ‘Hamlet is not an historical figure but an “eternal” one, personifying the doubt and sorrow of the human soul ... Iuzovskii strains with might and main to prove that we, the contemporaries of the great Stalin, builders of communism, are in essence mere embodiments of Shakespeare’s humanistic ideals’ (‘Do kontsa’ 1949: 4–5). Although this too had been the gist of Okhlopkov’s statements in 1945, he now hastened to delete any suggestion that Hamlet’s example was one to follow. One paragraph Okhlopkov struck (p. 49) describes in detail how difficult it is for a prisoner of the ‘Claudian world’ to escape the life around him, to burst the bonds of illusion and abstract humanism and, even at his last gasp, cast away doubt and steel his will to attack a concrete enemy. Gone is another passage which states that if questions remain questions, then the prison will remain a prison (50). Lines that Okhlopkov thought important enough to put in capital letters in 1945 vanish without a trace in 1955. These include the aphorisms: Here INTELLIGENCE AND A KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD OUT OF TOUCH WITH ACTION AND PRACTICALITY ARE NO MORE THAN PRISONERS OF THE WORLD, AND NOT ITS FREE CREATORS (51). AND ONLY WHEN INTELLIGENCE AND A KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD ARE UNITED WITH ACTION AND PRAGMATISM, ONLY THEN WILL THE PATH FROM THE PRISON, THE PATH TO TRUTH BE REVEALED. (52)


Laurence Senelick

These are a few examples among many, showing how Okhlopkov had muted his stirring appeal to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them. In short, Okhlopkov’s original essay on Hamlet, composed in wartime, often when it seemed that the Germans might overcome, stressed again and again the need for action, the need to conquer doubt and take a stand. The reward for fighting for the bright ideals of humanity will be a glorious mention in history. In 1955, such exhortation was inappropriate. At the same time, the attempts to generalize Hamlet’s situation and to see the Danish court as a pattern for universal corruption would have had unfortunate political reverberations amid the intrigues that followed Stalin’s death, so that Okhlopkov was wise to eliminate them.9 So much for the omissions. What of the additions? The most important is a new section, thirty paragraphs long, dealing with Hamlet’s vacillation (1955: 62–3). Remember that in the first recension of Okhlopkov’s essay, Hamlet’s wavering was seen to result from an acute awareness that a decision entailed ‘all or nothing,’ that each action would inevitably lead to another, until he was engaged in mortal combat with the whole evil system. In 1955, Okhlopkov sees Hamlet’s confusion develop into, not a fear of the magnitude of his task, but a fear of complicity. After the Ghost’s revelation, the scales fall from Hamlet’s eyes and the stark non-correspondence between his ideals and circumambient reality creates the sense of dilemma. His initial attempt at evasion is through irony and sarcasm, then the pretence of madness, but never reconciliation with the world. Hesitation is therefore a survivor’s strategy to evade the trap of becoming implicated in what he most detests. Without vacillation there is no Hamlet. The more intense the vacillation, the clearer is the image of Hamlet. This is the characteristic of his mind and soul ... Hamlet vacillates not because he is consumed with neurotic reflexes and apathy, but because he is afraid to take a false step, alien to his humanistic ideals. He does not want to become the plaything of chance circumstances. Repudiating vulgar petty pragmatism, he also avoids unreasoning impetuosity, is wary of ‘moral vertigo.’ He is worried about preserving his ideals, carrying out his great task. (63)

Okhlopkov reiterates in new terms Hamlet’s proactive facets, his eventual escape from despair as he comes to realize ‘the most important law

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


of life: the need for indomitable struggle with all the evil in the world’ (64). What is important here is not the to-be-expected call to arms but Okhlopkov’s subtler anatomy of Hamlet’s hesitations: his simultaneous fears of capitulation to the tenor of his times, of sullying his ideals by a misjudged action, and of losing his moral bearings. All this, it seems to me, derives from Okhlopkov’s own experience as homo sovieticus, whirled about by the changing winds of political expediency. Okhlopkov and his contemporaries might have prided themselves on their heroism in the face of the Nazi aggressor; they were not so heroic in the face of internal tyranny and they knew it. Hence, Okhlopkov’s new paragraphs about the way in which even defeat and ruin can be transformed into triumphant victory in the name of ‘human beings, humaneness, and humanity’ (72–3). Here Okhlopkov waxes rhapsodic: This is the deeply exciting, politically embattled spiritual message of Hamlet. Like a torch it illumines the tragic history of Hamlet’s struggle against reaction, whatever garb it has assumed, whatever masks it has donned. And this torch from Shakespeare’s time is passed from hand to hand, like a baton in a relay race, by all the honourable people in the world, united by a single desire – to see the whole world purified of all kinds of vileness and filth, and to see people freed outwardly and inwardly, freed to live in friendship and peace and with the ability to oppose any adventurism, any bloody swindling and machinations by the enemies of humanity ... The victory is in the fact that Hamlet overcomes his own tragic doubt and deepest vacillation, in the fact that he is fearlessly able to ‘fling at a brow of stone scorching pellets of shimmering ideas.’ Hamlet fought although he knew that this fight was ‘for the long term ...’ For his ruin, for his personal defeat is worth the historical victory of humanism.

Hamlet’s message can therefore console those who have achieved little in their lifetimes, but who can hope their example will aid future generations. It is ironic that the quotation about ‘flinging scorching pellets at a brow of stone’ comes not from Shakespeare but from Leonid Andreev’s symbolist play of 1907 The Life of Man (Zhizn cheloveka). Andreev, the Symbolists, and their proto-existentialist message of tak-


Laurence Senelick

ing an individual stand in the face of an absurd mortality were all out of favour in Soviet thought; Okhlopkov smuggles them in to make his own statement about the value of even futile-seeming gestures in face of monolithic despotism. The distance travelled between the impassioned exhortations of 1945 and the more realistic formulations of 1955 can be seen in the perorations to the two versions. The earlier variant ends with a reference to Marx: To be means to remember forever the words of the man who first foresaw the most enigmatic secret of the actual struggle, who in Spring 1845 wrote in Brussels: ‘Philosophers only in various ways EXPLICATED the world, but the task is to CHANGE IT.’ Let this utterance be for us the key to everything. Then, even the defeat, even the ruin of the fighting hero will be transformed into a hymn of triumphant victory. In whose name? We along with Hamlet can repeat his words.

And then Okhlopkov, without irony, picks out from Hamlet’s ambiguous speech the phrases ‘this goodly frame the earth !... this brave o’erchanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire! ... What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! ... the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.’ In Russian, this litany of praise sounds even more lyrically generalized: the paragon of animals is ‘the crown of all living things’ (venets vsego zhivogo). Ten years later, the conclusion is still upbeat, but more temperate, less hortatory: The story sets forth the ugly question: to be or not to be? The answer is found: to be! – Man – is to be! ... Victory lies in the fact that Hamlet overcame his tragic doubts and deep vacillations. His death, his personal defeat stands as a historical victory of humanism.

Again, Hamlet is put forth as an exemplar, but there is no ardent demand that we rally round him. Forgetting that the Prince of Denmark is a fictional character, but bearing in mind the apparent weakness of

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


his own generation, Okhlopkov is content to say that history will ultimately justify him. Okhlopkov’s essay in Teatr appeared the same month that Georgii Malenkov was forced to resign, edged out by the increasingly influential Nikita Khrushchev. Later that year, Meierkhold was officially rehabilitated by a military court. But, so far as Okhlopkov’s creative development is concerned, a far more significant event in 1955 was the tour to the Soviet Union of the H.C. Tennant company, the first visit by an English acting troupe since the Revolution. Peter Brook’s new Hamlet with Paul Scofield was a spare, minimalist production; its bare grey set enabled the action to speed along ‘like the wind,’ as Kenneth Tynan put it (Tynan 1961: 104; Brook 1956: 75).10 Muscovites greeted the Brook Hamlet with immense enthusiasm, as much to acknowledge a new EastWest entente as to welcome a fresh approach to Shakespeare.11 Brook’s success confirmed Okhlopkov in his distaste for the compromises in his own staging and the remnants of the bad old days they embodied. According to Konstantin Rudnitskii, the English tour, coming so soon after the Drama Theatre Hamlet, was traumatic for Okhlopkov, since everything lauded in Brook’s mise-en-scène stood in direct opposition to his own achievement (Rudnitskii 1955: 65). His physical production was monumental, Brook’s was Spartan; his staging was visually complex and highly coloured, Brook’s was plain and dark. Okhlopkov deployed a company of seventy and an orchestra of thirty, Brook’s entire troupe numbered thirty and eschewed music. More pointedly, Okhlopkov’s Hamlet, Evgenii Samoilov, was forty-four years old and came across like a danseur noble, a highly trained performer of purity; Scofield, ten years his junior, diffused a sense of moral goodness from within. One of Okhlopkov’s rewards for Hamlet was the permission to rename his theatre the Maiakovskii Theatre, although it had never produced any of the poet’s plays. The name change seems to be an act of contrition, a re-dedication to the revolutionary fervour of a writer whose verse had inspired Okhlopkov in his salad days. It was a way of turning his back on the kind of compromise that the production of Hamlet represented. Shortly thereafter, he replaced Samoilov with twenty-oneyear-old Mikhail Kozakov, who had just graduated from the Art Theatre Studio. The youngest Hamlet ever to appear on a Moscow stage, Kozakov played the role for two years before he was in turn replaced by an even younger actor, Eduard Martsevich (Shtein 1965: 238–48).


Laurence Senelick

The rejuvenation of the melancholy Dane was much to the taste of a youthful audience, coevals of the Sovremennik (Contemporary) Theatre-Studio, founded in 1956. Its motto – ‘If I am honest, I take responsibility’ – and the plays it staged were a challenge, pitting an idealistic younger generation against their compromised elders. The unspoilt spontaneity of Okhlopkov’s new princes participated in this hopeful mood. His Hamlets of 1945 and 1955 had consciences, which, like his own, were questionable palimpsests of evasion and equivocation. He was now exchanging them for a moral tabula rasa.

NOTES 1 Okhlopkov’s major productions are dealt with in most works on the Soviet stage, but he has not received much intensive study. His autobiography, Vsem molodym (1981), is less informative than the many articles he published in Teatr and elsewhere. A bibliography can be found in Zotova and Lukina 1986. Beilin’s biography of Okhlopkov (1953), a selective account of his film work, neglects his theatrical activity; Velekhova (1970) deals with his mass spectacles. The fullest account of Okhlopkov’s work in English is found in Worrall 1989: 140–95. 2 The best description of the physical production and its workings is in Berezkin 1974: 120–36; also see Ryndin 1966. 3 For contemporary comment see Kamenov 1955: 3; Soloviova 1955: 3; Pluchek 1955; Lordkipanidze 1955; Klimova 1955; Alpers 1955: 45–60; Levin 1957; and Grossman 1955: 113–24. 4 Decree of 26 August 1946, Bolshevik 16: 45–9. 5 ‘Moskovskii Teatr Dramy. Stenogramma besedy Khudozhestvennogo rukovoditelia teatra s tvorcheskim kollektivom ‘Eksplikatsiia pesy Gamlet,’ 28 May 1945, Maiakovskii Theatre Museum, archive 12, opis 9. 6 ‘Repetitsiia Gamleta 25/IX-45 goda,’ 25 September 1945, Maiakovskii Theatre Museum, archive 13, opis 9. 7 The effect of this decree on Tairov’s Kamerny Teatr is described in Pimenov 1968: 129–39. 8 ‘GAMLET Viliama Shekspira. Perevod – Lozinskogo. Rezhissiorskaia eksplikatsiia – N. P. Okhlopkova. Moskovskii Teatr Dramy,’ 1945. Maiakovskii Theatre Museum, archive 22, opis 9. 9 We may be sure that these alterations were made by Okhlopkov himself and not by a censor or editor. A colleague recalls of his many contributions to Teatr: ‘He always worked seriously, weighed every word, demanded

New Documentation on the Okhlopkov Hamlet


the proof-sheets and corrected them desperately, putting the whole editorial board in confusion. After his corrections, as rule, the type had to be re-set ... To the article he would invariably attach a letter, in which he explained everything, insisted on a careful proof-reading of the text and allowed no changes to be made’ (Pimenov 1986: 171). 10 A naive account by a member of the Hamlet company is found in Wilson 1956: 58–62. 11 Professor M. Urnov has told me that, when a student at Moscow University, he posted a rave review over an entire wall of a lecture building, with the blazon ‘This is Hamlet,’ implying that Okhlopkov’s was not. REFERENCES Alpers, B. 1955. ‘Russkii Gamlet.’ Teatr (Moscow) 8: 45–60. Anikst, A. 1955. ‘Byt ili ne byt u nas Gamletu: O postanovke Gamleta v Leningradskom teatre dramy imeni A. S. Pushkina i Moskovskom teatre imeni V. Maiakovskogo.’ Teatr (Moscow) 3: 62–81. Beilin A. 1953. Nikolai Pavlovich Okhlopkov. Moscow: Goskinizdat. Berezkin, V. 1974. Mastera sovetskogo teatra: Vadim Ryndin. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Brook, Peter. 1956. ‘To Moscow to Put On Hamlet.’ Vogue, 15 April: 75. ‘Do kontsa razgromit i razoblachit gruppu antipatrioticheskikh teatralnykh kritikov.’ 1949. Teatr (Moscow) 1: 4–5. Dubrovskii, V.Ia. 1982. Moskovskii Akademicheskii Teatr imeni V. Maiakovskogo 1922–1982. N.A. Velekhova. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Efros, Anatolii. 1956. ‘Bednyi Stanislavskii.’ Teatr (Moscow) 10: 65. Grossman, L. 1955. ‘Problematika Gamleta.’ Teatr (Moscow) 11: 113–24. Kamenov, V. 1955. ‘Gamlet.’ Pravda (Moscow), 10 January: 3. Klimova, L. March 1955. ‘Vdokhnovennoe prochtenie: Gamlet na scene Moskovskogo teatra imeni Maiakovskogo.’ Stena (Moscow) 5 (March). Levin, M. 1957. ‘U kazhdogo svoi Shekspir: Kriticheskie zametki.’ Teatr (Moscow) 8. Lordkipanidze, N. 1955, ‘Shekspir, kakov on est: Gamlet na stsene teatra imeni Maiakovskogo.’ Komsomolskaia Pravda (Moscow), 13 January. Okhlopkov, Nikolai. 1945. ‘GAMLET Viliama Shekspira. Perevod – Lozinskogo. Rezhissiorskaia eksplikatsiia – N. P. Okhlopkova. Moskovskii Teatr Dramy.’ Maiakovskii Theatre Museum, archive 22, opis 9. – 1955. ‘Iz rezhissiorskoi eksplikatsii Gamleta.’ Teatr (Moscow) 1: 60–73. – 1981. Vsem molodym. Moscow: Molodaia Gvardiia. Pimenov, Vladimir. 1968. Zanaves ne opushchen. Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii. – 1986. N.t. In Zotova and Lukina, eds.


Laurence Senelick

Pluchek, V. 1955. ‘Vstrechi s Shekspirom.’ Literaturnaia gazeta (Moscow), 20 January. ‘Pravo i dolg teatra.’ 1953. Pravda (Moscow), 27 November: 3. Rudnitskii, K. 1955. ‘Russkii Gamlet.’ Teatr (Moscow) 8: 65. Ryndin, V.F. 1966. Vadim Ryndin: Khudozhnik i teatr. Moscow: VTO. Shtein, A.P. 1965. Povest o tom, kak voznikaiut siuzhety, 238–48. Moscow: Iskusstvo. – 1986. N.t. In Zotova and Lukina, eds. Soloviova, I. 1955. ‘So vsei strastiu.’ Sovetskaia kultura (Moscow), 13 January: 3. Tynan, Kenneth. 1961. Curtains. New York: Athenaeum. Velekhova, Nina. 1970. Okhlopkov i teatr ulits. Moscow: Iskusstvo. Wilson, Cecil. 1956. ‘The Moscow Theater and Hamlet.’ In Theatre Annual 1, ed. H. Hobson, 58–62. London: John Calder. Worrall, Nick. 1989. Modernism to Realism on the Soviet Stage: Tairov– Vakhtangov–Okhlopkov. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zotova, E.I., and Lukina, T.A. eds. 1986. N. P. Okhlopkov: Stati, vospominaniia. Moscow: VTO.

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall werner habicht

The Berlin Wall did not separate ethnic or cultural opposites like the ones kept apart in other divided cities of this world, one or two of which still remain. On the contrary, it disrupted what in an arduous historical process had become a unified nation, whose megalomaniac excesses had been shattered as a result of the Second World War. The Wall came to symbolize the post-war and cold-war East-West confrontation. It also cut through the nation’s capital, which had been the privileged hub of the nation’s cultural life. In 1989 the Wall disappeared. Since then it has been possible to consider in retrospect the extent to which German culture with all its accrued traditions was affected by the militant political and ideological polarization of the cold war. Did the division of the country during forty-five post-war years permit the continued awareness of a common cultural identity, or did it produce two separate cultures? It did, after all, produce two separate and antipodal economies. Or had the Wall chinks that, despite rigid control, allowed some nostalgic cultural interchange, suggested competitive activities, and perhaps encouraged stimulating interactions between the two opposed systems? Ideas of the latter kind were in fact entertained by a number of German intellectuals, who for that reason were sceptical about or even opposed to reunification when it suddenly became a political possibility. There are no easy answers to such questions, and no attempt will be made here to discuss their complexities in principle, let alone to resolve them. What follows is a brief outline of the ways in which the theatre was affected, especially when it dealt with the plays of its chief and most frequently performed classic author. Changing attitudes to Shakespeare and Shakespeare performance would seem to reveal paradigmatically some of the


Werner Habicht

diverging expectations and concomitant tensions inherent in theatre politics of that period.1 When in 1945 occupied Germany was divided into an eastern and three western zones, common traditions rooted in history were nevertheless available and were resumed in spite of the catastrophic result of the war, which included material destruction and the collapse of German nationalism. On the one hand, the long-established system of repertory theatres supported by the state and city administrations was retained in both Germanys. That system had always been a decentralized one (except for the extra prestige of the Berlin theatres), and it guaranteed that classic drama, Shakespeare in particular, was performed regularly and throughout the country. On the other hand, there was the tradition of the German appropriation of Shakespeare. By common conviction it had, ever since the eighteenth century, been instrumental in forming the German spirit, imagination, literature, and drama. Since during the Third Reich that conviction had been exploited propagandistically, there was, it is true, little reason to go on parading such notions after 1945. And yet Shakespeare re-emerged at once and was as prominent as before. When the playhouses reopened – they had been dark in the last stages of the war – it was in many cases with performances of Hamlet or even The Taming of the Shrew, mostly on provisional stages rather than in the opulence of pre-war playhouses (many of which were in ruins), and thus in a way closer to Shakespeare’s original acting conditions. Actors and audiences now returned to Shakespeare with a painful awareness of the seductions, frustrations, and horrors of fascist power, of the war, and of its aftermath. Plays suited to reflect all this, such as Macbeth, Richard III, or Troilus and Cressida, were staged more impressively than others, in both the West and the East. Performances took place in increasingly diverging contexts of political and theatrical conditions, especially when, in 1949, the two German states were formally established and enlisted in opposite camps of the cold war. In the theatres of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the West, one of the most exciting trends in the late forties and throughout the fifties was an unprecedented presence of modern foreign drama, particularly French (from Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre through Jean Anouilh and Jean Giraudoux to Jean Genêt and Eugène Ionesco), American (Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and the rest), and British (first Christopher Fry and T.S. Eliot, then John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Harold Pinter, etc.). In the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the East, where, by contrast, Western plays were seldom

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 159

performed (with characteristic exceptions such as those by Sean O’Casey), theatrical innovation was more uniformly derived from the social realism of much Soviet drama, and was designed to expose capitalist corruption and to provide positive heroes for working-class audiences to identify with. In West Germany, where theatre audiences were more likely to be recruited from the cultured middle class, the bulk of social-realist drama as produced in the East was largely ignored or considered an aesthetically uninteresting facet of modernity. What did make an impression in the West as well as in the East were more sophisticated types of communist revolutionary drama, such as Vishnevskii’s Optimisticheskaia tragediia (Optimistic Tragedy), and, of course, dialectic and parabolic plays by or inspired by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht himself, after returning from exile in 1948, directed his Mutter Courage (Mother Courage) both in West German Munich and in East Berlin, and the East Berlin Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, where he finally settled and founded the Berliner Ensemble, became a Mecca that at times attracted more intellectual pilgrims from Western countries than East German working-class audiences, whom it was supposed to educate. Politically, however, Brechtian drama was, at least in the fifties, a special case, no less controversial in the East than in the West. In West Germany, Brecht’s commitment to the cause of the Communist regime was regarded with anti-Communist suspicion, and his plays were seldom performed (although his influence was manifest in parabolic plays like those by Friedrich Dürrenmatt or Max Frisch that were successfully imported from Switzerland). In East Germany, cultural politicians tended to consider Brecht’s dialectic approach to the theatre as being propagandistically inferior to social realism and the method acting it required. Significantly, Brecht’s lifelong and intensive involvement with Shakespeare and other Elizabethan drama did not materialize in actual Shakespeare performances, though it inspired some of his own plays. Brecht’s Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe (Roundheads and Peakheads) is partly derived from Measure for Measure; Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui) has affinities with Richard III. He did translate and prepare a Coriolanus, paying respect to Shakespeare’s art of characterization without admitting the conventional intimidation by the classic. Differentiating and rationalizing the behaviour of the Roman plebeians, he interpreted it as a revolutionary reaction to the blackmail inflicted upon them by the hero’s superfluous military expertise, and thus established the contemporary relevance of the tragedy (Mittenzwei 1972: 125–8; Brunkhorst 1973: 108–37). But the produc-


Werner Habicht

tion remained unfinished and had to wait until eight years after Brecht’s death to be further developed and staged by his pupils Manfred Wekwerth and Joachim Tenschert in 1964, in a production that was then acclaimed in both the East and the West, and by Peter Brook in London, as a major achievement. In West Germany, however, the discrepancy between Brecht’s aesthetic treatment of the Roman plebeians and his refusal to support the East German workers’ real uprising in 1953 was also remembered, especially when, also in 1964, it became the subject of Günter Grass’s play Die Plebejer proben den Aufstand (Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising), and Grass justified his treatment in a public lecture (Grass 1968). But this was when a new phase of the divided history of the German theatre had begun. Throughout the 1950s, however, performances of Shakespeare on the whole remained detached from the separately accruing cold-war contexts. Like those of other classics, they tended to be considered as areas of aesthetic refuge, as counterpoints to modernity, as celebrations of timeless values in a world otherwise marked by individualist disorientation in the West and by prescribed collective reorientation in the East. In the West German federalist theatre landscape, surrounded by a newly established democracy and a growing economy, more diverse and more sumptuous Shakespeare performances were possible (though there were many unspectacular ones as well). Highlights were provided by experienced theatre artists of note, many of whom carried on their pre-war styles and adhered, in one way or another, to the principle of Werktreue (fidelity to the work) – for example, Gustaf Gründgens, Jürgen Fehling, Heinz Hilpert, Saladin Schmitt, Hans Schweikart, Gustav Rudolf Sellner, and Karl-Heinz Stroux – while others revived energies that had prevailed in the twenties before being suppressed by the Nazis – most notably Fritz Kortner, another returnee from American exile, in his expressively realistic productions of, for instance, Hamlet, Timon of Athens, Twelfth Night, or Richard III. The East German press reported on and reviewed much of this appreciatively, though some of it was – not without some justification – branded as being restorative. Theatres in East Germany were perhaps more likely to avoid such restorative treatment of Shakespeare and applied to performances some of the lessons of social realism and of Marxist interpretation of history by highlighting class conflicts discerned in the texts. The dilemma of Hamlet, for example, was to be seen – as an influential East German professor of drama instructed theatre artists – as resulting from his revolutionary potential and his inability to act it out at a time not yet ready for

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 161

revolutions. Accordingly, special emphasis was placed on the gravediggers’ earthy comments on questionable structures of the Hamlet world. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream the comedy of the rude mechanicals’ efforts at staging a play was a very serious matter indeed; for these representatives of the working class deserve pity for being deprived of the privileges of education and of unfolding their artistic talent, while at the same time they deserve admiration for the passionate dedication and courage with which they sustain their play, ‘facing the waves of arrogance with which their aristocratic audience molests them’ (Kuckhoff 1964: 110–20, 223–77). Similarly, there were Thersiteses or Iagos or Bohemian sheep-shearing rustics foregrounded as spokespersons of the proletariat commenting on the irrationalities and destructive jealousies of those in possession of power. Marx himself had, after all, drawn attention to the importance of the plebeian element in Shakespeare. In the West German press of that time such touches of naive Marxism were noted, if they were noticed at all, with remotely interested condescension, at least as long as they were not integrated into overall dramaturgic concepts. In general, however, no one watching a Shakespeare performance in the opposite state during the 1950s would seem to have had much reason for feeling that he or she was in an alien world, despite antipodal political and theatrical contexts. The situation changed fundamentally in the sixties, when the political confrontation became more rigid. While the West German government persisted in claiming that it alone possessed the democratic legitimization to represent the entire nation, the East German regime insisted on forming a new socialist nation in its own right, whose territory had to be protected by a fortified border, the last gap in which was closed by the Berlin Wall erected in 1961. The latter also put an end to the unique opportunity available to normal residents of Berlin up until then – to be able to see and compare theatre performances in both spheres of influence. It was at that time that West German publications began to describe the otherness of theatre politics and theatre practice behind the Iron Curtain (as far as that was possible from outside),2 while the leading East German theatre journal, Theater der Zeit, relocated its increasingly critical reviews on West German trends and performances to the section on ‘Foreign Theatre,’ rejecting with particular vehemence the wave of absurdist drama that was assailing, destabilizing, and corrupting the West. The new East German identity was to have a cultural superstructure strengthened by the reappropriation of what was generally termed the humanist heritage, to which Shake-


Werner Habicht

speare, along with the history of his German reception, prominently belonged. The growth of a socialist theatre culture based on firm ideological guidelines that was thus initiated in the GDR was by 1972 already deemed to be advanced enough to be assessed as a Theater in der Zeitenwende (‘theatre at the turning point in history’) in two monumental volumes (Mittenzwei 1972). The year 1963 also saw the splitting-up of the Deutsche ShakespeareGesellschaft, which for a century had encouraged the dissemination and cultivation of the Bard, into separate East and West organizations. Its original seat was Weimar, the centre of German classicism, which now happened to be in the GDR, although the vast majority of the association’s members were in the FRG, where contacts with British and American Shakespeareans were re-established more effectively than in the Soviet-dominated area. Hence, while Weimar remained the official centre, most of the post-war conventions until 1962 took place in Bochum, an industrial city in the West German Ruhrgebiet, whose municipal playhouse had a long-standing reputation for its Shakespeare performances. These annual conventions were, indeed, theatrical and public events besides providing a forum for academic debates. Delegates from East Germany were represented in the executive committee; these suggested that the 1963 convention and especially the quatercentenary celebration in 1964 should once again be held in Weimar. A motion to that effect was supported by the entire committee, on condition that political neutrality would be guaranteed. What followed was a complex series of irritations. The Shakespeare-Gesellschaft’s West German president saw reasons to fear that the Weimar convention would be taken control of by a majority of Communist members recruited for the purpose; as a consequence he called off the 1963 meeting at the last minute. In Weimar this action was declared to be a violation of the statutes (which in a legal sense it was); hence, the meeting went forward without official visitors from the West, many of whom had in any case not obtained their visas in time, and a new, exclusively East German presidium was elected. The West German reaction was the foundation of a separate Shakespeare association in Bochum – the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft West, which gathered together those who had in fact kept the original German Shakespeare Society active in the previous fifteen years. From these the new Weimar officials dissociated themselves vehemently, describing them as a ‘reactionary group in West Germany’ (Findeisen 1964: 606), and insisted on being the only legitimate representatives of the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 163

(again correctly in a legal sense) (Ledebur 1974: 129–48).3 Since the separation was a public matter, it had nation-wide repercussions. The question of whether the sacrifice of one of the last institutional links between the two Germanys was really unavoidable or merely the result of poor diplomacy was passionately discussed in the entire West German press. The Eastern press, by contrast, was unanimously and jubilantly satisfied with the prospect of an unmolested special appropriation of the Shakespearean heritage. Thus it came to pass that, in 1964, Shakespeare’s quatercentenary, which was also the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft’s centenary, was commemorated separately in East German Weimar and in West German Bochum. The Weimar celebration was done in grand style, attended by top representatives of the GDR government. Alexander Abusch, minister of culture and deputy prime minister, in his keynote speech defined the official attitude: The realism and humanism of Shakespeare’s analysis of life was to be channelled into the socialist reality that was being shaped and in which alone it could come to fruition (Abusch 1964). In short, Shakespearean drama was declared to be a normative standard for socialist theatres, a standard that had to be defended against what Abusch described as the ‘clerical-militarist politics and mystifying philosophy’ of the West. At the parallel West German convention in Bochum, which was less pretentious, political counter-charges were relatively marginal. Its keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Wolfgang Clemen, who dwelt on the timeless qualities and openness of Shakespeare’s dramatic art. Another speaker, a prominent theatre historian, warned against interpretations dictated by the current Zeitgeist and drew attention to Shakespeare’s original texts and stage conditions as a source of fresh theatrical inspiration (Clemen 1965: 11–31; Melchinger 1965: 59–79). Illustration was provided by performances of various styles, ranging from a civilized Troilus and Cressida to an excitingly experimental King John contributed by the Paris Théâtre de l’Est. During the following two decades each of the two German Shakespeare societies went its own way, each more or less determined to ignore the other officially (although some personal contacts remained), to issue its own publications, and to create its own profile and rituals.4 The eastern society adhered, on Marxist-Leninist lines, to the credo that Shakespearean drama had anticipated the current battle for a humanist and socialist society. Its rituals included annual declarations of loyalty to the decisions and plans of the ruling Socialist Union Party. This


Werner Habicht

answered the question of whether or not the 1963 separation had been avoidable. The official report of 1970, for instance, celebrated it as a victory: ‘Wrenching the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft out of the grip of reactionary West Germany has been part of our class struggle against the ideologies of West German imperialism’ (Lang 1972: 246). In return, the eastern organization was amply subsidized and firmly controlled by the State. The western one, which enjoyed political independence, remained aesthetically alert if somewhat conservative, and its prominent members made internationally respected contributions to Shakespeare criticism. The ideological division also affected the ways in which the history of the German ‘discovery’ of Shakespeare and of his formative impact on German culture was remembered, reassessed, revaluated, and realigned with present conditions. In his programmatic address of 1964, East German Minister Abusch not only considered Shakespeare’s humanism and realism an essential part of the heritage of the new socialist nation that had become a reality in the GDR, but also invoked ‘the ranks of those who had first raised their voice for Shakespeare in [eighteenthcentury] Germany – Goethe, Lessing, Wieland and Herder’ (Abusch 1964: 10). These representative names were, of course, no surprise (except perhaps for the puzzlingly non-chronological order in which they were mentioned); for they were the ones that had been singled out, back in 1911, in Friedrich Gundolf’s influential cult book Shakespeare und der deutsche Geist (Shakespeare and the German Spirit), which had interpreted eighteenth-century involvement with Shakespeare as a catalyst of German literary consciousness. What was surprising (at least to West German ears if it reached them) was that Abusch immediately went on to refer to Marx and Engels, the ‘proponents of the scientific world view of socialism, which had absorbed the most progressive insights of classic poets and thinkers of the rising middle class.’ And since that scientific world view was now being materialized, the link connecting the historical Shakespeare, his early German discoverers, and the socialist present seemed an obvious one. There was no denying that Karl Marx (as well as his wife and daughters) had in fact been an avid reader of Shakespeare’s works; and it was duly pointed out that he had referred to the Bard in one or two passages of his prolific writings – quoting Timon of Athens in support of his theory of money, or drawing attention, in a more extensive epistolary exchange with Engels, to the plebeian element in Shakespeare apropos of his criticism of a minor historical play by Ferdinand Lassalle. Abusch’s official statements of

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 165

1964 were carefully pursued and elaborated. A few years later (1967) a speaker in Weimar, who was to become an often-quoted authority, expounded Marx’s Shakespearean references more thoroughly, proved them to be rooted in genuine socialist thinking, and concluded that ‘the appropriation of Shakespeare via historical and dialectic materialism’ had prepared the ground for the only kind of Shakespeare reception that ‘has been, and will be valid,’ both historically and logically (Rudolph 1969: 25–53). At the same time, another minister of culture, Klaus Gysi, again invoked, this time in correct chronological order, ‘Lessing, Herder, Goethe and Schiller’ as those who had anticipated ‘our present creative reception of Shakespeare,’ clarified by the Marxist-Leninist approach (quoted in Lang 1969: 266). Historical support for this claim was not difficult to come by. Had not the enthusiasm of the early advocates of the German Shakespeare cult and their rejection of aesthetic norms of French classicism been propelled by and connected with a liberating resistance to the feudalist structures that prevailed at the time? This was plausible enough, although it had seldom been stressed so emphatically. Even the fact that on the stage Shakespeare had reached German audiences in adapted and domesticated performances (as in F.L. Schröder’s Hamburg productions of 1776) found its explanation along these lines: adapting Shakespeare was, as an East German theatre historian asserted, a historical necessity, considering the as yet undeveloped class consciousness of middle-class audiences (Hoffmeier 1964: 24). In West Germany such streamlined Marxist views of a politically relevant continuity of Shakespeare’s German reception hardly found serious resonance. Nevertheless, discomfort with the clichés of previous presentations of the German Shakespeare tradition in terms of aesthetics and Geistesgeschichte was by no means absent. As the Swiss scholar Walter Muschg pointed out in one of the main lectures of the 1964 Bochum celebration, what had been discovered at the time of Herder and Goethe was not the true Shakespeare at all, but a spiritualized, emotionalized, and politicized myth labelled with Shakespeare’s name. By way of illustration he went on to explore the background of Ferdinand Freiligrath’s poem ‘Germany is Hamlet ...’ (1844), tracing literary fashions and political circumstances that in the 1830s had turned the Danish prince into a negative symbol of German disunity and inactivity deplored by young liberals (Muschg 1965: 32–58). Nor was Muschg the only one to expose the mythical quality of conventional and Gundolf-inspired accounts of Shakespeare’s allegedly special Ger-


Werner Habicht

man importance. When the state of traditional philological research on the matter was meticulously summarized by the American scholar Lawrence Price in his monumental work on Anglo-German literary relations, a revised German version of which appeared in 1961 (Price 1961: 223–304), it elicited Peter Michelsen’s very critical fifty-page review, published six years later (Michelsen 1967: 259–80), which pinpointed deficits of the conventional image – or ‘myth’ – of Shakespeare’s German appropriation and suggested three necessary remedies in particular: (1) a revaluation of the eighteenth-century Shakespearean interest needed a broader contextual basis; (2) establishing a connection between that primordial interest and the present time required a detailed consideration of nineteenth-century attitudes and controversies usually truncated and distorted in previous accounts (including Gundolf’s); and (3) the nationalist bias of claims to ‘unser Shakespeare’ had to be put in a broader perspective. Obviously more was needed than the naively Marxist link proposed in the East. As a Western study of Marx’s and Engels’s views on literature pointed out (Demetz 1959: 206–15), Marx’s personal Shakespeare enthusiasm was in fact of a conventional kind; by no means was he an innovative, let alone a Marxist, Shakespeare critic. Predictably, this conclusion earned vituperation from the eastern camp, where the unmentionable author’s ignorant Marxology was condemned for being the very opposite of true Marxism (Rudolph 1969: 29f.). At any rate, if Marx admired Shakespeare, so did Bismarck, as well as many arch-conservative Germans. That the cult of Shakespeare, along with his annexation as a ‘German classic,’ had been ostentatiously tied up with German nationalism and cultural imperialism, especially in the Second Reich and later on in the Third Reich, was a fact hardly to be ignored, embarrassing as it appeared in post-war West Germany, though in the East it was simply brushed aside as unworthy of serious socialist attention. Eventually it became evident on both sides that assessments of the reception history of Shakespeare needed a good deal of fresh research based on close inspection of the available textual and contextual evidence as well as on a viable theory. One of the reassuring consequences was, around 1980, the publication of two commented documentations, one in East Berlin, the other in West Berlin, each in two volumes, covering – apparently independently of each other – much the same ground (the period between eighteenth-century Enlightenment and early-nineteenth-century Romanticism). The eastern one (Stellmacher 1976), though adhering to Marxist principles, opened up new dimen-

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 167

sions by suggesting a dialectic approach to the Shakespearean connection with national literature on the one hand and world literature on the other, and by stressing supranational interdependencies. The non-Marxist western volumes (Blinn 1982, 1988) considered political as well as aesthetic implications and drew attention to the pluralism of responses to Shakespeare. This soon elicited comparative studies that considered the Shakespeare tradition on a broader, pan-European basis.5 It must, however, be added that all these volumes omitted the complex postRomantic developments, the exploration of which remained a task for the future. In both Germanys the theatre itself produced new tensions, contradictions, and subversions, especially when, from the mid-sixties, a new generation of theatre artists was ready to take over. In both states a growing recognition of Brecht’s theatrical dialectics and of his principles of demonstrative, anti-illusionist acting had a bearing on performances in general, including many Shakespearean ones. In the GDR the Brechtian legacy and the Berliner Ensemble became an accepted and influential national institution. In the FRG the Frankfurt ‘Experimenta’ of 1966, where Brecht’s theatre work was discussed and illustrated for several days, proved to be a seminal event. Peter Palitzsch, one of Brecht’s gifted pupils, who, disgusted with the building of the Berlin Wall, had emigrated to the West, continued his master’s involvement with Coriolanus by staging, in 1967 in Stuttgart, The War of the Roses, an adaptation of the Henry VI plays and Richard III in three parts, as a slaughterhouse of aristocratic power struggles. Significantly, Palitzsch went on directing not only much Brecht and Shakespeare, but Beckett and Pinter as well6 – which would have been impossible in East Germany, where not even Waiting for Godot was allowed to be seen on the stage. The West German theatre of that time was, indeed, exposed to multiple influences; it rediscovered not only Brecht, productions of whose plays in the 1970s temporarily outnumbered those of Shakespeare, but also Artaud; it was spellbound by the waves of the theatre of the absurd and, as far as Shakespeare was concerned, by Jan Kott’s ‘contemporary’ assessment of the Shakespearean grand mechanism. Hence, progressive theatre artists in West Germany reacted to the restorative mainstream, evoked visions of a total theatre, and provocatively disturbed conservative audience expectations. The provocation reached its full notoriety when classic plays, again particularly Shakespeare’s, were irreverently and iconoclastically instrumentalized in the process. Peter Zadek dissected and demolished one Shakespeare play


Werner Habicht

after another in order to reassemble and reshape each, applying debunking shock tactics so as to reflect post-modern disorientation by exhibiting, for instance, the macabre effects of war propaganda in Henry V (Held Henry [Henry the Hero], Bremen, 1964) or the incoherently mixed rotten world of Denmark to which Hamlet was playing the clown (Hamlet, Bochum, 1977).7 In the seventies, directorial approaches reached almost anarchic dimensions. For example, Hans Hollmann’s adaptation of Coriolanus (Munich, 1970) offered, no doubt under the impression of Jan Kott’s interpretation, a pessimistic restructuring of Brecht’s ‘revolutionary’ version. Peter Stein in his gigantic show Shakespeare’s Memory (West Berlin, 1976) involved audiences in explorations of Shakespeare’s historical contexts and thus prepared the ground for his equally enormous As You Like It (West Berlin, 1977), which invoked a range of intertextual associations.8 Visiting international Shakespeare productions that were seen in the seventies added extra inspiration, notably Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by which few West German performances of that comedy remained unaffected, as did Giorgio Strehler’s Italian King Lear as well as, later on, Ariane Mnouchkine’s French – but multiculturally conceived – productions of Twelfth Night and Henry IV. Most of this provocative kind of ‘rough theatre’ conspicuous in the West was officially rejected in East Germany, where the quest for the true socialist Shakespeare was at first undertaken in more conservative artistic modes. In 1964, Dieter Mäde’s Hamlet in Chemnitz (then called Karl-Marx-Stadt) suggested an ideologically acceptable resolution of the conflict between Hamlet’s feudal background and humanist ideals – a resolution that had at last become possible in the socialist present (Guntner 1993: 115). But although this was hailed as a model production meeting official requirements, even in East Germany it was not unanimously accepted as being canonical. In fact, it sparked debates on principle concerning the transformation of political concepts into dramatic practice, debates that filled the pages of East German theatre journals for several months.9 A rival rendering of Hamlet by Adolf Dresen in Greifswald in the same year, in a new, modernized and theatre-oriented translation by Maik Hamburger, offered an alternative view, displaying a Hamlet who tragically ends up a victim of his contradictions – contradictions in which the East German audiences would seem to have sensed their very real predicament: the unresolved conflict between the ideal of a socialist state and the inhuman despotism of the regime that proclaimed it. This latter production, however, despite

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 169

its audience success, had to disappear from the stage after only a few performances. Frictions between what ideologists expected and what artists achieved were indeed frequent enough. Perhaps the most notorious case is that of the East German dramatist Heiner Müller, whom many consider as Brecht’s most legitimate successor. Although he was a convinced Marxist, his plays offered a critical view of the distortions of socialist ideals in the East German reality and were for this reason banned from the stage, despite the international recognition they increasingly enjoyed in the Western world. Müller seemed to fare better when he turned to classic matter and to Shakespeare, whose As You Like It he presented in a modern translation. When his adaptation of Macbeth (1971), performed in East Berlin under Benno Besson’s direction, dissected the irrationalities of power politics, public response was divided; and when he went on to subvert traditional Shakespearean concepts in his Hamletmaschine (1977), and later in Anatomie Titus Fall of Rome (1985), these works were first performed not in East Germany but, respectively, in Paris and in West German Bochum (Müller 1985, 1989; Petersohn 1993). Still, Shakespearean contradictions could not be suppressed or smoothed out permanently by the GDR authorities, who insisted on politically predetermined concepts. The impressive Shakespeare productions of Fritz Bennewitz in the sixties, for example, certainly met with ideological approval, and many of them were shown at the Shakespeare-Gesellschaft conventions in Weimar. But outside observers (such as the reviewers of the leading West German theatre journal Theater heute) were quick to observe that their impact was partly due to Western influences, that in Bennewitz’s Romeo and Juliet (1963) both the opening and the balcony scene were clearly inspired by Franco Zeffirelli’s London production of 1960, that his Troilus and Cressida (1964?) reminded one of the precedent of Planchon, and that in his Richard III (1964) the demonizing presentation of the protagonist resembled Kortner’s Munich production of that history play in 1963 and even owed something to the views of Jan Kott, however unmentionable these were in East Germany (Wendt 1963: 19; Rischbieter 1964: 26). But in fact, discussions there, too, began to assume a new quality. Advanced Marxist critics stepped forward to devise, in uncommonly close contact with theatre practice, more workable formulas. Robert Weimann in particular demonstrated, on the basis of historical analyses of the stage– audience relationship, that tensions and mutually enlightening interactions between the Shakespeare embedded in his own period and his


Werner Habicht

significance in the light of present realities, if approached dialectically, would necessarily yield unpredictable results (Weimann 1967a, b). Though hard-line Communists were reluctant to accept such a view, it did work in Wekwerth’s East Berlin production of Richard III (1972), which elaborated the twofold appeal of Richard Gloucester as tyrant and clown; and to some extent it also worked in Karge and M. Langhoff’s Othello (1972), with the serious comedy of its plebeian Iago.10 In the 1980s the East German theatre went on much further in such directions, consciously absorbing international tendencies that were in the air and implicitly challenging the very principles of humanist realism that had been propagated by Abusch in 1964. A Dresden Hamlet of 1987, for instance, contained an elaborate parody of the Prince’s advice to the actors, which Abusch had cited in justification of the mimetic quality of the desirable humanist-realist kind of Shakespeare performance. To an even greater extent, questionable harmonies and utopias were exhibited in performances of the comedies. Back in 1969 Bennewitz’s Weimar production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream had still emphasized the harmony ultimately achieved by dint of a social activity capable of reconciling emotional disturbances and class distinctions (Bennewitz 1970: 11–28). But East German Midsummer Night’s Dreams of the 1980s insisted on the very disturbances and presented the forest scenes as nightmares, with Oberon and Puck as gangsters who, to ensure their totalitarian power, forcibly drugged Demetrius and Lysander, so that the latter then woke up with gestures of brutal aggression, as in Alexander Lang’s East Berlin production of 1980. In Thomas Langhoff’s eastern Dream of the same year the wood was a realm of madness and delusory love. The vision of a socialist utopia had turned into the frustration of a young generation entrapped in a restrictive state ruled by criminal old men (Hamburger 1987: 51–61; Guntner 1993: 122–8). Performance styles of these and other Shakespeare productions now began to resemble and to converge with trends that prevailed in the West, where the Shakespeare iconoclasm of the seventies gave way to an eclectic search for popular icons mediating between the Shakespearean energies and a post-modern consciousness – as, for instance, in Andrea Breth’s Bochum production of Twelfth Night (1988), whose images ranged from an Orsino modelled on Dürer’s self-portrait to Malvolio’s ordeal in a scenario familiar from gangster films. The West German scene was further enriched by new indigenous experimental projects such as those of the Bremer Shakespeare Company, and

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 171

also by international imports such as those introduced by Robert Wilson, whose Frankfurt King Lear with a female protagonist proved altogether remarkable. Such fresh impulses were no longer stopped by the Berlin Wall. The enclosed East German audiences appear to have been affected by them more immediately and vitally, besides being responsive to many incidental oppositional touches. Indeed, the ideological lines of demarcation began to erode in several respects, and the Berlin Wall proved to be somewhat less impenetrable than it had been. East German theatre artists suspected of non-conformism were permitted (or even encouraged) to go to the West, where they enriched the cultural scene. Earlier on, distinctions had even been made between East and West German Shakespeare translations; for, as an East German expert had maintained, the socialist re-appropriation of Shakespeare was favoured by the emergence of new translators such as Rudolf Schaller or Maik Hamburger, whose work, however different in style, was capable of replacing the classic ‘Schlegel-Tieck’ rendering associated with bourgeois theatre, especially since new translations were being shaped in the process of practical theatre work (Walch 1977: 168). But it was soon obvious that none of this had much to do with the GDR’s ‘real existing socialism’; for the popularity of the traditional ‘Schlegel-Tieck’ translation remained undiminished in both the East and the West. No less progressive new translators were active in the West and competed with the eastern ones, as did Erich Fried or Frank Günther; and the habit of re-translating Shakespeare for individual productions became common practice. Shakespeare criticism offered a comparable picture. After 1964 the annual reports in the East German Shakespeare Jahrbuch never failed to inveigh against the late-bourgeois, elitarian, revisionist, existentialist, nihilist, non-committal, and ultimately useless aesthetic Shakespeare criticism practised in West Germany, for all the good repute its chief proponents enjoyed among Shakespeare’s countrymen and their transatlantic cousins. In the book-review section of the very same eastern volumes, however, their writings were treated with respect and according to their intrinsic merits, with at most an occasional expression of regret about their non-Marxist orientation. But then theoretical Marxism became a facet in the Western critical spectrum as well. On the other side a prominent East German Marxist such as Robert Weimann conscientiously absorbed and discussed the scholarship and theoretical approaches of his Western (not merely West German) colleagues. And


Werner Habicht

in the wake of a Shakespeare World Congress held in West Berlin in 1986, even the two German Shakespeare societies cautiously sounded prospects for future cooperation. When the Wall came down in 1989 and when Germany was reunited a year later, it was the implosion and disappearance of the German Democratic Republic that was reflected in two grand Shakespeare productions on what used to be East German territory. One was – not surprisingly – a Hamlet, a seven-hour spectacle translated, staged, and enlarged by Heiner Müller, the East German dramatist whose work had been banned in the East and applauded in the West, and who also incorporated the negative hero of his Hamletmaschine. The other was A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Weimar. Near the beginning of the latter, Theseus posed like a dictator eager to celebrate his power rather than his wedding with the reluctant Amazon. Small wonder that characters with normal sensibilities escaped into the woods, which in the middle acts were presented on a revolving stage, a parody of the enchanted forest of Max Reinhardt’s legendary Berlin production of 1905, now made up of metallic trees and bushes, between which an oversized mechanical bug moved grotesquely. In that wood human relationships dissolved into a chaos. Practically everyone was involved – not only the quarrelling fairies, the misguided four lovers, and the mechanicals frightened by Bottom’s transformation, but also Hippolyta trying to escape from her wedding, and even a man from the audience who looked like Erich Honecker. (Puck, before administering the magic juice to the wrong lover, first tried it out on himself, glanced toward the stalls, fell in love with the Honecker type sitting in the front row, and went down to lead him into the macabre and revolving wood.) The chaos was acted out to the bitter end. The magically deluded lovers, deprived of all their Athenian weeds, not only quarrelled, but killed one another. In the last act the festive courtly society sat in silent immobility at the back of the stage, which by then was bare and bleak, like functionaries at the head of a communist people’s congress. Or were they, as Sorge seems to suggest (1994: 55), capitalist invaders from West Germany? But they were already dead bodies; when tipped by a remaining fairy they fell over like a row of dominoes. The mechanicals, those deceived members of the proletariat, were left alone – and rather helpless – with the studied parts of their play about Pyramus and Thisbe. This Weimar Midsummer Night’s Dream was a deeply disturbing experience. Its director was a young East German hardly known until then, Leander Haussmann, who soon became a shooting star of the German

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 173

theatre scene and who in 1995 was installed as director of the Bochum playhouse. In 1993, the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, with its seats in Weimar and in Bochum, was formally reunited. The East-West polarization of German Shakespeare reception thus came to an end, while revivals of nationalist notions of ‘unser Shakespeare’ entertained in the more remote past remained unthinkable. What followed was a pluralism of critical approaches underpinned by international theoretical debates, and performance trends that were in touch with and contributed to global developments.

NOTES 1 Some passages of the present essay are based on my earlier 1995 article ‘Shakespeare in Divided Germany.’ 2 See, for example, J. Frühling, H. Kersten et al. 1964. Occasional reports were published in the leading West German theatre journal, Theater heute. 3 Von Ledebur’s detailed account of the separation relies mainly on West German documentary sources and on East German publications. Unpublished East German material that has since become accessible reveals that the separation was the result of a firm political intention in the East. 4 In East Germany, the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft’s annual publication, founded in 1865, was, from 1964, published in Weimar under its traditional title Shakepeare Jahrbuch, but in a new format. The parallel West German annual, published in Heidelberg up until 1981 and then in Bochum, retained the traditional format, but changed the title to Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft West: Jahrbuch. Since reunification, the journal, titled Shakespeare Jahrbuch, has been published in Bochum. 5 See, for instance, Bauer 1988. 6 See the list of Palitzsch’s productions in Mennicken 1993. 7 Zadek’s controversial Shakespeare productions also included Measure for Measure (Bremen), King Lear, The Merchant of Venice (both Bochum), Othello, and The Winter’s Tale (both Hamburg). His later productions (since the late 1980s) of Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Richard III were by comparison more subdued. For details see Canaris 1979. 8 Other Shakespeare productions of that phase of an autonomous director’s theatre are discussed in Moninger 1996. See also Hortmann 1998: 220–35. 9 A lengthy debate went on in the East German journal Theater der Zeit; see issues 8, 12, 13, 17, and 18 of 1964, and 12 of 1965. 10 West German reactions to these productions were, however, not entirely uncritical. See, for instance, Rischbieter 1972: 12 and Michaelis 1972: 41.


Werner Habicht

REFERENCES Abusch, Alexander. 1964. Shakespeare: Realist und Humanist, Genius der Weltliteratur, [East] Berlin: Aufbau Verlag. Bauer, Roger, ed. 1988. Das Shakespeare-Bild in Europa zwischen Aufklärung und Romantik. Frankfurt a. M.: Lang. Bennewitz, Fritz. 1970. ‘Ein Sommernachtstraum am Deutschen Nationaltheater Weimar.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 106: 11–28. Blinn, Hansjürgen, ed. 1982, 1988. Shakespeare-Rezeption: Die Diskussion um Shakespeare in Deutschland. 2 vols., [West] Berlin: Schmidt. Brunkhorst, Martin. 1973. Shakespeares ‘Coriolanus’ in deutscher Bearbeitung. [West] Berlin: de Gruyter. Canaris, Volker. 1979. Peter Zadek: Der Theatermann und Filmemacher. Munich: Hanser. Clemen, Wolfgang. 1965. ‘Das Drama Shakespeares.’ Deutsche ShakespeareGesellschaft West: Jahrbuch 1965 (Heidelberg): 11–31. Demetz, Peter. 1959. Marx, Engels und die Dichter. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt. Findeisen, Helmut. 1964. ‘Shakespeare Festwoche in Weimar.’ Das Hochschulwesen (Jena): 605–7. Frühling, J., H. Kersten, et al. 1964. Theater hinter dem ‘Eisernen Vorhang.’ Hamburg and Vienna: Basilius Presse. Grass, Günter. 1968. ‘Vor- und Nachgeschichte der Tragödie des Coriolanus von Livius und Plutarch über Shakespeare bis zu Brecht und mir.’ In Grass, Die Plebejer proben den Aufstand, 101–24. Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer. Guntner, Lawrence. 1993. ‘Brecht and Beyond: Shakespeare on the East German Stage.’ In Kennedy, ed., 109–39. Habicht, Werner. 1995. ‘Shakespeare in Divided Germany.’ Shakespeare in Southern Africa 8: 30–9. Habicht, W., D.J. Palmer, and R. Pringle, eds. 1988. Images of Shakespeare. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. Hamburger, Maik. 1987. ‘New Concepts of Staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Shakespeare Survey 40: 51–61. – 1995. ‘“Are You a Party in This Business?”’: Consolidation and Subversion in East German Theatre Productions.’ Shakespeare Survey 48: 171–84. Hattaway, Michael, Boika Sokolova, and Derek Roper, eds. 1994. Shakespeare in the New Europe. Sheffield: Academic Press. Hoffmeier, Dieter. 1964. ‘Die Einbürgerung Shakespeares auf dem Theater des Sturm und Drang.’ In Schriften zur Theaterwissenschaft, ed. Rolf Rohmer, vol. 3, pt 1: 7–266. Berlin: Henschel.

Shakespeare and the Berlin Wall 175 Hortmann, Wilhelm. 1988. ‘Changing Modes in Hamlet Production: Rediscovering Shakespeare after the Iconoclasts.’ In Habicht, Palmer, and Pringle, eds, 220–35. – 1998. Shakespeare on the German Stage: The Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kennedy, Dennis, ed. 1993. Foreign Shakespeare: Contemporary Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kuckhoff, Armin-Gerd. 1964. Das Drama William Shakespeares. [East] Berlin: Henschel. Lang, Otto. 1969. ‘Jahresbericht: Die Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft im Geschäftsjahr 1968.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 105: 257–68. – 1972. ‘Jahresbericht: Die Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft im Geschäftsjahr 1971.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 108: 235–52. Ledebur, Ruth von. 1974. Deutsche Shakespeare-Rezeption seit 1945. Frankfurt a. M.: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft. Melchinger, Siegfried. 1965. ‘Shakespeare heute.’ Deutsche ShakespeareGesellschaft West: Jahrbuch 1965 (Heidelberg): 59–79. Mennicken, Rainer. 1993. Peter Palitzsch. Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer. Michaelis, Rolf. 1972. ‘Metropole Ostberlin.’ Theater heute (Berlin) 12: 38–41. Michelsen, Peter. 1967. ‘Review of Lawrence M. Price’s Die Aufnahme Englischer Literatur in Deutschland 1500–1960.’ Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen (Göttingen) 219: 239–82. Mittenzwei, Werner. 1972. Brechts Verhältnis zur Tradition. [East] Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Mittenzwei, Werner. ed. 1972. Theater in der Zeitenwende: Zur Geschichte des Dramas und Schauspieltheaters in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. 2 vols. [East] Berlin: Henschel. Moninger, Markus. 1996. Shakespeare inszeniert: Das westdeutsche Regietheater und die Theatertradition des ‘dritten deutschen Klassikers.’ Tübingen: Niemeyer. Müller, Heiner. 1985, 1989. Shakespeare Factory. 2 vols. Berlin: Rotbuch. Muschg, Walter. 1965. ‘Deutschland ist Hamlet.’ Deutsche ShakespeareGesellschaft West: Jahrbuch 1965 (Heidelberg): 32–58. Petersohn, Roland. 1993. Heiner Müllers Shakespeare-Rezeption. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang. Pfister, Manfred. 1994. ‘Hamlets Made in Germany, East and West.’ In Hattaway, Sokolova, and Roper, eds, 76–91. Price, Lawrence Marsden. 1961. Die Aufnahme Englischer Literatur in Deutschland 1500–1960. Bern: Francke. Rischbieter, Henning. 1964. ‘Klassenkampf und Elfenreigen.’ Theater heute (Berlin) 6: 26–7.


Werner Habicht

– 1972. ‘Schmale Wege zu Shakespeare.’ Theater heute (Berlin) 5: 12–14. Rudolph, Johanna. 1969. ‘Karl Marx und Shakespeare.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 105: 25–53. Sorge, Thomas. 1994. ‘Buridan’s Ass between Two Performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Bottom’s Telos in the GDR and After.’ In Hattaway, Sokolova, and Roper, eds, 54–74. Stellmacher, Wolfgang, ed. 1976. Auseinandersetzung mit Shakespeare: Texte zur deutschen Shakespeare-Aufnahme. 2 vols. [East] Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. Ullrich, Peter. 1994. ‘Erinnerungen an Hamlet.’ Shakespeare-Jahrbuch (Bochum): 143–8. Walch, Eva. 1977. ‘Zur Praxis und Kritik der Shakespeare-Übersetzung in der DDR.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 113: 168–77. Weimann, Robert. 1967a. ‘Shakespeare on the Modern Stage: Past Significance and Present Meaning.’ Shakespeare Survey 20: 113–20. – 1967b. Shakespeare und die Tradition des Volkstheaters. [East] Berlin: Henschel. Wendt, Ernst. 1963. ‘Gefesseltes Theater?: Eindrücke von einer Reise in die Zone.’ Theater heute (Berlin) 7: 11–29.

In Search of a Socialist Shakespeare: Hamlet on East German Stages lawrence guntner

The history of Shakespeare performance on the East German stage may be described as a continual process of redefining the dialectical tension between the past significance and present meaning of Shakespearean drama. This redefinition took place on three levels: First, as a re-appropriation of classic German drama, including Shakespeare, and as a forerunner of a socialist future. Shakespeare’s text and Shakespeare, the historical person, were employed to hold a mirror up to the social injustices and contradictions at the base of bourgeois society in early modern England as well as the kind of reasoning on which underlying it was based. Second, Shakespeare was seen by some, most notably by Brecht, as a model for a new kind of realistic theatre, sometimes referred to as ‘epic theatre,’ that would free Shakespeare from the past and make him freshly relevant for a present-day audience. Third, Shakespeare was a patient on which the deconstruction of a mimetic theatre tradition could be tested and with it the legitimacy and authority of the world it had once represented. In a state in which for all practical purposes a ‘public sphere’ did not exist, the stage came to assume the function of a public forum where cultural ideology and, by extension, the state could be staged, debated, and critiqued. Although ‘censorship’ did not officially exist, there were, nevertheless, subtle, and not so subtle, ways by which what was performed, or how it was performed, could be influenced. This could range from keeping a play from being performed to having a play removed from the repertoire. All seasonal repertoires had to be approved by the Direktion für Bühnenrepertoire, which was established as a subdivision of the Ministry for Culture in 1973. Newspapers, television, radio, and books could be, and were, more easily ‘censored’1 – or


Lawrence Guntner

imposed upon themselves a kind of self-censorship – but stage performance was notoriously unpredictable. As the gap between official proclamations and everyday reality became too great to ignore, and as contemporary East German drama was not allowed to deal critically and honestly with contemporary social conditions, theatre ensembles increasingly turned to classical drama, especially German classics and Shakespeare, to assume the role of critical journalists and political commentators. For this reason the East German stage enjoyed a legitimacy and authority that the party had lost (Weigel 1998: 220–2). The stage was instrumental in shaping a political awareness and instilling a new self-confidence in the people that finally led to the non-violent ‘changeover’ (Wende) in 1989, and it was not without reason that the huge mass demonstration by one million East Germans for democracy in East Berlin, on 4 November 1989, the largest in German history, was organized by theatre people. Hamlet had been a vehicle for staging German desires and anxieties, psychological or political, long before the existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In fact, it has become a commonplace to begin essays on Shakespeare in Germany by quoting the first line of Ferdinand Freiligrath’s patriotic poem ‘Hamlet’ (1844): ‘Germany is Hamlet’ (Deutschland ist Hamlet), and there is justification for reading German history in terms of Hamlet, that ‘most German’ of plays; German intellectuals have often ‘self-fashioned’ themselves and their role in history in terms of the character of the hesitant prince.2 Hamlet was also central to Socialist Unity Party cultural politics for a number of reasons. First, there was a long tradition of reverence for Shakespeare in the German workers’ movement and the German Social Democratic Party. Founding fathers Ferdinand Lasalle, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels3 could readily identify with Hamlet’s predicament as a believer in humanist ideals in an age unready for them: as such, Hamlet could be seen as a precursor of a socialist future. And like Hamlet, German socialists felt it was ‘cursed spite,’ that is, their historical mission, to set the nation right after the calamity of fascism. Second, Hamlet´s admonition to the Players to hold a mirror up to nature affirmed an illusionist mode of acting in line with the Stalinist version of ‘socialist realism’ propagated by the Soviet Union. Third, Hamlet´s use of ‘The Mousetrap’ to expose the guilt of Claudius provided an example for the political function of theatre in constructing a socialist society. Fourth, the appearance of Fortinbras at the end of the play could be read as a

Hamlet on East German Stages 179

sign that Hamlet´s work would continue to bear fruit for succeeding generations in the future. Thus, it was not without reason that Hamlet was the first Shakespearean play to be performed at the Deutsches Theater in the Soviet Occupational Zone of Berlin after it reopened following the Second World War, and ironically Hamlet was on the boards there again when the curtain came down on the GDR in 1990. Hence, there is justification for viewing Hamlet performances as a barometer, a dramatic accompaniment, and a running commentary on the course of Eastern German history from its incipience as the ‘SBZ’ (Sovietische Besatzungszone) to its establishment as the ‘GDR’ (1949) to its ingestion into the ‘FRG’ (Federal Republic of Germany) (1990). But under which ideological or political ‘fardels’ did this ‘socialist’ Hamlet ‘grunt and sweat’ when he entered the stage? As a partial answer to this question, I will look at five different productions of the play between 1945 and 1990, to argue that despite all of his transcendent and ‘universalist’ qualities, Shakespeare on the stages of the German Democratic Republic was always performed and understood within a particular historical and political context. Or, to borrow Terry Hawkes’s oft-quoted phrase: ‘Shakespeare doesn’t mean: we mean by Shakespeare’ (Hawkes 1992: 3). By the end of the Second World War, eighty-nine German theatres lay in ruins, and at least 4000 actors and actresses had fled, most them never to return.4 They took with them a rich acting tradition impossible to restore overnight. More devastating than the Allied bombs were the effects of what Bertolt Brecht called ‘GöringTheater.’5 He specified them in an address to the First Pan-German Cultural Congress in Leipzig in 1951: ‘[T]he means of artistic expression had been completely destroyed ... [P]oetry had become declamation, artistry artifice ... [I]nstead of the exemplary we had the representative, instead of passion, temperament’ (Berliner Ensemble 1952: 7–8). Many, especially Social Democrats and Communists, saw Germany as being in the midst of a Zeitenwende, a time of historical changeover from the capitalist to the socialist age, in which the stage would play an important role as a political-pedagogical force. Friedrich Wolf, influential playwright of the Weimar Republic, returned from exile in Moscow, called for drama to become ‘a weapon’ as well as a ‘tool to construct a new world’ (Wolf 1968: 250). Hardly had the armistice been signed than the heavily damaged Deutsches Theater reopened, on 7 September 1945, with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan the Wise (1779), a play banned under the


Lawrence Guntner

Nazis because of its Jewish protagonist and its moving plea for religious tolerance. Three months later, on 11 December, a production of Hamlet directed by Gustav von Wangenheim, also returned from Soviet exile, opened with a cast that embodied the contradictory elements in post-war Germany. It included darlings of the Nazi stage and screen (Horst Caspar), exiles (Heinrich Greif), and ‘domestic emigrants’ who had refused to cooperate with the Nazis (Gerda Müller). The production linked the critical performance tradition of the Weimar Republic, much abused during the previous twelve years, with elements taken from proletarian workers’ theatre in which Wangenheim himself had played a leading role.6 This production staged the play with an eye to inspiring his audience with hope for and conviction in a better socialist future (Kuckhoff 1998: 60–3; Hamburger 1998: 370–2). Fortinbras (Heinrich Greif), tall and blond, was intended to embody that bright future. He wore a light-coloured costume, and two spotlights (all of the lighting available at the time) were trained on him when he entered. Wangenheim moved the final scene down to the forestage, close to the audience, to make Fortinbras, Hamlet’s heir, tangible and visible for the audience, seated in an unheated auditorium with a leaky roof over their heads. For Wangenheim, the message of the play was ‘What a piece of work is man!’ Hence, Hamlet was portrayed as man with a mission, a role model, who took action against ‘a sea of troubles’ for the sake of a more humane world, even at the cost of his own life. Central for Wangenheim were ‘The Mousetrap’ and Hamlet’s instructions to the Players ‘to hold a mirror up to nature.’7 The play within a play served as a metaphor for the political role of the theatre in forging a socialist reality, and Hamlet’s remarks on mimetic realism were to become the orthodox credo for Shakespeare performance in the GDR until 1964. In a speech to young members of the audience on 3 February 1946, Wangenheim called out: ‘Be radical like Hamlet. Think things through to the end. Act with decision! We are more fortunate than Shakespeare’s Hamlet because we know the way out. We understand the purpose of our struggle’ (Wangenheim 1964: 62; my translation). It was not until 1957, however, after the Soviet Union had officially recognized the German Democratic Republic as a sovereign state, that the country began to develop its own cultural policy. The ‘Bitterfeld Way’ (Bitterfelder Weg, after an enormous chemical processing centre newly erected in Bitterfeld, near Halle) was an attempt to bridge the gap between ‘life and art,’ ‘artist and citizen,’ and enlist the arts in

Hamlet on East German Stages 181

creating a new social order. For theatre that meant an emphasis on (contemporary) ‘socialist realism’: plays dealing with the contemporary reality of the GDR and allied Communist countries, particularly the Soviet Union. Another pillar was to be the appropriation of the dramatic canon of world literature for a socialist culture (Guntner 1998: 34). However, ‘unser Shakespeare’ (our Shakespeare) was not assigned a major role in the Bitterfeld Way, even though theatres continued to stage Shakespeare with an eye to the ‘restoration of humanist values on a rationalist, atheist basis’ (Hamburger 1998: 372). Sometimes they were staged as conventional character studies, but at others they were staged from ‘below,’ that is, by emphasizing the social situation and the plebeian viewpoint of figures, who had been dismissed earlier as comic relief: the Gravedigger in Hamlet, the Porter in Macbeth, or the Gardener in Richard II. However, Brecht´s ideas about a non-cathartic and nonillusionist theatre and their application to Shakespeare performance, even though admired abroad, did not advance far beyond the walls of the Berliner Ensemble in East Germany until after 1964. The construction of the Berlin Wall in August of 1961 restricted not only the day-to-day life of the East German population, but also the theatre. The ‘material’ Wall of bricks, concrete, and barbed wire soon became a ‘cultural wall’ to keep unwanted cultural developments out and dissidents in line. If it limited the performing space to the GDR, it also defined its borders more clearly and provided an ideological backdrop against which players and spectators could more easily negotiate their own meaning. For the theatre, there were still empty spaces and niches to discover and exploit. The year 1964 marked Shakespeare’s quatercentenary, and it was celebrated with 742 performances of Shakespeare in 46 productions on stages throughout East Germany. That year also marked the one hundredth birthday of the venerable German Shakespeare society, the oldest and largest literary society in Germany, and the largest Shakespeare society in the world at that time. Keen to encourage cultural identification between their citizens and ‘the first Workers and Farmers State on German soil,’ the Party took advantage of this occasion to proclaim continuity between the humanist ideals manifest in Shakespeare´s drama and a ‘socialist’ national culture. The significance of the occasion was underlined by the fact that the keynote address was given by Alexander Abusch, Minister for Culture as well as deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers; Walter Ulbricht, the head of state, himself was in attendance, and the speech was televised live to the nation.


Lawrence Guntner

Entitling his remarks ‘Shakespeare, Realist and Humanist, Genius of World Literature,’ Abusch proclaimed a continuity in ideals and humanist values from Shakespeare down through Schiller and Goethe to Marx and Engels. Shakespeare’s dramas affirmed a positive view of humanity that transcended class bounds and anticipated a socialist culture (Abusch 1964: 19ff.). Hence, Shakespeare could reasonably be seen as one element in a ‘positive national heritage’ and as kind of ‘pioneer’ or ‘champion’ (Vorkämpfer) of socialist ideals. For Abusch, the significance and relevance of Shakespeare’s drama should be seen in terms of a developing socialist future, in which the humanist ideals manifest in his plays could finally be realized. For theatre people, Abusch´s remarks were a welcome signal that Shakespeare had been officially rehabilitated and could now be performed without having to be justified to any party functionaries responsible for culture. At the Second Bitterfeld Conference, held immediately after the anniversary festivities in Weimar, Shakespeare was set up as the ‘the great innovator’ (der grosse Erneuerer), an example to be emulated, a normative standard to be imitated, and impossible for any aspiring dramatist to match. As if he had foreseen Abusch’s elaborations in Weimar, Hans-Dieter Mäde directed a production of Hamlet at the civic theatre in Karl-MarxStadt (now Chemnitz again) that defined Hamlet´s predicament as that of a good man who was born too early. In a paper presented to the Shakespeare Society in Weimar one year later, Mäde claimed that even though Hamlet had been destroyed by the contradictions inherent in an archaic social order, his ideals had been realized in the socialist present of the GDR. Mäde´s production was based on the idea of continuity between the feudal – Elizabethan – past of Hamlet and the socialist present of the audience.8 Ulf Kreyn, writing in the official theatre journal Theater der Zeit, echoed Abusch: ‘What was once a yearning in Shakespeare, a perspective longed and hoped for, reaches our audiences today as a modern aim in life’ (Kreyn 1964: 384; trans. Maik Hamburger). This was a view of Hamlet in line with official Bitterfeld Way cultural policy, and predictably Mäde’s production was praised in all the official organs as both an example to be emulated and an antidote to Jan Kott’s Shakespeare Our Contemporary, which had appeared in German translation in 1964.9 The apron stage was extended by a ramp into the auditorium, the curtain was done away with, and the background was kept greyish and dark, symbolizing the past. Mäde used lighting rather than scenery to

Hamlet on East German Stages 183

accentuate the performers and occasionally had to resort to rows of mute soldiers with spears to separate the dark feudal past on the backstage from the lighter modern present on the forestage. The masses were kept in grey, the court wore costumes in various shades of red, and Hamlet wore the traditional black, as did Fortinbras (Guntner 1998: 37; Hamburger 1998: 384–5; Ullrich 1994: 145–6). Jürgen Hentsch as Hamlet – slender, melancholic, hypersensitive, introverted, intellectual – committed his bloody deeds in the dark grey background, the feudal past, and held his monologues spotlighted on the ramp in the midst of the audience, that is, projected into the socialist present. Yet rather than being directed at the audience, they were overheard by the audience. This staging was the opposite of a plebian, ‘folk theatre’ approach to Shakespeare performance. It relegated the audience to passive eavesdroppers rather than interacting with them to constitute the ‘meaning’ of the play. A more central criticism was levelled by dramaturge and theatre critic Alexander Weigel: this production idealized Hamlet by removing his conflict from the past and relocating it in the socialist present of the audience (Weigel 1964a: 20–2, 1964b: 8–10). It also posited a consensus between the audience and the subtext of the performance, which, as we shall see, was not always the case, not even in 1964. As if he had taken a cue from Brecht rather than Abusch,10 Adolf Dresen laid bare a different approach to Hamlet when he staged the play in Greifswald (April 1964). His production put the finger on a contradiction ignored in Mäde’s production – that between Hamlet’s lofty ideals and his bloody deeds, between Hamlet the hesitant humanist and Hamlet the revenger. Hamlet invents all kinds of reasons for not killing Claudius right off, and, as a consequence, he murders six other innocent people before he finally gets around to ‘the bloody business.’ For Dresen, as for Brecht, Hamlet‘s hesitation was ‘reasonable’ behaviour in the face of an unreasonable situation, and a virtue rather than a vice.11 There were, for Dresen, strong elements of both the irrational and the rational in the play, as much of Freud as of Marx. His reading of the play contradicted both the bourgeois Romantic tradition that saw Hamlet’s delay as an ‘unreasonable’ (that is, irrational) character weakness as well as the socialist tradition that saw Hamlet’s hesitation as ‘reasonable’ (that is, rational) given the historical situation in which he finds himself. A leitmotif of the production was ‘Buchenwald is near Weimar,’ which it is geographically. This production suggested that if Deutschland were, indeed, Hamlet as the poet Freiligrath claimed, that is, ‘poor in deeds and rich in thought’ (tatenarm und gedankenvoll), as


Lawrence Guntner

Hamlet berserk. Hamlet, directed by Adolf Dresen (Greifswald, 1964). Hamlet – Jürgen Holtz

Hamlet on East German Stages 185

the German poet Hölderlin phrased it, then recent German history could be compared to a deranged Hamlet who had put aside the Weimar heritage of civilized, enlightened reason and barbarically transformed Europe into a heap of smoldering ruins. Like Brecht, Dresen felt that ‘Hamlet is a play about the failure of reason’ (Dresen 1992: 17). Yet this production was neither a study in psychology (individual or national) nor a lecture on the continuity of ideals between the Renaissance past and a socialist future. Rather, Dresen’s staging exposed the contradictions at work in the play and made these contradictions contemporary for the audience. Exactly the opposite tack had been taken in the officially praised Karl-Marx-Stadt performance. In Greifswald the audience became the constituting link in negotiating the meaning of the performance. This was due not the least to the enthusiasm for acting and the unpredictable spontaneity of Jürgen Holtz as Hamlet. Holtz’s Hamlet was a conscious break with both the psychologizing of the bourgeois tradition, which dated back to the Romantics, and the idealizing of the orthodox party position, which tried to show Hamlet as an anticipator of the socialist ‘image of humanity’ (Menschenbild). It was also tantamount to an assault on official cultural policy that aimed at appropriating Shakespeare to demonstrate continuity between past and present, a harmony between past and present ideals and actions. This break with tradition was underlined by the appearance and dramatic portrayal of the characters. Whereas Jürgen Hentsch as Hamlet had been tall, slender, hypersensitive, and full of self-doubt, Jürgen Holtz’s Hamlet was on the corpulent side and often out of breath, extroverted, straightforward, and unusually agile for a man of his size, but in line with Brecht´s fantasizing about Richard Burbage, the first Hamlet, as ‘overweight and short of breath ... fat and asthmatic’ (Brecht 1963, 5: 123 and 1: 108). Holtz rattled off his monologues with gusto down front, close to and at the audience. He obviously relished playing the merry madman killer, frequently punctuating his antics with a bleating laugh. Balding, slight of build, and dressed in black kneepants, Rupert Ritzi, who played Claudius, resembled more an aged, yet traditional, German Hamlet than the traditional German Claudius, who is often overweight and overconfident. The performance worked at making every possible hidden or ambiguous aspect, every contradiction, visible and obvious to the audience. In the ‘nunnery scene,’ for example, Hamlet’s abrasive upbraiding of Ophelia was provoked by the very visible movement of the curtain behind which Polonius and Claudius were eavesdropping. In the ‘closet scene,’ Holtz stabbed with


Lawrence Guntner

glee into the curtain and then paraded around the stage with protruding chest to show off his deed, only to fall into deep self-pitying remorse immediately thereafter. In the meantime, a puddle of blood from the dying Polonius spread from behind the curtain. In the final duel scene, Holtz discarded his dagger and in a manic frenzy went after Laertes with everything he could get his hands on, even hurling chairs and tables.12 This mode of performance – ‘artistic yet natural, realistic yet stylized’ (Brecht) – was a realization of Brecht’s plan to apply the tradition of the ‘Volkstheater’ to Shakespeare before the Berliner Ensemble performed Coriolanus (25 Sept. 1964), their very first Shakespeare production. The Dresen production was taken by official commentators as a direct critique of the ideals of a socialist society. However, personal animosities, professional envy, and political opportunism, not to mention stupidity and the harsh criticism of the translation, may have also played a role. In a letter to Kurt Bork, Deputy Minister of Culture, Dresen protested that the performance had no intentions of being subversive, but was rather an honest contribution to the discussion regarding the role of Shakespeare during the quatercentenary year (reprinted in Dresen 2000: 28). Nevertheless, the performance was taken off the bill after only twelve performances and criticized on the grounds of being an example of ‘left-wing radicalism’ and for ‘denigrating the classical heritage, and the humanist view of mankind’ (Dresen 1992: 17). The script as well as production stills by theatre photographer Wolfhard Theile were confiscated, television reports on the performance were not allowed to be broadcast, the actors were dismissed at the end of the season, and Dresen himself was sent off to work on an oil rig in Mecklenburg.13 He was rescued from this intermezzo of manual work by Wolfgang Heinz, the superintendent of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, who offered him a position as director in his theatre. However, the performance made a lasting impression on playwrights, directors, and critics on the cutting edge, especially those of the younger generation; the stage workers even hid the decorations for over a year in the hope that the production would be rehabilitated after all. Although ignored by official GDR theatre histories, the production quickly assumed legendary status and, since the changeover in 1989, has become recognized as both a milestone and a watershed in the reception of Shakespeare in East Germany (Sorge 1990: 24–40). Whereas Hans-Dieter Mäde had used a translation by Rudolf Schaller (the officially sanctioned East German Shakespeare translator), Dresen,

Hamlet on East German Stages 187

together with Maik Hamburger, translated the play into a lively contemporary German geared to the needs of actors rather than the interests of philologists or literary critics. If the performance disturbed, or inspired, directors, actors, and critics, the translation by Hamburger and Dresen upset members of the East German Shakespeare establishment, who labelled it ‘inaccurate’ or ‘unpoetic.’ Hamburger and Dresen were accused of having ‘subverted the sublimity of what was then taken to constitute a classical style’ (Hamburger 1995: 182). As a result, the translation was confiscated, and it was not until 1973 that it was allowed to be reproduced and circulated for publication (ibid.; Dresen 2000: 29). This translation was aimed at conveying meaning through dramatic performance rather than through the sublimity of classical style. In performance, the signifier is not solely the spoken word but the word in conjunction with the body of the performing player. This is what Brecht meant by the term gestus, which includes both ‘gesture’ and ‘stance’ (Haltung). Thus, the ‘meaning’ of a dramatic text can only be constituted during the performance itself by way of a complex interactive negotiation between player and spectator. Since the conditions of a performance always vary and are unpredictable, there can be no such thing as a ‘valid’ performance or an ‘authoritative’ interpretation, or text for that matter (cf. Sorge 1998: 98–101). And censorship becomes virtually impossible. Unintentionally, this translation called into question any attempt by the Party to interpret or appropriate Shakespeare in terms of an ideological stencil or a socialist humanism. In 1967 the Greifswald Hamlet – performance and translation – received scholarly support from Robert Weimann’s Shakespeare und die Tradition des Volkstheaters (rev. ed. published 1978 in English as Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition). Weimann´s historical research demonstrated that the representation of the word in performance by the body of the player undermined the authority of any attempt to validate a particular signification in a given historical situation. He sent Hamburger the finished but as yet unpublished manuscript for his opinion already in 1964,14 and in an article that appeared in Shakespeare Survey in 1967, he wrote: ‘The unity creates the need of our interpretations of Shakespeare; the contradictions account for the need of our interpretations of Shakespeare’ (Weimann 1967b: 119). Whereas criticism up until then had insisted on the authority of the written word and excluded the player and the spectator in the constitution of meaning, Weimann showed that the player and the spectator were, in fact, the essential elements and equal partners in this process. Thus, the meaning negoti-


Lawrence Guntner

ated during performance is not constituted for all time but, like translations, varies according to the historical situation. On the one hand, Weimann validates the relationship between historical processes and performance – the subtitle of the English-language edition is ‘Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function’; on the other, he questions the transcendent validity of this historical signification at a later point in history. This approach undercuts notions of a mechanistic continuity between past and present on which orthodox socialist reception of Shakespeare had been founded. Weimann´s research into the dramatic gestus of the text, the popular Elizabethan tradition that informed Shakespeare´s stage practices, and the position of the actors in relationship to the spectators as a running commentary on the action to provide a constant ‘complementary perspective’ also stood in contrast to Lenin’s theory of two cultures (antagonistic and determined by class struggle), the dominant ideology on which orthodox socialist readings of Shakespeare were based. Weimann’s work substantiated Brecht’s dialectical approach to Shakespeare and validated the Dresen staging of Hamlet as well as the Dresen/Hamburger translation of the text. In May of 1971 Erich Honecker led a coup, with the approval of Moscow, that forced the aging Walter Ulbricht to retire. Ostensibly conducted to liberalize all areas of GDR life, including the theatre, the coup did not result in liberalization but rather in an emphasis on consumerism and a retreat from public engagement to private concerns, career, and family life. This development found its parallel in the Shakespearean repertory. In the sixties, the stress had been on plays that dealt with the relationship between the private person and public responsibility (such as Hamlet or Coriolanus). In the seventies, the swing was toward plays dealing with personal problems, desires, sorrows, and fears, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet (Hamburger 1988: 51–61). In the sixties theatre had suffered under censorship and reprisals; in the seventies it was in danger of stagnating under the disinterest of a cultural bureaucracy. Ulbricht went to the theatre, but Honecker went hunting. The affirmative role of theatre and the solidarity between stage and at least the ideals of a socialist state, which had existed to a great extent during the early and middle sixties, had been terminated in December of 1965. At the notorious 11th Plenary Session of the Central Committee Erich Honecker attacked ‘harmful tendencies,’ such as rock music, and many artists and writers were ostracized. Others, like Wolf Biermann and Heiner Müller, were banned from performing or having their work performed. The gap between

Hamlet on East German Stages 189

official pronouncements and everyday reality had become too visible to ignore. When the East German Army helped to crush the Prague Spring in August of 1968, it also crushed once and for all the hopes and ideals of East German performing artists and intellectuals for a socialist state ‘with a human face’ on German soil. In 1977 Benno Besson’s staging of Hamlet at the Volksbühne in Berlin was a reaction to and reflection upon these developments. It also corresponded closely to Robert Weimann’s ideas about Elizabethan performance. This production privileged the individuality of the performing actors interacting with the audience rather than fulfilling a specific ideological agenda. Hence, it raised questions about the validity of interpreting Shakespeare’s Elizabethan script as anticipating the socialist present.15 For Besson, Hamlet’s time, like ours, was ‘out of joint.’ If there had been historical improvements since Hamlet’s time, there were still plenty of questions to be answered. Ezio Tofolutti’s decoration – a bare stage enclosed by grey rectangular screens, the ceiling hung with greyish-black cloth, and front lighting that cast long shadows – suggested an impenetrable labyrinth, with no easily discernible contours, through which Hamlet must navigate to discover ‘the truth’ of his story. For Besson, the central idea (Leitidee) of the play was a journey ‘from the mother’s womb to the grave. Hamlet severs everything else’ (Besson 1998: 202). That is, the focus was on Hamlet´s private, psychological concerns rather than political power or public responsibility.16 Anna Neumann observes that ‘Besson put Hamlet in opposition to the world of his father, an act that questioned whether a father had the right or the authority to shape his son according to his dictates or to ruin families and communities. Reference to a ‘socialist community’ was obvious, even if not explicitly stated in the language of the play’ (Naumann 1998: 112). The contradiction between the discourse of official authority and the social reality of private needs found expression in ‘increasingly unsynchronized performances of actresses, visible in the relationship between linguistic and physical communication’ (Naumann 1998: 111). Forced by her father to return Hamlet’s ‘remembrances,’ Ophelia (Heide Kipp) approached Hamlet (Manfred Karge) as he recited his ‘To be, or not to be’ soliloquy while doing push-ups over a dagger pointed at his naked chest. A book and a box in her hands, her full-breasted body laced in tightly by her gown, she speaks to Hamlet in a tearful voice of ‘words of so sweet breath composed.’ Her body told another story. She did not want to return the gifts, and in a panic she switched from blank verse to prose: ‘There my lord.’ Hamlet, ever sensitive to shifts in


Lawrence Guntner

Madman Hamlet in straitjacket. Hamlet, directed by Benno Besson at Volksbühne (Berlin, 1977). Hamlet – Manfred Karge

Hamlet on East German Stages 191

linguistic mode, attacked her in prose: ‘Ha, ha, are you honest?’ Although she was able to simulate certainty and self-control in her return to blank verse, her body expressed the opposite. This Hamlet was in the tradition of the Elizabethan Vice figure, a mixture of clowning and brutality, a player at once ridiculous and ruthless, who eliminated anyone who stepped between himself and his mother. Manfred Karge played Hamlet with a childlike enthusiasm for acting out the ‘antic disposition,’ with face occasionally smeared red, bare-chested, suspenders holding up his unlaced knee britches, shoes and socks in one hand, a wooden sword in the other. At times in an old army overcoat, at others even straitjacketed, this Hamlet was neither the melancholic prince nor the premature revolutionary, but Hamlet the malcontent, isolated and emotionally starved in the labyrinthine machinations of the Danish court. Political power did not seem to interest him. He was fearful of the Ghost and, since the ‘confession scene’ was cut, he was never even given a real chance to kill Claudius. This anarchic drop-out preferred to ‘play’ king by donning a satin robe and paper crown rather than to challenge his uncle for the throne. Hamlet´s dilettante remarks to the First Player on how to perform – ‘to hold ... the mirror up to nature ... show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image’ – were endured with barely disguised impatience and boredom by the First Player (Fritz Marquardt), who remarked sarcastically: ‘I hope we have reformed that indifferently.’ It was not only an obvious rejection of an idealized form of realism that had become orthodoxy for staging Shakespeare, but also a parallel to the situation of East German professional actors at the mercy of amateur cultural functionaries or directors who insisted on their dramaturgic concept and overrode any space for performative freedom. In this production, even minor characters such as Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Horatio developed individualized contours. A disorientated and incredulous onlooker in the beginning, Horatio (Michael Gwisdek) gradually developed into a credible mediator between stage and audience, whose final remarks: ‘All this can I / Truly deliver’ rang true, though too late. As in the Greifswald Hamlet thirteen years earlier, Fortinbras was played by a child (Pierre Besson), a casting decision that undermined the tradition of Fortinbras initiating a golden socialist future and returned to the foreboding martial sound effects (hammers banging on anvils) with which the performance began. Fortinbras had the corpses stood up on end for the audience to see, and his final word, ‘shoot,’ did not salute the dead but signalled a new round of violence.


Lawrence Guntner

At least three aspects of this production broke directly with the East German Hamlet tradition dating back to Wangenheim’s production of 1945: the individualized characterization of Hamlet as motivated by Oedipal urges, the discrediting of a mechanistic mimesis that was supposed to ‘hold a mirror up to nature,’ and a pessimistic conclusion. It was a lesson in Brechtian realism that emphasized material theatricality to de-psychologize Hamlet and lay bare the dramatic fable. Such an approach obstructed facile closure for ideological reasons and left many aesthetic and ideological questions open (see Weimann 1998: 128–32). Besson’s staging initiated a tradition of using Shakespeare performance to comment on the contemporary situation of theatre in the GDR. It staged the end of any form of consensus between theatre and official cultural ideology, and was in a sense a ‘declaration of independence’ from any pedagogical responsibilities for creating a socialist society. Despite East German success in international politics and athletics, an improvement in the relationship between East and West Germany (the fruits of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik), and a ‘thaw’ in some areas of culture (the tolerance of jazz and rock music, the alternative cultural scene in Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin, the reconstruction of the Semper Opera in Dresden), the eighties were a decade of increasingly vocal protest against censorship, travel restrictions, and an ossified and immobile bureaucracy. East German Shakespeare performance in the eighties was characterized by its own version of deconstruction: on stage in the Shakespeare translations-adaptations of Heiner Müller.17 Likewise, the criticism by Robert Weimann put its finger on the conflict between signs of authority and the authority of signs.18 Müller deconstructed, or rather demolished, any remnants of hope for a ‘socialist national culture,’ but also tried his hand at demolishing not only Shakespeare, but himself as author. Hamletmachine, which Müller himself has called a ‘shrunken head version of Hamlet,’ is a fragment that dismantles not only Shakespeare’s dramaturgy, characters, and blank-verse text, but also the whole ‘taxonomy of dramatic literature’ (Kalb 1998: 108), including the notion of an author. Correspondences to Shakespeare are evident: a five-act structure and persons with familiar-sounding names (characters they are not), but there the similarity to Hamlet ends. The five ‘acts’ are entitled ‘family album,’ ‘Woman’s Europe,’ ‘Scherzo,’ ‘Pest in Buda [a play on Pest, the German word for ‘plague’] / Battle for Greenland,’ and ‘Ferociously Poised / In the Awful Armour / Through Millennium.’ Although the persons have Shakespearean names – Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius, Horatio – they also have multiple identities (for

Hamlet on East German Stages 193

Hamlet on Ice. Hamlet/Machine, directed by Heiner Müller at Deutsches Theater (Berlin, 1990). Hamlet – Ulrich Mühe

example, Ophelia is also the ‘woman in the wheelchair,’ ‘woman with arteries slit open,’ and others). Taking a clue from Roland Barthes’s ‘Death of an Author,’ even the playwright is disposed of before the eyes of the audience when a photo of Müller is torn up on stage. Hamletmachine can also be read as an acronym (HM) for Heiner Müller himself.19 Later, Müller stated: ‘For thirty years Hamlet was a real obsession for me, so I tried to destroy him by writing a short text, Hamletmachine ... I think the main impulse is to strip things to their skeleton, to rid them of their flesh and surface. Then you are finished with them’ (Müller 1982: 43). However, his Hamlet/Machine, a combination of Shakespeare’s Hamlet


Lawrence Guntner

and his own Hamletmachine, which he directed at the Deutsches Theater in East Berlin in 1990, was not a skeleton but a monumental Hamlet. Inserting Hamletmachine into act 4 of Hamlet, Müller entered into a dialogue with his master, holding up a mirror for the audience to see what had become of the darling of European humanism in the age of posthistoire. Hamlet/Hamlet, play as well as protagonist, had developed into a ‘machine,’ a self-perpetuating myth, a capsule into which any arbitrary meaning could be stuffed. If the inspiration for Wangenheim’s Hamlet might have been the opening lines of the final stanza in Freiligrath’s ‘Hamlet’: ‘Make a decision! Jump into the fight – / Kick open the gate, be daring and bold,’ the inspiration for Hamlet/Machine was the refrain of a song by the punk band ‘The Stranglers’: ‘No more heroes, no more Shakespearos.’ If Wangenheim’s purpose was to reclaim Hamlet as a forerunner and role model for a socialist world in the future, Müller’s was to deconstruct the play in terms of a post-modern world that corresponded to his own personal motto: ‘No hope, no despair.’ Hamlet, played by Ulrich Mühe, young hero of the theatre’s political opposition to the repressive policies of the state, repeatedly uttered lines from Hamletmachine, which Müller injected after act 4, scene 4, as commentary on and interruption of Shakespeare’s dramatic action: ‘I was Hamlet. I stood on the coast talking to the breakers, blabla, behind me the ruins of Europe’ (trans. Carl Weber, Müller 1984: 53). This was not an optimistic, or even critical, vision of a better future in a united Germany, but a ritual wake for a country – and a civilization – whose cultural dogma viewed Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the epitome of human culture. Like Dresen before him, Müller saw the play as full of contradictions, but more than just a metaphor for developments in the GDR. In Hamlet he perceived the history of the world from the ice age to the greenhouse effect that would transform the planet into a desert.20 This interpretation was reflected in the scenery, which corresponded to the five sections of the performance. The first section (act 1 to act 3, scene 1) took place in a huge concrete bunker hung with gauze, which created the impression of it being encased in a block of ice, and a metaphor for the situation of the party’s geriatric Central Committee. The second section (act 3, scenes 2 and 3) took place against a panoramic vista representing Western civilization that stretched from an Italian Renaissance piazza replete with cathedral and arcades to a subway tube strikingly similar

Hamlet on East German Stages 195

to the station on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. Downstage centre was a huge bed, on and around which the actors remained static reciting their lines to the audience. The confession, or prayer scene, became an intimate (step)father-(step)son talk between Claudius and Hamlet, in which Claudius recited Shakespeare’s lines and Hamlet nodded like an obedient son. Claudius offered Hamlet a lollipop and dragged him kicking onto his lap, a metaphor for the situation of many intellectuals and artists in the GDR. The state (Claudius) ‘confessed’ its shortcomings to the artist and intellectuals in opposition (Hamlet), and received, in turn, a reprieve from punishment. This scene revealed to the audience how even private lives could be a political issue in the GDR. For the third section, Hamlet’s departure (act 4, scenes 1 to 4), a huge backdrop with a depiction of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, was lowered, covering the Renaissance-to-subway vista. Section four consisted of the Hamletmachine. The decorations for section five (act 4, scene 5, to act 5, scene two) resembled an apocalyptic vision of the end of the world by way of ‘Heat Death.’ Western civilization was transformed into a desert landscape of red sand. Metal plates were stuck into the sand, at once reflectors and gravestones on which those about to die or be killed wrote their names. The rehearsals began in September 1989 just as demonstrations were bringing the reigning geriatric oligarchy to their knees. The opening performance on 24 March 1990 occurred one week after an East German electorate voted in a conservative, Christian Democratic government, whose chief accomplishment was to dissolve the GDR and unite it with the Federal Republic of Germany. The time of historical changeover in which Hamlet is entrapped – or ‘encased’ in this performance – central to the productions by Wangenheim, Mäde, and even Dresen was now being acted out in front of the theatre. It was as if Friedrich Wolf’s vision of theatre as a pedagogical tool had become a reality. Finally educated and ready, the audience swapped places with the players and performed historical change themselves in front of the theatre, in the streets of Leipzig, Berlin, and elsewhere. In the face of such epochal developments, the director, himself a political institution in the GDR, was unable to position his production against a specific political backdrop. Questioned by student directors allowed to attend rehearsals as to his dramaturgic concept, he replied, ‘It’s all in the text.’21 The only stable element that provided an impression of continu-


Lawrence Guntner

ity in the daily lives of the ensemble was the rehearsals, ‘somehow like a clock that kept ticking slower,’ commented Margarete Broich (in Linzer and Ullrich 1993: 94). In Müller’s staging, Hamlet (the theatre?) was incapable of active and wilful resistance to the power politics surrounding him. In ‘Note 409’ Müller himself wrote: ‘“I am an actor, not the people,” says Hamlet’ (Haas 1996: 214). It was as if his text for Hamlet Actor in Hamletmachine had become a self-fulfilling prophecy: ‘I am not Hamlet. I perform no roles anymore ... My play no longer takes place.’ Elsewhere, as if in answer to Wolf, Müller said, ‘Theatre can only rediscover its memory for reality if it forgets its audience. The contribution of the actor to the emancipation of the spectator is his emancipation from the spectator.’22 The emancipation of the people from political oppression is the task of the people, and in the fall of 1989 they did just that. The idea of time running out – on the East German state, on history, on civilization, on the world – is central to Müller´s work, and central to this production. The tempo of the performance decelerated, and the climax, the duel between Hamlet and Laertes, became a slow-motion slapstick ritual, as if two mechanical puppets were slowly winding down. Hamlet’s body, with bloodstained forehead, lay over the edge of the stage. Ophelia/Elektra (Margarete Broich) dragged the corpse back to centre stage, positioning him in front of his metallic gravestone, and herself assumed a Pietà pose with Hamlet in her arms. Fortinbras – a robot-like metallic figure with a gilded face mask and a gilded right hand – entered, holding a gold folder. He approached Hamlet, interrupting Elektra/Ophelia´s lament. Hamlet stood up; Fortinbras held the folder in front of his face, and recited, not Shakespeare´s lines, but ‘Fortinbras’s Lament’ by the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert: ‘You had to fail one way or the other, you were not fit to live / you believed in the crystalline terms and not in the human clay’ (Herbert 1967). Elektra/ Ophelia was consumed by a large flame as if she had retracted the world to which she had given birth. Like Wangenheim’s Hamlet, Müller’s Hamlet/Machine was also directed at the audience but, to quote Maik Hamburger, ‘If Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one huge question, Müller’s Hamlet/Machine is one huge statement’ (Hamburger 1991: 168). The audience was overwhelmed by the monumental scenery (the most expensive set in GDR history), the monumental length of the performance (7½ to 8 hours), and the compete lack of any kind of dialogic interaction between the performers and the spectators. Müller’s Hamlet simply waited too long and time ran out on

Hamlet on East German Stages 197

him, as it did on Claudius and Gertrude. By the end of the play, the protagonists, as well as the audience, seemed to be relieved that it was finally time for the characters to die. Jörg Gudzuhn as Claudius eagerly grabbed the chalice and greedily gulped the poison down. Whereas Wangenheim tried to enlist Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the service of a better, democratic, and socialist future, Müller deconstructed the play in order to demonstrate that this socialist future was, at least in this version, a chimera on which, like Hamlet, time simply ran out.23 As we have seen, Hamlet on East German stages underwent an ongoing process of redefinition that ranged between two extremes: appropriation into the service of a socialist national culture to prove that the GDR was the logical extension of Renaissance ideals; and deconstruction as a questioning, if not denial, of a continuous development between Shakespeare’s Renaissance past and what passed for a socialist culture in the GDR. There is no such thing as a ‘socialist Hamlet,’ just as there is no such thing as a ‘socialist Shakespeare.’ On closer examination, what we find are socialist Hamlets and socialist Shakespeares; or, better, socialist readings or interpretations of what happens in Hamlet. Neither the Communist world nor Shakespeare production behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ – a theatrical metaphor in its own right – was as monolithic as observers from the perspective of the West would like to believe it to have been. On the East German stage Hamlet was a player performing before a clearly defined ideological backdrop for and to an audience that had this superstructure (Uberbau) in the back of their minds. He was an instructor or a deconstructor, an affirmer or a subverter, or both simultaneously, intentionally or unintentionally. The Ghost of Hamlet’s father imprisoned in a dustbin, Hamlet reciting his ‘To be, or not to be’ monologue while doing push-ups over a pointed dagger, Fortinbras being played by a young child, or Claudius’s confession of his fratricide staged as a man-to-man reconciliation chat with Hamlet on the edge of a bed were not simply clever gags in an attempt to ‘update’ Shakespeare, to make him avant-garde at any cost. They were intentional reactions to and subversions of a particular performance tradition and cultural ideology, especially after 1965. It was not the performance itself but the historical and ideological backdrop against which the player performed and the particular audience for which he was performing that made Shakespeare at specific times and places a highly political critique of official cultural politics, ideological falsehood, and political suppression. As such, these productions helped to prepare a public political consciousness that would end in the ‘bloodless’ revolution of


Lawrence Guntner

November 1989. If there is anything that we can learn from East German Hamlet performance, it is that there is a bi-fold authority at the base of Shakespeare’s drama that always admits to interpretation in a particular direction, yet, like Shakespeare’s comic figures, immediately undermines this interpretation, and that the historically transcendent and ‘universal’ qualities of Shakespearean drama derive from the fact that they are always performed and understood within a specific historical context.

NOTES Originally a contribution to the symposium ‘Shakespeare and the World of Communism’ held at Penn State University in 1994, this essay is a revision of some of the material that went into my overview of East German Shakespeare performance ‘Shakespeare in East Germany: Between Appropriation and Deconstruction’ published in Guntner and McLean 1998: 29–60. 1 For examples of how the East German bureaucracy determined what could be published, see Jäger 1993: 18–49. 2 On the relationship between Hamlet, the German Shakespeare tradition, and German politics, see Pfister 1992: 13–38 and 1994: 76–91; for a summary of Hamlet and Shakespeare performance in East Germany, see Ullrich 1994: 143–8; on Hamlet as metaphor, see Muschg 1965: 32–58, Lüthi 1951, and Steiger 1987: 128–76. On the mythologization of Shakespeare and Hamlet, and the necessity of rewriting the history of Shakespeare reception in Germany, see Habicht 1994. 3 On the role of the classical heritage of German literature, including Shakespeare, in socialist cultural politics, see Trommler 1976:13–72. 4 For an account of their careers and fates, see Liebe 1992 and Lause and Wiens 1991. 5 Hermann Göring, married to Emmie Sonnemann, a second-rate actress, was a lover of the theatre. As Prussian Minister of the Interior, he also controlled the Prussian state theatres in Berlin, Kassel, and Wiesbaden. 6 See Kuckhoff 1964: 695–6 and 1998: 61–4; Kuckhoff served as dramaturge for Wangenheim and was involved in this production. 7 Wangenheim founded the Communist agit-prop ‘Troupe 31,’ famous for their play The Mousetrap, which begins with an interlude that includes characters from Hamlet: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet himself. Text in Wangenheim 1974: 23–111.

Hamlet on East German Stages 199 8 See Mäde 1966: 7–23; and criticism by Hamburger 1998: 384–5 and Steiger 1987: 155–9. 9 See Fritz Rödel in Berger, Nössig, and Rödel 1972, 5: 232. 10 In ‘Das Theater Shakespeare’ Brecht writes: ‘Hamlet’s new bourgeois way of reasoning is Hamlet’s illness. His experiments lead directly to the catastrophe’ Brecht 1964, 5: 125, my translation; see also ‘Kleines Organon’ no. 68 Brecht 1964, 7: 52. 11 On Dresen’s ideas on the production, see Dresen 1992: 9–17 and 1998: 151–4. 12 Details of the performance from personal recollections of Maik Hamburger and Wolfgang Wicht; the most complete account is provided by Stein 1995; see also Dresen’s expanded material on the performance and its censorship (1992: 9–17, 2000: 20–30) and Hamburger’s first-hand insights on the genesis of the concept behind the production 1998: 388–93. 13 See his diary of this period, entitled ‘Intermezzo Erdöl,’ in Dresen 2000: 31–41. 14 Personal information from Robert Weimann to author. 15 Weimann dedicated the English edition, which appeared one year after Besson’s production of Hamlet opened in Berlin, ‘to Benno Besson and Manfred Wekwerth ... who have come closest to a modern Shakespeare in the popular tradition.’ 16 On the Besson production of Hamlet see, in English, Guntner 1998: 47–50, Naumann 1998: 111–14, and Hamburger 1998: 413–15; in German, Weimann 1978: 87–91, Kuckhoff 1978, Weimann 1998: 191–202, and Canaris 1977: 6ff. 17 Especially the performances of Macbeth (according to / after Shakespeare) directed by Müller and Ginka Tscholokowa at the Volksbühne in 1982, Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome. A Shakespeare Commentary directed by Wolfgang Engel in Dresden in 1987, and Hamlet/Machine directed by Müller at the Deutsches Theater in 1990. Other examples are Othello, directed by Frank Castorf in Anklam in 1982 taken off the bill immediately after the premiere; Hamlet, directed by Frank Castorf in Cologne in 1989; and Twelfth Night, directed by Martin Melke in Brandenburg in 1981. 18 See Weimann’s essays and lectures of the 1980s collected under the title Shakespeare und die Macht der Mimesis (1988). They have since been substantially revised and expanded into two studies in English: Authority and Representation in Early Modern Discourse (1996), and even more to the point is Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare’s Theatre (2000). 19 On the relationship between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Müller’s


20 21 22 23

Lawrence Guntner Hamletmachine, see Petersohn 1993: 81f. and Greiner 1989: 99f. For an excellent discussion of Hamletmachine in English, see Jonathan Kalb 1998: 104–26. See letter to Erich Wonder, Müller´s set designer, reprinted in Linzer and Ullrich 1993: 78. Personal first-hand information. Quoted on the back cover of the program for the Tokyo production (Haas 1996). On the production, see Hamburger 1998: 428–34; Höfele 1992: 84f.; and Guntner 1993: 130–1.

REFERENCES Abusch, Alexander. 1964. Shakespeare – Realist und Humanist, Genius der Weltliteratur. Berlin, Weimar: Aufbau Verlag. Berger, Manfred, Manfred Nössig, and Fritz Rödel, eds. 1972. Theater in der Zeitenwende. 2 vols. Berlin: Henschelverlag. Berliner Ensemble and Helene Weigel, eds. 1952. Theaterarbeit. Dresden: VVV Dresden Verlag. Besson, Benno. 1998. ‘Es geht um ein neues Selbstbewußtsein.’ In Christa Neubert-Herwig, ed., 201–2. Brecht, Bertolt. 1964. Schriften zum Theater. 7 vols. Ed. Werner Hecht. Frankfurt a M.: Suhrkamp. Canaris, Volker June. 1977. ‘Hamlet – ein Clown, ein Zeitgenosse.’ Theater heute (Seelze) 18.6: 6ff. Deutsches Theater Berlin, ed. 1986. 100 Jahre Deutsches Theater Berlin. Berlin: Henschelverlag Kunst und Gesellschaft. Dresen, Adolf. 1992. In Siegfrieds Vergessen: Kultur zwischen Konsens und Kultur. Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag. – 1998. ‘The Last Remains of the Public Sphere.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 151–63. – 2000. Wie Viel Freiheit braucht die Kunst? Reden Briefe Verse Spiele 1964 bis 1999. Ed. Maik Hamburger. Theater der Zeit Recherchen 3. Berlin: Theater der Zeit. Funke, Christoph, Daniel Hoffmann-Ostwald, and Hans-Gerd Otto, eds. 1971. Theater-Bilanz 1945–69, Berlin: Henschel Verlag. Greiner, Bernhard. 1989. ‘Explosion einer Erinnerung in einer abegestorbenen Struktur: Heiner Müllers Shakespeare Factory.’ Deutsche ShakespeareGesellschaft West: Jahrbuch (Bochum): 88–112. Guntner, Lawrence. 1993. ‘Brecht and Beyond: Shakespeare on the East

Hamlet on East German Stages 201 German Stage.’ In Foreign Shakespeare, ed. Dennis Kennedy, 109–39. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. – 1998. ‘Shakespeare in East Germany: Between Appropriation and Deconstruction.’ In Guntner and McLean eds, 29–60. Guntner, Lawrence, and Andrew McLean, eds. 1998. Redefining Shakespeare: Literary Theory and Theatre Practice in the German Democratic Republic. Newark, DE / London: University of Delaware Press / Associated University Presses. Haas, Azisa, ed. 1996. HamletMaschine. Tokyo. Material, Berlin: Alexander Verlag. Habicht, Werner. 1994. Shakespeare and the German Imagination. Hertford: International Shakespeare Association. Hamburger, Maik. 1988. ‘New Concepts of Staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Shakespeare Survey 40: 51–61. – 1991. ‘Theaterschau.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 127: 161–8. – 1994. ‘Hamlet at World´s End: Heiner Müller´s Production in East Berlin.’ In Kishi, Pringle, and Wells, eds, 280–4. – 1995. ‘“Are You a Party in This Business?” Consolidation and Subversion in East German Shakespeare Productions.’ Shakespeare Survey 48: 171–84. – 1998. ‘Shakespeare on the Stages of the German Democratic Republic.’ In Hortmann, 369–434. Hattaway, Michael, Boika Sokolova, and Derek Roper, eds. 1994. Shakespeare in the New Europe. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Hauschild, Jens-Christoph. 2001. Heiner Müller oder das Prinzip Zweifel. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag. Hawkes, Terence. 1992. Meaning by Shakespeare. London: Routledge. Herbert, Zbigniew. 1967. Gedichte aus Zehn Jahren. Trans. Karl Dedecius. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Höfele, Andreas. 1992. ‘A Theatre of Exhaustion? Posthistoire in Recent German Shakespeare Productions.’ Shakespeare Quarterly 43.1: 80–5. Hortmann, Wilhelm. 1998. Shakespeare on the German Stage. The Twentieth Century. With a section on Shakespeare on stage in the German Democratic Republic by Maik Hamburger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jäger, Manfred. 1993. ‘Das Wechselspiel von Selbstzensur und Literaturlenkung.’ In Literaturentwicklungsprozesse: Die Zensur der Literatur in der DDR, ed. Ernest Wichner and Herbert Wiesner, 18–49. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Joughin, John, ed. 1997. Shakespeare and National Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Kalb, Jonathan. 1998. The Theatre of Heiner Müller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Lawrence Guntner

Kishi, Tetsuo, Roger Pringle, and Stanley Wells, eds. 1994. Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. Kreyn, Ulf. 1964. ‘Hamlet unser Zeitgenosse.’ Theater der Zeit 8: 384–5. Kuckhoff, Armin-Gerd. 1964. Das Drama William Shakespeares. Berlin: Henschelverlag. – 1978. ‘Shakespeare auf den Bühnen der DDR im Jahre 1976.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 114: 152–6. – 1998. ‘National History and Theatre Performance: Shakespeare on the East German Stage, 1945–1990.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 61–72. Lause, Beate, and Renate Wiens, eds. 1991. Theater Leben: Schauspielererzählen von Exil und Rückkehr. Frankfurt a M.: Hain. Liebe, Ulrich. 1992. Verehrt verfolgt vergessen. Schauspieler als Naziopfer. Weinheim / Berlin: Beltz / Quadriga. Linzer, Martin, and Peter Ullrich, eds. 1993. Regie. Heiner Müller. Berlin: Zentrum für Theater Dokumentation. Lüthi, H.J. 1951. Das deutsche Hamletbild seit Goethe. Bern: Haupt. Mäde, Hans-Dieter. 1966. ‘Hamlet und das Problem des Ideals.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch 102: 7–23. Müller, Heiner. 1982. Rotwelsch. Berlin: Merve. – 1984. Hamletmachine and Other Texts for the Stage. Ed. and trans. Carl Weber. New York: PAJ Publications. – 1989. Shakespeare Factory, vol. 2. Berlin: Rotbuch. – 1992. Krieg ohne Schlacht. Berlin: Kiepenheuer und Witsch. – 1998. ‘“Like Sleeping with Shakespeare”: A Conversation with Heiner Müller and Christa and B.K. Tragelehn.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 183–95. Muschg, Walter. 1965. ‘Deutschland ist Hamlet.’ Deutsche ShakespeareGesellschaft West: Jahrbuch (Heidelberg): 32–58. Naumann, Anna. 1998. ‘Dramatic Text and Body Language: GDR Theatre in Existential Crisis.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 111–19. Neubert-Herwig, Christa ed. 1998. Benno Besson. Theater Spielen in Acht Ländern. Texte.Dokumente.Gespräche. Berlin: Alexander Verlag. Petersohn, Roland. 1993. Heiner Müllers Shakespeare-Rezeption, Franfurt a M.: Peter Lang. Pfister, Manfred. 1992. ‘Hamlet und der deutsche Geist: Die Geschichte einer politischen Interpretation.’ Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft West: Jahrbuch (Bochum): 13–38. – 1994. ‘Hamlets Made in Germany, East and West.’ In Hattaway, Sokolova, and Roper, eds, 76–91.

Hamlet on East German Stages 203 Schlösser, Anselm. 1975. ‘Über Hamlet´s Schauspieltheorie und deren Verwirklichung in Hamlet.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 111: 24–35. – 1976. ‘Shakespeare als Infragesteller und Vorausdenker.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 112: 28–54. – 1984. ‘Über das Herangehen an Hamlet.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch 120: 103–12. Schlösser, Anselm, ed. 1964. Shakespeare Jubiläum 1964. Weimar: Herman Böhlaus Nachfolger. Sorge, Thomas. 1990. ‘Unsere Shakespeare – Nachdenken über einen Wegbereiter.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar) 126: 24–40. – 1998. ‘The Sixties: Hamlet’s Utopia Come True.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 98–110. Steiger, Klaus Peter. 1987. Geschichte der Shakespeare-Rezeption. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Stein, Katarina. 1995. ‘Hamlet, Prince of Greifswald: Negotiating Shakespeare in the GDR.’ Master´s thesis, Freie Universität, Berlin. Trommler, Frank. 1976. ‘Die Kulturpolitik der DDR und die kulturelle Tradition des deutschen Sozialismus.’ In Literatur und Literaturtheorie in der DDR, ed. Peter Hohendahl and Patricia Herminghouse, 13–72. Frankfurt a M.: Suhrkamp. Ullrich, Peter. 1994. ‘Erinnerungen an Hamlet.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Bochum): 143–8. Wangenheim, Gustav von. 1964. ‘Über meine Hamlet-Inszenierung: Ansprache an die jugendlichen Zuschauer.’ Repr. in Schlösser, ed., 45–62. – 1974. ‘Da liegt der Hund begraben’ und andere Stücke. Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch. Weigel, Alexander. 1964a. ‘Von der Schwierigkeit der Realisierung.’ Theater der Zeit (Seelze) 19.8: 20–2. – 1964b. ‘Von der Idealisierung des Ideals.’ Theater der Zeit (Seelze) 19.15: 8–10. – 1998. ‘Theater was always taken seriously.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 215–25. Weimann, Robert. 1967a. Shakespeare und die Tradition des Volkstheaters. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag. Rev. English ed. 1978, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function, ed. Robert Schwartz. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. – 1967b. ‘Shakespeare on the Modern Stage: Past Significance and Present Meaning.’ Shakespeare Survey 20: 113–20. – 1978. ‘Eigenes und Fremdes in Hamlet: Zur Inszenierung der Berliner Volksbühne.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch 114: 87–91.


Lawrence Guntner

– 1988. Shakespeare und die Macht der Mimesis. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag. – 1996. Authority and Representation in Early Modern Discourse. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. – 1998a. ‘Shakespeare Redefined: A Personal Retrospect.’ In Guntner and McLean, eds, 120–38. – 1998b. ‘Hamlet in Ostberlin – und kein Ende.’ In Neubert-Herwig, ed., 191–200. – 2000. Author´s Pen and Actor´s Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare´s Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wolf, Friedrich. 1968. ‘Das Drama als Waffe und Werkzeug.’ In Gesammelte Werke, ed. Else Wolf and Walter Pollatschek, 16: 248–51. Berlin and Weimar: Aufbau Verlag.

Shakespeare the Politicizer: Two Notable Stagings in East Germany maik hamburger

The East German director Piet Drescher (born 1940) worked at the Berliner Ensemble from 1967 to 1971, then in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) from 1971, where his stagings included The Good Person of Setzuan, Antigone, Red Roses for Me, and The House of Bernada Alba. Drescher was not, in his early period, noted for politically accentuated productions; rather, his work was marked by clarity, imagination, and realistic precision in the orthodox Brechtian manner. It was only when he felt ready to direct Shakespeare that a latent wish for more specific political statements became apparent. He first worked on Macbeth (1978), for which he commissioned a new translation from the author of this paper. Drescher declared that when he started to grapple with Shakespeare, he developed an awareness of political mechanisms that, in turn, engendered a more critical view of power play in the German Democratic Republic. Shakespeare, it seemed, was a better contemporary playwright than those writing today: his play brought the artist’s disquiet from the subconscious realm to the conscious. Drescher found that Goethe’s remarks on the metamorphosis of plants provided a pertinent commentary on the structure of a Shakespeare play, as in one scene you find basic patterns that are reproduced in the play as a whole; thus, the rehearsal of one particular scene would yield a topical interpretation applicable to the whole production. Although not initially so devised, Macbeth’s career produced more and more associations with the rise of a dictator in a totalitarian state. The key word of Drescher’s staging was ‘manipulation.’ At first there was manipulation by the media: the witches were represented as television hostesses, and it was their blandishments that awoke Macbeth’s


Maik Hamburger

insatiable ambition. Once he had attained power, he was the one to manipulate the people around him. His successor Malcolm was no better; indeed, from a Scottish point of view, his accession to power was a national disaster. Malcolm had grasped the throne with the help of a foreign power – England – and his soldiers came as an army of occupation. The Scots were now forcibly manipulated into subjection to a foreign culture. The uniforms and stance of Malcolm’s men left no doubt that allusion was being made to the Soviet forces of occupation. Malcolm’s words, ‘My Thanes and kinsmen / Henceforth be Earls; the first that ever Scotland / In such an honour nam’d,’ were ominously reminiscent of the way Moscow-trained GDR leaders adopted paronyms or loan words from the Russian, particularly in the sphere of government hierarchy. Thus, the appellations ‘Politburo,’ ‘Central Committee,’ ‘Chairman of the State Council,’ and many others were simply Germanizations of the corresponding Soviet Russian terms. When English ‘Earls’ were substituted for Scottish ‘Thanes,’ a similar symbolic act of suppression was implied. The political statement of the production was all the more forceful because it was not presented on a conventional proscenium arch stage but in a large assembly hall right in the middle of the audience. Piet Drescher did not stop there. His staging of Hamlet in Potsdam in 1983 was probably the Shakespeare production with the most blatant political connotations ever. Potsdam, near Berlin, had been a Prussian garrison town for centuries. Now it was full of Soviet military. Furthermore, the Berlin Wall with its barbed wire and machine-gun emplacements was close by. Theatre-goers were, to their alarm, confronted with this kind of military milieu as they entered the forecourt of the theatre. It had been made up to resemble a barracks square, with soldiers pacing around and barbed wire almost blocking the entrance to the house. Elsinore was obviously on maximum alert. Drescher’s intention to mount a machine gun on the flat roof of the theatre was considered as going too far, and was prohibited by the authorities. The staging presented a Hamlet attempting to follow humanist ideals in a country under total state surveillance. Hamlet was played by Matthias Günther, who had acted Macbeth in Karl-Marx-Stadt. The Prince came on reading Hamlet in a Reclam edition (the familiar lowpriced series designed to bring the classics within reach of the people), and humanist quotations from Erasmus to Christa Wolf were displayed on boards. When the Ghost appeared, this idyll of enlightenment was shattered by blinding beams emanating from a searchlight tower in-

Shakespeare the Politicizer: Two Notable Stagings in East Germany


Hamlet, directed by Piet Drescher, at the Hans-Otto-Theater (Potsdam, 1983). Hamlet – Matthias Günther. Photo: Jutta Oloff


Maik Hamburger

stalled in the auditorium and revealing unscaleable concrete walls surrounding the stage space. Denmark was indeed a prison, or rather an Orwellian nightmare. Claudius was king, dictator, and gangster boss in one. Polonius was ensconced in a control room from which he watched Ophelia’s and Hamlet’s every move on a battery of monitors; Reynaldo was sent to spy on his son in Paris. It was impossible for the well-meaning, enlightened young prince to take any effective action against this array of power. Occasionally, he was heard to echo the usual cynical jokes of intellectuals under dictatorship, as when Polonius asked, ‘What do you read, my lord?’: the disgusted answer ‘Words, words, words’ was illustrated by his throwing away his copy of Neues Deutschland, the official party newspaper. Ophelia’s madness was clearly shown as a result not of unrequited love or a parent’s death, but of incessant pressure exerted upon her by everyone, including, as she believed, Hamlet himself. When the harassed prince was finally goaded into taking action, he went berserk, killing almost everyone, including himself. After the tragic conclusion, the dead protagonists were built up into a heroic group monument to commemorate the glorious reign of Claudius, Gertrude, and young Hamlet with the political objective of lending uninterrupted authority to state rule and intimidating future generations into obedience. The only witness who could have contradicted this newly established national myth was Horatio; but he had already been stabbed to death by Fortinbras as a precautionary measure. This production of Hamlet (one year before 1984) was indeed the bluntest exposition of dictatorship known to GDR theatre. It was, of course, a nighmarish dystopian projection, not a depiction of real life. Audiences accustomed to straining their ears in the theatre so as not to miss any subversive hints suddenly received the message point-blank and were somewhat taken aback. But the production played to packed houses, particularly to young people and students who came en masse to see this performance. Whereas the subversive connotations of Drescher’s Macbeth had more or less evolved spontaneously during rehearsals, his Hamlet five years later was obviously planned as an overt political statement. The breathtakingly topical mise en scène was, of course, responsible for some aesthetic deficiencies, too. There were practically no ambivalent features in the characters, no rich layers of interpretation, no gaps waiting to be filled in by the imagination of the audience. The excitement and emotional temperature of this production derived from the daring depiction

Shakespeare the Politicizer: Two Notable Stagings in East Germany


of a politically extreme situation, not from the inner movement of the play. It was thus easy for critics to pen adverse notices with which no one could really disagree. The production was written off as one-sided and undialectical – which in fact it was. There were no moves made to ban this Hamlet, although previously much more harmless productions had been axed. By this time (the Communist regime had been in power for almost forty years), the authorities no longer feared direct verbal or artistic statements of this kind: in the end, the production – bold and popular as it was – suffered the same fate as the Hamlet it portrayed: it was shrugged off as an ineffective bit of intellectual verbalization. The staging reflected the dilemma of an oppositional artist: if he deliberately paraded political themes, he imperilled the artistic force of expression of his work. The authorities felt more or less at ease with productions like this Hamlet because they were able to construe the artistic codes and react accordingly – either by censorship or, as was the case here, by just letting things go. It was quite different with works of art more elusive and less given to rational explication, like the avantgarde stagings of Frank Castorf. Here, they had the uncomfortable feeling they were being got at without being able to catch hold of the supposed subversive message. Hence, Castorf’s deconstructed Othello in Anklam was banned because no one could tell what it was really about, whereas Drescher’s explicit Hamlet enjoyed a long run and was taken off only when the director and the leading actor defected to West Germany.

This page intentionally left blank

PART THREE National and Cultural Diversity

This page intentionally left blank

National and Cultural Diversity 213

At the First Soviet Writers’ Congress in 1934, the Georgian writer Mitsishvili voiced his fears that, as a result of the entrenchment of socialist realism, ‘minor’ literatures would become only a pale copy of Russian literature – a fear that would, in many cases, prove prophetic not only for literature but also for the theatre. Indeed, translating Shakespeare into twenty-eight languages of the USSR was, for Maxim Gorkii, one way of unifying as well as homogenizing the culture of the vast, varied, and often unsophisticated Soviet readership. This audience was extended after the erection of the Berlin Wall and with the onset of the Cold War, which drew countries like Poland, once in the orbit of Western European cultures, into new centres of domination. Still largely democratic and pluralistic before 1947, these countries experienced the dogmatism, then the brutal, massive power, of Stalinism. In 1949 Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and China were firmly brought into the circle. If Khrushchev’s ‘Thaw’ (1956–64) briefly held out the possibility of some flexibility if not freedom for countries within the Soviet orbit, the ascension to power of Leonid Brezhnev (1964–82) returned them to old repressive measures and philistine values. Within this context, Shakespeare held a particularly problematic position as both the supreme example of Western art and as Soviet-sanctioned ‘humanist’ writer ‘of the people.’ Throughout this period, a version of the Stanislavskii method reigned supreme. Directives for the dominant style of producing, translating, and interpreting Shakespeare came from Moscow, although the rendering (or questioning) of such directives in the republics was varied, as was the depth and extent of censorship. What was possible in Moscow, Budapest, and East Berlin was forbidden in other places. To take one example: Jan Kott’s view of Shakespeare as our contemporary, an influential book translated into many languages, was too much of a bouleversement to be permitted across the Polish border in Ukraine, although it was permitted ‘on the other side,’ East Germany. By the 1980s, however, a sort of literary and theatrical détente began to set in, resulting in productions and scholarship that probed what had earlier been danger zones. Once again, Shakespearean texts seemed to be prismatic reflections upon, not just of, contemporary realities. Further to the east, in China, Shakespeare also experienced oscillating fame and fortune. Absent from the stage during the Cultural Revolution (1966–9) and implicitly critiqued by Mao Zedong in his Talks, he returned to the stage as well as to the classroom when an ‘open door’ policy and a desire for modernization were announced. Following


Part Three

Soviet models of socialist realism, Chinese Shakespearean scholars mimicked their Russian colleagues’ assertions, and Chinese theatres employed Soviet directors, who brought with them the Stanislavskii system. At present (2005), Shakespeare is required reading in middle schools, and a popular option at the university level. Adapted and translated, he has, in turn, also had some influence on traditional Chinese theatre and culture. IRM

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience martin hilský

‘Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee! Thou art translated,’ says Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bottom’s translation is not a linguistic act; the translatio he experiences is of a more profound nature: it means change, metamorphosis, or transformation.1 But long before Bottom is translated, it is Helena in the same play who says to Hermia: Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated, The rest I’d give to be to you translated. (2.2.190–1)

Helena is translated in the sense that she becomes the object of Lysander’s and Demetrius’s desire. Lysander and Demetrius are themselves translated by Oberon’s magic juice; and at the end of the play, Helena, Lysander, Demetrius (and Bottom) are translated back to their original selves. The structure of Shakespeare’s comedy can indeed be seen as a system of superbly crafted translations and re-translations. Like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labour’s Lost is basically about translations and re-translations, but the unique quality of this play lies in the fact that it is much more specifically focused on the translations of language. At one point in the play, the act of translation is even presented on the stage. The King of Navarre and his lords, Berowne, Dumain, and Longaville, come to the Princess and ladies of France, Rosaline, Marie, and Katherine, disguised as Russians: Rosaline [as Princess]: What would these strangers? Know their minds, Boyet. if they do speak our language, ’tis our will That some plain man recount their purposes. Know what they would.


Martin Hilský

Boyet: Berowne: Rosaline: Boyet: King: Boyet:

What would you with the Princess? Nothing but peace and gentle visitation. Why, that they have; and bid them be gone. She says you have it, and you may be gone. Say to them we have measured many miles To tread a measure with her on this grass. They say that they have measured many a mile To tread a measure with you on this grass. (5.2.175–88)

In Shakespeare’s time this simple comedy of translation had an interesting political context. The ambassador of the Russian tsar, Fyodor Andreevich Pissemskii, arrived in London in 1582 to find a suitable English bride for Ivan the Terrible. The bride was expected to be big, buxom, and fair – a rather embarrassing condition, since such ladies were hard to find at the court of Queen Elizabeth. Moreover, Ivan’s seventh wife was still alive and sharing his throne. The Tsar had threatened some time previously that no peace could be permanent between the two countries unless it were sealed by a union between the royal houses. The ambassador had, therefore, received orders not to return to Russia without a kinswoman of the Queen to be his master’s wife, ... and the Queen’s protests were quite unavailing. At length she selected a bride. She named Lady Mary Hastings, daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon ... The ambassador was received in the gardens of York House, the residence of Lord Chancellor. He had brought a translator who said that ‘it did suffice him to behold the angel he hoped should be his master’s spouse,’ and commended her ‘angelic countenance, state, and admirable beauty.’ (Furness 1964: 345–7)

In the end, the lady refused to accept the tsar’s offer, and the tsar replied by threatening to come to England and carry her away by force. Fortunately, before he was able to put his words to deeds, he died. Several centuries later, on 21 August 1968, another mighty Russian, Leonid Brezhnev, with the help of his ambassador, came to Prague and took away by force not a bride this time but the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dub ek, who was, until that moment, an ardent Russophile. The political consequences of these events are well known: the death blow to the liberalization efforts of the Prague Spring and to all hopes of combining political democracy with economic socialism, the death blow

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience


to traditional sympathies of many Czech people for the Soviet Union, the imposition of a rigid ideology whose strength lay no longer in ideas but in military power, yet another wave of political purges, half a million reformist Communists expelled and banned from political life, and thousands of people losing their jobs on political grounds. The translation of politics went hand in hand with the translation of public rhetoric. The official discourse became one big lie. The military invasion was translated into ‘international brotherly help,’ the reformist movement of the Prague Spring became ‘counter-revolution,’ dangerous words with disastrous consequences for many individual lives. Orwellian doublethink and doublespeak became everyday reality. The Czechoslovak situation in the period of ‘normalization’ could be described as a great ideological void surrounded by a huge sea of political rhetoric. And that void, that great nothing, was engulfed by or sucked into political rhetoric and transformed or translated to its opposite. One might see the Czech predicament of that time in structuralist or post-structuralist terms. The fact of the military occupation was a narrative, a text, that was superimposed on any other narrative, or text. The ‘normalization’ became a kind of narrative framework that affected every other discourse so strongly that one could not escape it. And this narrative engaged with any other meanings, including the meaning of Shakespeare, as if the Czech reality of the seventies were a text inserted itself into the texts of Shakespeare’s productions. One does not have to stretch one’s imagination too much to see in the Soviet occupation of Prague in 1968 a rather special case of the ‘Russian courtship.’ The deeply ironic expression ‘Russian embrace’ has always had wide currency, and the official rhetoric of ‘brotherly help’ curiously intensified the semantic energy of that image, since the act of military aggression and political enforcement was presented in terms of familial love. The rites of marriage and the rites of brutal military force and other forms of coercion are often connected in Shakespeare, but after August 1968 the image of forcible Russian courtship was very much foregrounded, to use Muka ovský’s semiotic and structuralist term. Or, to put it quite simply, when Love’s Labour’s Lost is produced in a country that has just been occupied by the Russian army, the innocuous masque of the Russians becomes a dangerous political joke. So dangerous, in fact, that in the Prague production of Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1970, King Ferdinand of Navarre, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain came to the ladies of France disguised as Persians, not Muscovites. No joke about


Martin Hilský

the Russians was acceptable since the newly established ‘normalization’; authorities suspected, and rightly so, that people would immediately associate Shakespeare’s Muscovites and their ridiculous courtship with the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. The stage translation of the Russians into Persians was an interesting act of political crossdressing: the Lords of Navarre disguised as Russians disguised as Persians offered a spectacle as complex as an Elizabethan boy actor disguised as a woman disguised as a man. I translated Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1986, and it was a labour of love, unbelievably difficult and unbelievably rewarding. It was fascinating to see how this wonderful, bittersweet play, the most complex comedy of language Shakespeare has ever written, vibrated with linguistic energy; to see how it worked on the stage and how the power of the stage gradually engaged with the power of the state. I was in constant contact with the director, the stage designer, and the actors; I attended the rehearsals, the first night, and ten subsequent performances, and each time I took notes on the responses of the audiences. Each performance was slightly different (depending on the audience), but gradually there emerged a pattern of responses and with it a pattern of political meanings, often not intended and not expected by the translator, the director, or the actor. My personal experience was never reflected, for obvious political reasons, in the reviews of the production.2 The play was produced in 1987 in the historic building of the National Theatre. It was directed by Karel K í , and its stage designer, Jaroslav Malina, opted for a postmodern action design full of selfreferential play on the ornate fire curtain. That curtain was made of iron, and it was commonly referred to as the ‘iron curtain,’ which was both a statement of fact and a political metaphor. That iron curtain descended and ascended several times during the performance, sending all kinds of messages to the audience. The oppressive nature of the King’s ‘little academy,’ for example, was emphasized by the three lords of Navarre slamming their hands against the iron curtain when they took their oaths. The imperative and at the same time hollow sound of this action confirmed and immediately undermined their bargain of three years of chastity and scholarly pursuits. At one point the heavy and ornate curtain descended and stopped only a few inches above the stage floor so that an actor had to finish his speech through the gap that was left, speaking, as it were, from behind the iron curtain. The iron curtain was a cold-war word, a symbol of boundary origi-

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience


nally dividing the Communist paradise from the non-paradise outside it. The specific quality of the Czechoslovak situation was that not only the term but also the reality of the iron curtain was confirmed, and this important boundary image still had much semantic energy even in the late eighties when Gorbachev’s perestroika was in full swing. The Czech ideologues of the normalization were terrified of it, since it bore a striking resemblance to the Prague Spring. Although the Soviet army still occupied the country, the political climate was more liberal than in the early 1970s, and Shakespeare’s Muscovites could appear on the stage. When the four lords of Navarre appeared in the masque disguised in genuine Russian costumes, in which big fur caps featured prominently, the audience responded with spontaneous laughter. Under the circumstances, the Russian costume itself was a political statement. Moreover, Shakespeare’s politically harmless verses acquired special resonance. The semiotic process, engendered by the totalitarian state and fermented by the fact of the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia, was immediately at work. To see the four ladies of France laughing their Russian suitors out of existence was a re-enactment of desire that could not yet be realized in practical politics. Just imagine the audiences who had been humiliated by the Russian military occupation listening to this verbal exchange: Princess: We have had pastimes here and pleasant game A mess of Russians left us but of late. King: How, madam? Russians? Princess: Ay, in truth, my lord; Trim gallants, full of courtship and of state. Rosaline: Madam, speak true. – It is not so, my lord. My lady, to the manner of these days, In courtesy gives undeserving praise. We four indeed confronted were with four In Russian habit. Here they stayed an hour, And talked apace; and in that hour, my lord, They did not bless us with one happy word. I dare not call them fools, but this I think, When they are thirsty, fools would fain to drink. (5.2.360–73)

The innocent words caught fire, and almost all the lines spoken by or about the disguised Russians in the play went through a similar semiotic translation. ‘Teach us, sweet madam, for our rude transgression some


Martin Hilský

fair excuse,’ says the King (5.2.431–2), and his words echoed with another meaning, as if the Orwellian duplicity of language, imposed on the Czech public discourse after the Soviet occupation, backfired and defeated its original purpose. The King’s ‘little academy,’ so much reminiscent of the French academies or even of the court of Rudolph II, was a utopian enterprise doomed to failure, as Berowne well knows at the very beginning of the play. Fame and immortality are worthy goals, but to achieve them through asceticism is a violation of human nature. Just as with any utopian project, the King’s academy presupposes an enclosed space divided from the outside world by a clearly defined boundary: the ladies of France are not allowed into the palace and will be received only outside in the park. The King’s utopian project must be realized by means of a series of prohibitions: to fast for three years, not to sleep properly, not to see a woman. The multiple prohibition encoded in Shakespeare’s text was not decoded in a direct political sense in the Prague production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, but the semantic field of prohibiting and banning indirectly interacted with the politics of the ‘normalized’ totalitarian state. The fact that the lords of Navarre had to sign their oaths (‘Your oaths are passed, and now subscribe your names’ [1.1.19], ‘if you are armed to do as sworn to do, / Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too’ [1.1.22–3]) reverberated with political echoes, since the very act of signing was an important political ritual of the totalitarian state: Charter 77, signed by many signatories, was countered by the official ‘anti-charter’ and the totalitarian state did its best to get as many signatures as possible. Right at the beginning of the play, the King is faced with the difficulty of enforcing the decrees he has passed. Berowne reminds him of the arrival of the French Princess. ‘Why, this was quite forgot,’ says the King and adds, ‘We must of force dispense with this decree; / She must lie here on mere necessity’ (1.1.146–7). This simple exchange (in Czech translation ‘Ten p íkaz obejdem, ne se nám vymstí, / nesmíme odmítnout jí pohostinství’) became, rather surprisingly, one of the crucial passages of the whole play. The comedy of the King’s attempt to dispense with his own decree may work in all cultural contexts, but in a totalitarian situation, which so much depends on decrees and prohibitions of various kinds, this comedy is heightened. Innocent and fairly neutral statements of this kind might provoke some mild smiling here and there in Anglo-American audiences, but the spontaneous explosion

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience


of British or American laughter is, I think, hardly conceivable at that point. Yet in nine out of the ten performances I saw, the Czech audiences did explode at this moment. This semiosis, this political foregrounding of a fairly neutral text, was based upon a simple cultural translation: there were several crucial political images of the ‘normalization’ period that were taboo in the official discourse – the fact of the Russian occupation, the image of the prison, severe restrictions on travel and emigration, bans and prohibitions of diverse kinds, secret police, duplicity of language, lying, and so forth – and any word that came into the orbit of these images shone with reflected and refracted semantic light. There were so many instances of these translations in the Prague production of Love’s Labour’s Lost that their complete list would be too long. Let me select only a few more representative examples. Poor Dull, a constable of the play, was a laughing stock in Shakespeare’s time and in all subsequent ages, but in a police state this character acquires special significance. Similarly, all references to prison in the text were immediately and automatically foregrounded in the performance, as, for example, in the scene in which the King sends Costard to prison for breaking his decree: ‘It was proclaimed a year’s imprisonment to be taken with a wench’ (1.1.275–6). The political foregrounding was even more intense in this wordplay between Costard and the Princess at the beginning of act 4: Costard: God dig-you-den all. Pray you, which is the head lady? Princess: Thou shalt know her, fellow, by the rest that have no heads (4.1.42–5)

‘Having no heads’ has a resonance in English that is half nonsensical, half absurd, and the image of execution by beheading may be lurking somewhere in the background. The Czech translation read: Kotraba: Zdraví ko vespolek, dámy. Kdo tu stojí v ele? Princezna: To poznáš, p íteli, podle t ch, kdo sedí.

‘Stát v ele’ means ‘stand in the head’ and the phrase has a wide currency. In fact, it is used almost daily in the newspapers because, in Czech, all presidents ‘stand in the head’ of their countries, and so on. ‘Sed t’ means ‘sit’ with an unmistakable connotation of ‘sit in the prison


Martin Hilský

cell.’ So if I translate the pun from Czech back into English you get Costard saying, ‘Pray you, which lady stands in the head?’ and the Princess answers, ‘Thou shalt know her, fellow, by those that sit (in the cell).’ The pun does not work in English, but it does in Czech because of the neat contrast between ‘stát v ele’ and ‘sed t v cele.’ What I am trying to explain rather clumsily happened in a fraction of a second on the stage, and the resulting comic release was stunning. The pun became a verbal fuse that detonated a huge semantic explosion. Naturally so, since in a totalitarian state those who stand in the head indeed may be known by those who sit in the prison cells. Another commedia dell’arte character, Holofernes, the pedant, says to Nathaniel, the hedge priest: Holofernes: Sir Nathaniel, this Berowne is one of the votaries with the King; and here he hath framed a letter to a sequent of the stranger queen’s, which accidentally, or by the way of progression hath miscarried. (4.2.134–7)

Berowne’s sin is that he sent a letter to a lady accompanying the foreign, that is French, Queen. To have an unauthorized contact with a Western foreigner was, in the ‘normalized’ Czechoslovakia of the 1970s and 1980s, a serious offence. At Charles University, for example, Czech lecturers were obliged to report any contact they had with foreigners, including visits to the Western European embassies. There was a yellow-grey, dun form provided for that purpose by the so-called ‘special department,’ which, as everyone knew, was under the direct control of the secret police. That form was called ‘Hlášení o styku’ in Czech, which means ‘Report on the Contact’ (meaning the verbal or written contact with a foreigner), but at my faculty it was generally known by my colleagues as ‘Report on the Intercourse.’ By law and by decree we were supposed to write a report on the intercourse whenever we exchanged a word with foreigner. The report, however brief or perfunctory, would legalize such intercourse. In the Czech translation of the quoted passage Berowne has had an ‘intercourse’ by letter with a foreign woman and the fact that this unauthorized intercourse is reported by Holofernes has a familiar ring – the pedant of commedia dell’arte received some additional comic overtones and became a stage denouncer or stooge. The same Holofernes, speaking of Don Armado, says: ‘He is too picked, too spruced, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience


I may call it’ (5.1.12–14). I have no idea how British or American audiences understand the word ‘peregrinate,’ but it means ‘outlandish’ or ‘having the air of one who has travelled abroad.’ The literal translation of this meaning (‘trochu se nadýchal zahrani ního vzduchu’ – he has breathed a bit of foreign air) was immediately politicized through the cultural semantics of the period. One of the most astonishing responses of the audience was provoked by Costard. ‘Walk aside the true folk, and let the traitors stay’ (4.3.210), he says after Berowne has just been exposed (by a letter brought by Costard) as a liar, as were the other lords. In the Czech translation (‘Zrádci, ti z stávaj a poctivej lid jde!’) and on the Czech stage of 1987 this innocent and straightforward remark was turned into a pun on the use of the word ‘treason’ and ‘traitor’ in the political discourse of the normalization. The Prague Spring reformers were traitors of socialism and the working classes; to emigrate was not one of the human rights but a treason committed against one’s own country, and so on. The word ‘treason’ is repeated several times in this scene of Love’s Labour’s Lost and in Costard’s final remark its official usage is turned upside down: it is rather those who stay behind, that is, the politicians and ideologues who accepted the occupation and imposed the ‘normalization,’ who are the traitors. The very question of who is the ‘true folk’ and who is a ‘traitor’ was understood, in each of the ten performances I observed, as political innuendo. Words on the stage again challenged very strongly, although obliquely and indirectly, the words of the state and its political discourse. In some circumstances even Orwellian doublespeak may have a positive value. It works or means both ways; originally a tool of oppression, it may become subversive and liberating. This translation of the language of suppression into the language of subversion and liberation is one of the most interesting aspects of the cultural semantics of the normalization period. To impose the duplicity of language on the nation is a dangerous exercise because such an attempt results in the loss of credibility. It automatically implies linguistic scepticism and deep suspicion of language that undermine any attempt to control the society through language. The suspicion of language is one of the main themes of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and the most concentrated manifestation of that suspicion is Shakespeare’s punning. For Sigurd Burckhardt ‘the pun is, by its very directness, revolutionary and anarchic ... It denies the meaningfulness of


Martin Hilský

words and so calls into question the genuineness of the linguistic currency on which the social order depends. It makes us aware that words may be counterfeits’ (1968: 24–5). The politics of punning suggested by Burckhardt is immensely inspiring and relevant to my theme. The pun indeed attacks the fixed meanings and norms; it is a subversive, destabilizing element of language; it is a dissident of language, to use the political terminology of the Czech discourse of the 1970s and 1980s. It may be seen as language in opposition to the norm. But the paradox of the opposition is that it always defines itself through the contrast to the norm to which it is opposed; in other words, it requires the norm as much as the political opposition needs the establishment for its self-definition. It is impossible to live in the world of dogma and rigid permanence, but it is equally difficult to live in the state of permanent change. It is mainly due to the intense punning that the linguistic world of Love’s Labour’s Lost is radically destabilized. The pun always presupposes the difficulty of language of one sort or another, and it is not surprising that the main wordsmith, the main punster of the play, Berowne, is also its master trickster. Berowne and the lords of Navarre use the language very eloquently, but through the four acts of the play they lie. ‘And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history became truth,’ says George Orwell (1989: 397), and the party of the gentlemen of Navarre concur with him in an uncanny way: Dumain:

Ill, to example ill, Would from my forehead wipe a perjured note, For none offend where all alike do dote. (4.3.122–4)

For none offend where all alike do lie, we should add. We never know whether Berowne is speaking the truth or whether he only provides a clever and dangerously eloquent apology for the treacherous behaviour of the four lords. In his rhetoric, the truth is changed into falsehood and then back into truth too often: Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves, Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths. It is religion thus to be forsworn ... (4.3.336–7)

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience


Who speaks these lines? A skilful apologist for falsehood or a passionate lover who realizes the paradoxes of human experience? A clever lawyer eloquently defending his clients or a chastised and penitent sinner? Later on, in act 5 Berowne says: Therefore, ladies, Our love being yours, the error that love makes Is likewise yours. We to ourselves prove false, By being once false for ever to be true To those that make us both – fair ladies, you. And even that falsehood, in itself a sin, Thus purifies itself and turns to grace. (5.2.758–64)

Berowne speaks of fidelity in love but also of fidelity to words. Oaths, just like acts, sentences, and deeds, are language phenomena. In fact, it is almost tempting to see Berowne’s words as a description of the process of translation. Traduttori traditori: translators have to be unfaithful in order to be faithful. But Berowne’s problem is that his eloquent translations of lies into truths, or falsehood into grace, have gradually lost their credibility. It is not easy to convince Rosaline that now she can trust his words. The language of affectations and lies cannot be easily changed into the language of truth and love. The old language habits persevere and the disease of language cannot be easily cured. This is the lesson everyone who has lived in a totalitarian regime knows only too well. The paradox of Love’s Labour’s Lost is that the play in which language is the main protagonist and which becomes one glorious and breathtaking feast of language3 ends with the defeat of the word. Berowne will have to visit the speechless sick, and unless he, by the fierce endeavour of his verbal wit, makes the dying deaf-mute smile, he will never get Rosaline. The power of the word was never so severely tested. It is confronted with the vast silence of death. And yet, the defeat of the word at the end of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a precondition for the purgation or purification of language. Out of the language of lies the language of truth may be born. The deep suspicion of the Princess and the ladies of the language of the lords may have a cleansing effect and translate suspicion into trust. In October 1989, when Love’s Labour’s Lost was still in the repertory, Václav Havel wrote his speech of acceptance for a peace prize he was


Martin Hilský

awarded in Germany. Havel was unable to deliver this speech in person, but it was published on 9 December 1989 in The Independent, shortly after the momentous translation of politics in 1989. It is now famous as the ‘power of the word speech.’ The argument is well known: in a country in which writers could go to prison (and in which words can prove mightier than ten military divisions), words have a power that is inconceivable in the liberal and democratic societies. But in that speech Havel speaks not only of the power of words but also of the need to suspect words: As I’ve already stated, my intention here today is not to convey to you the experience of one who has learnt that words still count for something when you can still go to prison for them. My intention was to share with you another lesson that we in this corner of the world have learnt about the importance of words. I am convinced it is a lesson which has universal application: namely, that it always pays to be suspicious of words and to be wary of them, and that we can never be too careful in this respect ... Thanks to this regime, we have developed a profound distrust of all generalizations, ideological platitudes, clichés, slogans, intellectual stereotypes, and insidious appeals to various levels of our emotions, from the baser to the loftier. As a result, we are now largely immune to all hypnotic enticements, even of the traditionally persuasive national or nationalistic variety.

If that is so, if Václav Havel’s words do not make us suspect his own words about the suspicion of the words, then sweet indeed are the uses of adversity.

NOTES 1 A portion of this essay has been published in Hattaway, Sokolova, and Roper, eds. 2 This raises the important issue of the methodology of theatre research. Due to the specific nature of the theatre, its ever-changing and transient quality, it becomes almost impossible to put the traditional methodology of research (the study of the reviews and other documents) to an efficient and reliable use. In a totalitarian situation this difficulty becomes even more pronounced. 3 The Great Feast of Language is the title of William C. Carroll’s excellent study

Translations of Politics / Politics of Translation: Czech Experience


of Love’s Labour’s Lost. I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to this book. Carroll’s comments on the language of the play, especially on the use of punning, were very important for the final form of my translation and intellectually stimulating in a more general and fundamental sense. REFERENCES Burckhardt, Sigurd. 1968. Shakespearean Meanings. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Carroll, William C. 1976. The Great Feast of Language. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Furness, H.H., ed. 1964. A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost. New York: Dover Publications. Hattaway, Michael, Boika Sokolova, and Derek Roper, eds. 1994. Shakespeare in the New Europe. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Orwell, George. [1949] 1989. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Shakespeare, William. 1994. Love’s Labours’s Lost, The World’s Classics, The Oxford Shakespeare. Ed. G.R. Hibbard. (All quotations are taken from this edition.)

ska Courtney

Krystyna Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Communist Poland krystyna kujawinb ska courtney

Under the Communist regime in Poland (1945–89), every ten years or so theatre directors presented Shakespearean works. Many of them made an abundant use of Jan Kott’s famous book Shakespeare Our Contemporary (1965),1 but few directors or critics acknowledged the source behind Kott’s thinking: Krystyna Skuszanka, one of the first female directors in Communist Poland. Though she staged only five of Shakespeare’s plays – Measure for Measure (1953, 1956, 1970), The Tempest (1959, 1969, 1989), Twelfth Night (1961, 1972), As You Like It (1966), and The Winter’s Tale (1974, 1979) – she was fascinated by Shakespeare to such an extent that she often revisited her productions, each time with a new interpretation that reverberated in the current Polish political climate. Her artistic motto was not reducible to a crude version of Marxism; indeed, simplistic political interpretations collided with her sophisticated and complex weave of theatrical allusions and metaphors. The artistic milieu in which Skuszanka began her work in 1955 as the administrative and artistic director of the Ludowy Theatre in Nowa Huta, a newly established foundry town near Cracow, was regulated by rigid Communist Party proclamations. Condemning the post-war freedom and innovative spirit of expression, the 1949 Polish Theatre Convention in Obory officially imposed socialist realism as the only politically correct artistic method. Exposing its political and ideological dimension, Kazimierz Braun rightly suggested that the Polish version of social realism be called ‘Social Sovietization’ (1994: 61), ‘a period of dynamic mutation in Polish theatre and dramaturgy’ (Eustachiewicz 1979: 24) during which the artistic and philosophical heritage of Western aesthetics became exposed to sharp criticism and gradual erosion.

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 229

The official ideology subjected dramaturgical and theatrical forms to the themes supposedly close to the hearts of the working class. The authorities approved of expressiveness of action, explicit conclusions, and a simplification of the characters’ psychology; they also urged the elimination of metaphors and symbols, and a retreat from history as an allegorical masque, preferring the notion of history as a Marxist dialectical process. In 1949 Stefan Zó kiewski, one of the leading theoreticians of Polish social realism, stressed in a highly acclaimed publication that the arts were to be judged by their effectiveness both in constructing the socialist system and in spiritually nourishing its builders. Artists were expected to assume the significant function of ‘the engineers of human souls’ – in Stalin’s phrase (Zó kiewski 1949: 5). Theatres were ‘mildly encouraged’ to ignore and even eliminate almost all of the Western repertoire and its influence. Lope de Vega, Pierre Corneille, William Shakespeare – as the representatives of imperialist cultures – were to yield place to Soviet and Polish socialist realist ‘instant successes.’ The best known of these ‘hits’ were plays advocating efficiency at work. For example, Vašek Kana, a Czech playwright and the author of Parta Brusi e Karhana (Grinder Kurhan’s Brigade), was acclaimed by some Polish actors and directors as a contemporary Shakespeare. Kana’s schematized play was a typical example of social realist art, focusing on the conflict between two clearly delineated groups of characters: ‘good Communists’ and ‘bad capitalists.’ The ‘good Communist’ was happy, full of energy, and muscular, with a straightforward, optimistic smile. In this context, Shakespeare was generally read as a prophet of Marxism. The Russian critic Mikhail M. Morozov’s interpretation became recognized by Communist Party ideologues as the only acceptable exegesis of Shakespeare’s works: his dramas were ideological denunciations of the ‘systemic putridity of the Elizabethan epoch’ (1950: 45). Working against the grain of official political expectations, Skuszanka and her enthusiastic young company in the Ludowy Theatre reacted with a well-formulated program of subversion and appropriation of the Communist socialist-realist dictum. The group quickly established itself as a leading young Communist theatre with an ambitious artistic program: Skuszanka either consciously or unconsciously subverted the ‘essentialism’ of socialist realism by appropriating party concerns, and working within the sanctioned system.2 Shakespeare was tolerated by the Communist regime as long as his plays could be seen within the context of acceptable social and moral problematics.


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

Skuszanka’s production of Measure for Measure in the Ludowy Theatre in 1956 in Nowa Huta was a repeat of her professional debut (1953) in a provincial theatre in Opole, where the play had been staged only two months after Stalin’s death.Though the general lines of the original production had been similar to the Nowa Huta staging, it had then been completely ignored by the critics and authorities. A few records of the Opole production can be found in local newspapers; the only national critical reference appeared in the ‘Kronika’ (‘Chronicle’) section of the November issue of Teatr (Adaszy ska 1953: 24), merely enumerating all the productions staged in a given period of a year. Today, from the perspective of history, it appears that the youth of the artist and the provincialism of the theatre were not the real reasons for the conspiracy of silence that surrounded Skuszanka’s professional debut; more likely, her rejection of socialist realist aesthetics and ideology prompted the mass media to ignore the production. Yet, in 1956, her timing was appropriate:3 Poland had just entered the period of the post-Stalinist ‘Thaw,’ prompted by the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in February of that year, which openly denounced Stalin and Stalinist crimes against humanity. In June 1956, the anti-Communist mood increased and, eventually, riots broke out in Poznan organized by Polish workers who supposedly formed the pillars of the Communist state. Though political power was still retained by the Polish Communist Party, Warsaw reacted with understandable nervousness, since a national call for change was on the rise in the country. Party meetings encouraged ‘self-criticism’ of its ‘hard-line’ members, who then officially castigated Stalinism as ‘a period of mistakes and distortions.’ In September, when Measure for Measure was staged in Nowa Huta, the tide reached its peak, ushering in a period of open criticism of the Polish experience under Stalinist totalitarianism. One result was that Skuszanka’s production of the play was hailed as the artistic event of the year. People from all over Poland came to see it (Timoszewicz and Kral 1962: 18–21). Skuszanka’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s play became the prototype for many Polish theatre events, especially in the 1960s. While she respected the text, she did not follow it slavishly, permitting her actors to suggest a constant debate and negotiation with the language. In the production, the theatrical sign system became concretized: the gestural, rhythmical, dramaturgical, and narrative structures built up a comprehensive representation of the totalitarian regime. Yet, the production

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 231

did not operate at the local historical level only because the sign system became typologized, and thus the production assumed a generalized dimension. The production’s meaning emerged from a series of compounded allusions and metaphors that implied an atmosphere of violence and tension. The universality of the production’s concerns, present in the tone and mood, spoke not only about the Polish situation, but also about a pandemic predicament. It signalled that the Polish Communist theatre had learned to appropriate Shakespeare’s plays for the political and social needs of a given historical moment. No wonder that the Polish public often read definite subversive implications into performances that were just as often apparently devoid of any political innuendoes. In other words, Skuszanka’s synchronic reading of the play resulted from a theatre aesthetics that manifested itself in the mise en scène: scenery, use of space, costume, movement, gesture, voice. All these tightly bound theatrical sign systems worked effectively together to express the clearly articulated leading ideas of the production. Skuszanka’s Measure for Measure was recognized as ‘political morality-in-the-making,’ and though the critics were not in a position to state their views explicitly, many of them still managed to stress the play’s political relevance to the Polish situation (Treugutt 1956: 3; Gre 1956: 5; and Kudli ski 1956: 10).4 Measure for Measure portrayed a country under the vigilant wrath of police and army, where people’s lives oscillated between brutal violence and degrading mental slavery. Looming over the action of the play was the atmosphere of a menacing totalitarianism (Nazi or Stalinist), skilfully conveyed by the set and costume designs of Tadeusz Kantor, the artist who some twenty years later became an international celebrity with his own avant-garde theatre where he was playwright, director, stage designer, and actor. During a later interview of 16 February 1996, Skuszanka recalled their trepidation preceding the premiere. Kantor showed her a drawing of a grimlooking prison cell with two bunks, and commented: ‘That is where we will while away the rest of our days because of our production.’ In the 1956 program notes, Skuszanka carefully worded her artistic and interpretive message. Expanding on Romain Rolland’s criticism of indolent minds incapable of coping with any form of criticism or change and drowned in the comfortable slumber of the world of personal illusions, Skuszanka said: ‘I understand Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure as an incisive satire against ... human hypocrisy in relation to others and to themselves. Shakespeare uses this satire to fight for an unfeigned


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

Act 2, Measure for Measure, directed by Krystyna Skuszanka at Ludowy Theatre (Cracow, Poland, 1956). Angelo – Tadeusz Szaniecki, Isabella – Izabella Olsewska. Photo: Francisczek Myszkowski

human being, rescuing love of life, liberty, and a belief in the cognizant power of [the human] mind ... from the gloomy picture of the world’ (quoted in Timoszewicz and Kral 1962: 25). Though Zygmunt Gre began his review of Measure for Measure with a statement that it was a production about the ‘side effects of Fascism,’ he bravely added that ‘we have found ourselves in a similar situation following the road forcefully facilitated by the Soviet Army.’ He also praised Skuszanka’s publicistic manner, which turned the play into a public discourse on law and political power (Gre 1956: 5). Constrained by the political situation, he did not add that the discourse took place in a non-democratic and non-pluralistic political context. Yet, as Marta Gibi ska has recently noticed, the majority of the critics’ voices were ‘representative ..., succinctly formulating expectations about reading Shakespeare through the present reality, not the type of social criticism favored in the Stalinist theater’ (2000: 186).

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 233

Skuszanka’s audience reacted more radically than the overtly cautious critics. Delivered straight to the audience, many speeches of the play stirred its liberal spirit. Many years later, a witness of the 1956 production could still recall the impression evoked by the Duke’s ‘Hence hath offence his quick celerity, / When it is borne in high authority’ (4.2.108–9). ‘Such applause does not belong in the world of theatre,’ he said in the context of the vigorous ovation which followed these lines at the performance.5 Since the totalitarian state did not tolerate explicit criticism of existing Polish reality, Skuszanka’s Measure for Measure revealed that her theatrical allusions and metaphors could freely express Polish citizens’ grievances with official sanction. Her poetics would influence the theatrical sensibility of Polish generations to come. Indeed, her theatre did assume its culturally creative role, but along with the induction of subversive ideologies and meanings while operating within the Communist infrastructure. Skuszanka always treated the public response in the auditorium as the ultimate touchstone of her artistic efforts (Skuszanka 1996). The audience was an inseparable part of her artistic creativity as it attempted to interpret, perform perceptual closure, and make sense of her staging, thus deciding what was intended by the text and the theatrical performance within a given political and social situation. While discussing her staging of Measure for Measure in 1996, Skuszanka became quite open about her intentions: ‘It was a production about the hypocrisy of power,’ she said, adding that it was ‘about a two-faced ruler, a murderer, who abused his power and introduced a totalitarian regime. The regime was inquisitorial for Shakespeare, and Stalinist for us.’ She recalled passages of the play that made the audience ready to enter into a discourse on morality and politics. ‘Angelo’s righteousness acted as a catalyst for thunderous applause or tender periods of silence in the audience, resulting in the active involvement of the audience in the performance,’ she said. Reminiscing about her experience with the Polish audience, Skuszanka said she believed that its members anticipated an opportunity to participate in the creation of the performance. They wished to comment on their life under the offensive totalitarian regime. In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, the Duke’s departure from and return to Vienna does not perform the function of a simple dramaturgical frame structure; Skuszanka expanded the significance of these scenes, and made them provide a frame for the rest of the play. These two


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

scenes were presented against a colourful background vaguely suggesting a city, while the main action of the play was staged in a grim setting: a grey turreted wall on which a guard regularly made his upstage rounds surveying events on the forestage at the end of each scene change. A huge portrait of the absent Duke made reference to the Stalinist ‘cult of personality.’ Angelo’s costume, resembling a grey army/ police uniform, looked menacing among the other costumes stylized on early Renaissance models. The unexpected return to the colourful setting in the comic finale introduced a sense of both pathos and the grotesque. A light veil dropped over the backstage covering the grimness of the wall, the actors stopped being characters and, amidst laughter and jokes, carried out their trial of Angelo. Everyone apologized to everyone, and everyone seemed happy and satisfied. Skuszanka explained that, reading the play, she felt offended by Shakespeare’s acts of forgiveness at its end: Angelo was a criminal in power, just like the Stalinist criminals. The Duke forgives him and in addition gives him a wife. This forgiveness insults me deeply; I could present the ending of the play only within the convention of a comedy. It was the same in the external world: a person in power could abuse his authority, but when his successor came he would forgive him all the past sins, since the two were in one camarilla [a group of confidential advisers]. The spectator should not forgive but remember everything that happened before the dropping of the veil. (1996)

Only in the theatre could one return to a happy ending with no recollection of human abuse and degradation; but the main action was not reduced to an inconsequential interlude. The metadramatic frame Skuszanka used emphasized the seriousness of the central issues of the play; yet it was not the traditional frame of a play-within-the play, but the frame of a play-within-life. Though some reviewers tended to see the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt in Skuszanka’s final volte, they also noticed ‘a satire of hypocrisy and despotism ... in the climate of rationalistic irony’ (Otwinowski 1956: 21) directed ‘at opportunists and simpletons for whom the experience of the past flows away like water’ (Robak 1956: 7). In 1992 Marta Fik, an eminent Polish theatre critic and historian, wrote: ‘[T]his finale was certainly a farewell to the optimistic Shakespeare, the kind which socialist realism wanted to see ... The new, more bitter Shakespeare rhymed perfectly with the experience that was close

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 235

to that of the older and younger Polish people’ (1992: 143). Shrewd critics and many people present in the Teatr Ludowy auditorium made a connection to the bloody events of Polish Stalinism: it was not possible in real life suddenly ‘to drop the veil’ and change deep-seated feelings of bitter disgust and disappointment into elevated approval and enthusiasm. Skuszanka recalled that many party officials came to see her Measure for Measure. They usually represented that Communist orientation which wished to classify itself as reformist: its members were prepared to go out of their way to secure their position as the leading force in the political arena. Since the nasty confrontation between the Poznan workers and the army had shaken party confidence, unity and bonding within its membership became a political imperative. The party officials’ presence in the Ludowy Theatre auditorium was symbolic: it displayed their identification with the ideological subversion within the unquestionable Polish Communist Party status quo. On the one hand, Skuszanka’s production permitted the venting of anger of a bewildering multiplicity of previously muted or suppressed voices in Poland under the Stalinist regime; on the other, it assisted in entrenching the Communist regime in the new political situation. Her production of The Tempest, three years later, was another example of capitalizing on Shakespeare’s play as a forum for national discussion of current Polish matters from a universal human perspective.6 On that occasion, Jan Kott fully collaborated with Skuszanka on the interpretation of the text. The liberties they took with the text made some reviewers ask rhetorically, ‘Should Shakespeare be for the theatre or should the theatre be for Shakespeare?’ Many had serious objections to the ‘mutilation’ of Shakespeare. Yet Skuszanka’s ‘mutilation’ became a standard approach in Polish Communist theatre; her example showed that his texts supplied directors with relatively safe dramaturgical material. Unable to penetrate the political allusions and metaphors skilfully incorporated into the theatrical mise en scène, the censors usually treated such theatre as, ultimately, the product of the Elizabethan era. Skuszanka stated that her generation of directors never venerated ‘Shakespeare’ as a cultural icon, admitting that, in this regard, the Communist censorship inspired her theatrical aesthetics. The lack of idolatry for Shakespeare (and all classics) was evoked by the artistic assumptions of socialist realism. Its ideologues encouraged the ‘amelioration’ of classical texts for the political and social needs of the Communist regime. In sanctifying artistic licence, they did not realize that their


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

The Tempest, directed by Krystyna Skuszanka at Ludowy Theatre (Cracow, Poland, 1959). Caliban – Rszard Kotas. Photo: Ludowy Theatre Archive

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 237

policy was double-edged: under the umbrella of Communist artistic stimulation, young Polish directors felt free to ‘improve’ classical texts, and their efforts were interpreted as comments upon current political and social concerns. In 1960 one Polish critic said: ‘Contemporary dramatists can sleep soundly as long as Shakespeare does their job’ (quoted in Fik 1992: 141). In short, Shakespeare became the Contemporary of Communist Poland, since his iconic dimension was always in the process of creation: the richness of Shakespeare’s material always allowed for new interpretations. The Ludowy-Powszechny Theatre’s interpretation of The Tempest, sometimes called an adaptation, explored only one of the themes present in the original play. The theme reflected Skuszanka’s abiding philosophical and dramaturgical concerns: ‘human life as an experiment: experimentation on the human condition, the experimentation of life executed on humans, and the experimentation which humans execute on themselves’ (Skuszanka 1996). The ultimate questions that Skuszanka raised were: ‘What is a human being? What and for how long can the human being endure?’ In her interpretation, Prospero’s isolated island became a laboratory in which the human experiment could take place. Though Prospero conducted the tests, he himself also became their object. Further, the experimentation involved the theatre audience; the production tested both the audience’s reaction to each performance and the players’ reaction to the audience of each performance. Some critics saw in the production a comment on the German intellectuals who emigrated to America during the Second World War; others read into its dialectics a contrastive and ironic opposition between an idealistic and a materialistic dream of power, self-fulfilment, and happiness (Treugutt 1960: 10). Yet, for us, Kott’s essay and Skuszanka’s pronouncements seem the most reliable sources for the interpretation of the 1959 and 1960 stagings of The Tempest. In 1959 Poland was counting its political losses. The Poles looked back in disbelief at their gullibility in 1956, when they had allowed themselves to be swept up by the Soviet Politburo and Polish Communist Party members’ deceitful contrition and empty promises. The enthusiasm and sincerity with which they had welcomed the nomination of W adys aw Gomu ka (who had been purged for alleged ‘Titoism’ in 1951) to the position of First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party was unparalleled. Though three years later Soviet dominance returned to its ‘pre-Thaw’ period, it could not erase from people’s minds the significance of 1956: the beginning of the disintegration of Marxist


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

The Tempest, directed by Krystyna Skuszanka at Ludowy Theatre (Cracow, Poland, 1959). Prospero – Jerzy Przybylski. Photo: Ludowy Theatre Archive

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 239

theory, and the crisis within the international labour movement in the blood-washed streets of Budapest and Poznan. ‘The circle has closed, history has come back to its beginning,’ commented Kott in his essay on Suszanka’s Tempest, and asked, ‘Is it going to repeat itself again?’ (1965: 331). These grim reflections were intensified by Kantor’s stage design, of which Treugutt said: ‘Scraps hang over the stage, ominous and grotesque, like ... accessories of our life’ (1960: 10). Applying tachism, the latest fashion in abstract painting, Kantor achieved both an emotional and semantic strengthening of Skuszanka’s direction of the production. A non-realist space of a particular and special reality consisted of ‘soft stains ... [t]hin and thick fishing nets, pieces of igelite, various kinds of textiles and God knows what else. And all these against the background of grey-waxed jute. During the performance the lights illuminated specific areas of the stage’ (Polanica 1959: 6). Reviewers maintained that it was relatively easy to respond to the reality of the semantic designations of the production in this abstract non-realism. As in Measure for Measure, Skuszanka’s staging evoked an atmosphere of deep intellectual reflection about our human condition. Her vision of Ariel and Caliban, as two extremes of human possibilities, was probably most revealing. Some critics claimed that Ariel looked like an abstract construct of the fusion of a young woman and a spaceman, which functioned as a definite abstraction in a sterile construction of the world (Topolnicka 1959: 6; Wróblewski 1959: 12–13). Skuszanka maintained that she wanted Ariel to epitomize spirituality that always longs for an ultimate liberation from the shackles of human limitations. Crawling from his cave situated under the stage, Caliban was to represent the bodily, sensual, and physical sides of humanity. He was the reflection of human aspirations in contrast to Ariel’s innermost sublimity. Literally drenched in Ariel’s light, Caliban became ‘humanized’; at the end of the production Prospero liberated a wiser individual (Polanica 1960: 6; Jarecki 1960: 2). Skuszanka’s Caliban was never funny. Even his homage paid to the two drunkards, Trinculo and Stephano, did not evoke laughter. Andrzej urowski asserted that it made the audience respond with ‘disgust and fright at the mistakes [they] make while selecting [their] gods’ (1983: 182). The construction of Prospero’s character constituted another pillar of The Tempest’s poetics. Adam Hanuszkiewicz, an eminent Polish actor and director, who played Prospero in the 1960 production, turned him into a reflective, thoughtful sceptic. Bereft of magic, Prospero’s powers


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

were of a cool intellectual quality. He seemed inveterately aware of the consequences of his decisions, and treated them as the continuing experience of living. One reviewer maintained that, ‘like Caliban, Skuszanka’s Prospero finds himself post factum at the threshold of human emancipation. Does he believe that he will change the world? No. Trust and faith did not belong to his level of consciousness. Resignation did not belong to that stage, either, but bitter scepticism did, and the awareness of human limitations’ ( urowski 1983: 183). Skuszanka’s theatre aesthetics allowed her to speak about the deepest fears of her generation. Like Prospero and Caliban, the Poles felt caught in a vicious circle of nihilistic disillusion and unfulfilled dreams of liberation. The real-life atmosphere of Polish resignation and scepticism reverberated in the artistic comment on the theatrical stage. Spectators thronged to see the production, since, as one of them recalled, it helped them to ‘undergo a catharsis in the transitory moment of the audience members’ solidarity’ (Pomianowski 1959: 15). It is not surprising to find a relatively easy political appropriation of Shakespeare under the Communist regime in Polish culture. From the Romantic period through Communist times, Polish literature centred on the fight for national independence, which was often met with perjury, betrayal, and terrorism. Skuszanka’s theatre poetics played on the Polish national ability to use writerly techniques in response to literary and documentary texts. Privileging (Polish) people’s concerns over theoretical artistic issues, her productions simply reflected existing needs, and allowed for a subversive discourse to operate under oppressive political conditions. In the conditions of censored disquisition, progressive elements in society saw Shakespeare in their own personal/political terms (Kustro 1978: 34). It should be stressed, however, that very often their subjective reading presented their need to vent their frustrations, and was not necessarily a reflection of the director’s interpretation. Most Polish theatrical renderings of Shakespeare’s plays under the Communist regime presented them as plays about the tragic nature of an individual or a national fate, often chaotically caught up in and destroyed by the crazy grindstones of history. Identifying with Shakespeare’s characters, the Polish public sympathized with their predicaments, understanding them in terms of humanity’s helpless fight against history. They found sarcasm in Shakespeare’s reaction toward history and they identified with his questioning the possibility of finding any law that regulated historical processes. Saturated with scepticism and

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 241

sometimes with nihilism, Polish viewers of his plays expressed their empathy with Shakespeare’s tragic characters, finding similarity between them and themselves as objects of a ruthless political manipulation, who often had to adopt unconsciously the rules of their oppressors’ immoral game. With the change of the political system, these issues became exhausted: Polish theatres were deprived of their two powerful allusions: dreams of an independent Poland and an anti-totalitarian parable. As early as 1992, the Polish theatre’s crisis of identity was more generally noticed and acknowledged (Filipowicz 1995: 122–8.) The following year, Zbigniew Majchrowski rightly observed that Shakespeare’s phrase ‘Denmark is a prison’ could no longer be understood by a Polish audience as a veiled shout to ‘let out all political prisoners’ or ‘let Poland at last be Polish.’ Similarly, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’ could no longer be treated as a direct criticism of the Communist regime’s corruption and political inadequacy, nor could the division of King Lear’s kingdom (1.2) any longer evoke the association with the division of Europe after the Yalta Conference (1993: 24–5).7 Because for many decades the theatres followed the same artistic technique, they all now also face the same problem: the lack of a sense of aesthetic form and the inability to create theatre using text alone. In a broader sense, one may say that the Polish stage tradition does not possess the language and the conventions of expression that are crucial to a staging of Shakespeare, and which must be developed gradually. Yet, there was no dearth of Shakespeare’s plays in recent years. He is produced by theatres of all ranks, as well as on television. The titles of the plays that used to dominate the Polish stage have, however, changed. From 1989 to 1999 there were 120 productions of Shakespeare’s plays staged in Poland. The list of the most frequently produced plays is headed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night. Hamlet, the most popular play under the Communist regime, now occupies fifth place. Shakespeare’s tragedies are less frequently produced, as if their problematics – bloody struggle for power, the rule of tyrants, and the ruthless Grand Mechanism of history – might undermine the relatively young democratic system of Poland. To escape the political implications of tragedies, some directors have looked for unusual interpretations. Presented against a pompous, opera-like setting, the Warsaw Powszechny Theatre Macbeth may serve here as a good example. In this production, the royal couple’s sexual sterility was presented as the motivating principle behind their


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

struggle for power with all of its accompanying murders (Baniewicz 2000: 278). The prevalence of Shakespeare’s comedies in the repertoires of Polish theatres has partly been determined by pragmatic objectives: love and romantic stories draw theatre-goers. Frequently staged in fairy-tale-like settings, the comedies promulgate the ideas of the freedom of contemporary culture, or at least an equality between its high, low, and folk variants. Yet reviewers complain that these productions lack a distinctive artistic focus. In addition, the sexual innuendoes are usually toned down, a not surprising manoeuvre in a country dominated by Catholic values. And much of Shakespeare’s wit and humour is lost in translation. From the perspective of 2004, one may say that the initial, overwhelming collapse in Poland of the artistic stature of many theatres and the intellectual crisis of their audiences contributed to the current rebirth of Shakespeare in Polish cultural life. The situation became so critical that the Ministry of Culture had to sponsor ambitious and intellectually challenging theatrical productions financially. The sponsoring of the annual International Shakespeare Festivals organized by Theatrum Gedanense Foundation has played an especially significant role in Shakespeare’s renaissance in Polish cultural life. The Foundation regularly organizes international conferences attended by academics, translators, and theatre practitioners. In 1993 the annual organization of the Gdansk Shakespeare week (in August) was initiated, during which many of Shakespeare’s plays are presented by both Polish and foreign theatres. The Foundation awards a best Shakespeare Production of the Year prize. On 16 February 1996 Krystyna Skuszanka granted me an interview. Sadly, she admitted that a liberated Poland did not produce valuable theatrical productions. Since the attendance of politicized dramas not only had produced a collective catharsis but had also carried an air of a meaningful defiance against Communist totalitarianism, the productions attracted crowds of people. Ironically, attendance was encouraged by official policy, since under the system of state-subsidized theatre trade unions bought blocks of tickets and distributed them among their members, thus making a visit to the theatre a regular entertainment. In 1989, when Solidarity won a spectacular victory in a parliamentary election, the most powerful enticement for artistic experimentation disappeared. Polish theatre lost its position as a custodian of patriotic and democratic values and the national conscience,

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 243

and at least for a while it became reticent about the issues that have dominated public discourse. Though Skuszanka is not bitter about her past professional life, she said at the very end of the interview: I am an old woman, and I do not like recalling memories. I do not wish to get myself irritated. But when I look at the present state of Polish theatre, I ask myself if it was worthwhile. Was it worthwhile to expend so much energy? Our aim was to destroy Communist Poland, but it was not only for the sake of politics. We wanted to change human mentality, and we succeeded. But not in all aspects.

The democratic system means, at least at this moment in Polish history, the disruption of the theatre of political metaphors and allusions, the disruption of political Shakespeare. In time and under this new freedom, surely new directions will emerge.

NOTES 1 The core chapters of Shakespeare Our Contemporary were first published in Polish as Szkice o Szekspirze (Notes on Shakespeare) in 1961. 2 I use the term ‘essentialism’ as synonymous with ‘foundationalism,’ which, as Laurence Bonjour says, is ‘at a dead end’ (1985: 250). 3 It is possible that Roman Zawistowski’s Hamlet, directed a few months before Skuszanka’s Measure for Measure, prepared the ground for the authorities’ positive response to her play. Zawistowski’s production is documented by Jan Kott (1965: 80–95). 4 Only the daily Trybuna Ludu, the official organ of the Polish Communist Party, was an exception; its theatre reviewer, writing under the pen name Jaszcz, advocated its instant removal (1956: 4). 5 I would like to thank Mr Ryszard Goluch, who has supplied me with this information. See also Otwinowski 1956: 21. 6 The premiere of The Tempest took place at the Ludowy Theatre on 20 March 1959; it opened on 17 January 1960 at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. 7 At the 1945 Yalta Conference Stalin gained acceptance of the Curzon Line as the Soviet-Polish frontier and tacit acknowledgment that the Polish state would have the Oder-Neisse Line as a western boundary. The new European borders deprived Poland of its historical lands in the eastern parts (e.g., in today’s Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belorussia) and confirmed its position as a


Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney

satellite of the Soviet Union. The conference is regarded as the moment when Central and South-eastern Europe was ‘handed over’ to Stalin. REFERENCES Adaszy ska, N. 1953. ‘Kronika.’ Teatr (Warsaw) 9: 24. Baniewicz, E. 2000. Lata t uste czy chude?: Szkice o teatrze 1990–2000. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawnicza Errata. Bonjour, L. 1985. The Structure of Empirical Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Braun, K. 1994. Teatr Polski 1939–1989: Obszary wolno ci–obszary zniewolenia. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe ‘Semper.’ Ciechowski, J., and Z. Majchrowski, eds. 1993. Od Shakespeare’a do Szekspira ... Gdansk: Centrum Edukacki Teatralnej i Fundacja Theatrum Gedanense. Eustachiewicz, L. 1979. Dramaturgia polska w latach 1945–77. Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne. Fik, M. 1992. ‘Szekspir w teatrze alluzji.’ Dialog (Warsaw) 3: 141–9. Filipowicz, H. 1995. ‘Demythologizing Polish Theatre.’ The Drama Review: A Journal of Performance Studies (New York) 39: 122–8. Gibi ska, M. 2000, ‘More than Jan Kott’s Shakespeare – Shakespeare in Polish Theater after 1956.’ In Kujawinska-Courtney, ed., 183–96. Gre , Z. 1956. ‘Opowie o w adzy i prawie.’ ycie literackie (Cracow) 41: 5. Jarecki, J. 1960. ‘Burza.’ Sztandar M odych (Warsaw) 23: 2. Jaszcz, 1956, ‘Angelo, tyran w adzy.’ Trybuna Ludu (Lodz) 293: 4. Kott, Jan 1961. Szkice o Szekspirze. Warsaw: PIW. – 1965. Szekspir wspó czesny. Warsaw: PIW. Kudli ski, T. 1956. ‘Szekspir w Nowej Hucie,’ Kierunki (Warsaw) 25. Kujawi ska-Courtney, K., ed. 2000. On Page and Stage: Shakespeare in Polish and World Culture. Cracow: Universitas. Kustro , I. 1978. ‘Mi dzy Kani Szekspirem.’ Master’s thesis, Wy sza Szko a Teatralna im. A. Zelwerowicza, Warsaw. Majchrowski, Z. 1993. ‘Pytania o polskiego Szekspira.’ In Ciechowski and Majchrowski, eds, 24–5. Morozov, M.M. 1950. Szekspir. Trans. W adys aw Evert. Warsaw: Czytelnik. Otwinowski, S. 1956. ‘Muzeum w piwnicy, kruche domy i fundusze oraz wietna inscenizacja Miark i za miark .’ wiat (Warsaw) 42: 21. Polanica, S. 1959. ‘Burza Szekspira.’ S owo Powszechne (Warsaw) 22: 6. Pomianowski, J. 1959. ‘Burza w szklance patoki.’ wiat (Warsaw) 15: 15. Robak, T. 1956. ‘W poszukiwaniu sztuki.’ Dziennik Polski (Lviv) 240: 7. Skuszanka, Krystyna. 1996. Personal interview. 16 February.

Skuszanka’s Shakespeare of Political Allusions and Metaphors in Poland 245 Timoszewicz, J., and A.W. Kral, eds. 1962. Teatr Ludowy, Nowa Huta: 1955–1960. Cracow: Wydawnictwo literackie i Teatr Ludowy, Nowa Huta. Topolnicka, A. 1959. ‘Burza Szekspira w Teatrze Nowym.’ Tygodnik Powszechny (Cracow) 15: 6. Treugutt, S. 1956. ‘Miarka za miark .’ Przegl d kulturalny (Lodz, Warsaw) 45: 5. – 1960. ‘Burza i utopia spokoju.’ Przegl d kulturalny 6: 10. Wróblewski, A. 1956. ‘Po Burzy.’ Teatr (Warsaw) 10: 12–13. Zó kiewski, S. 1949. ‘Nasza sztuka.’ Ku nica (Lodz) 4: 5. urowski, A. 1983. My lenie Szekspirem. Warsaw: PAX.

War, Lechery, and Goulash Communism: Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary zoltán márkus

A Socially Conscious Chronicle of ‘Absolute Decay’ and ‘Universal Betrayal’: Troilus and Cressida in the 1960s ‘The most exciting play of Shakespeare’s oeuvre is Troilus and Cressida,’ claimed Antal Németh, Hungarian theatre director and scholar, in 1964. In a review article about a handful of Western European theatre productions he had recently seen, including a Troilus and Cressida guestperformance by the Bochum Schauspielhaus at the Théâtre des Nations in Paris, Németh mulled over Shakespeare’s ‘most exciting play’: Belonging to an indefinable genre, this bitter play exposes the Shakespearean world in a state of hopeless ruin and absolute decay in which all former values turn into their opposite: Juliet’s death-embracing fidelity turns into Cressida’s harlotry, heroism into garrulous bragging, masculine self-esteem into dull pomposity, proud honour into life-destroying narrow-mindedness; while everyone betrays and destroys all that used to be the pillars of shared human existence. And this universal betrayal is accompanied by Thersites’ cursing guffaw that makes us shiver. (Németh 1964: 1591)

Németh’s catchwords ‘absolute decay’ and ‘universal betrayal’ locate Troilus and Cressida in resonant temporal and discursive frameworks frequently echoed in later Hungarian discussions of the play as well. The idea of ‘decay’ implies, of course, an economy of nostalgia: it presupposes a previous time when all was right and wholesome, or at least better. What makes Troilus and Cressida especially poignant (or else uncomfortable) today, however, is that it satirically debunks one of the

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


oldest myths of Western civilization. The play’s plot does not have a glorious pre-history: it is our (dubious or abhorrent) pre-history. In other words, ‘hopeless ruin’ and ‘absolute decay’ cannot be conceived in the temporal plane of the play’s present, the Trojan War, for this present does not have a past for the purposes of comparison through which we could recognize deterioration. Perhaps that is why Németh situates the contrast of the golden age against the current state of affairs within Shakespeare’s present, within the playwright’s career. Németh associates the positive ‘former values’ with Shakespeare’s plays written before Troilus and Cressida: Juliet is representative of this prelapsarian universe, whereas Cressida is her counterpart after the fall. Németh reiterates a frequently articulated argument that, due to a ‘psychological cataclysm’ at the beginning of the 1600s, Shakespeare’s dramatic art becomes increasingly dark and experimental. For Németh, it is the playwright’s supposed but undiscussed psychological traumas that are primarily responsible for the dejected world of Troilus and Cressida. The epilogue to this play in the 1961 edition of Hungarian Shakespeare translations also asserts that ‘in this work, Shakespeare depicts the monstrosity of an inhuman world – without mercy or redemption. This is the voice of hopeless despair’ (Székely 1961: 884; see also Székely 1955: 920–32). In a more Marxist vein, however, this epilogue locates the chief reasons for Shakespeare’s ‘hopeless despair’ in the playwright’s political and social environment: this play is not ‘a parody of Greek antiquity or the Middle Ages, but a judgment passed on the age and society that Shakespeare saw around him at the beginning of the seventeenth century.’ The author of this epilogue, theatre historian György Székely, suggests that depressing socio-political events reflected in Shakespeare’s art explain the dire tone of this play: As victims of the emerging and increasingly capitalistic estates and industry, thousands of impoverished and persecuted peasants appeared begging and stealing on the roads of England. The humanistic ideals of the most educated minds could not be implemented into practice or else proved futile. The old and capricious Queen Elizabeth had Essex executed, and Shakespeare’s friendly patron, Southampton, was cast into prison. The poet’s despair, therefore, becomes understandable; he faced maelstroms of chaos. (Székely 1961: 885)

Rather than pointing out this passage’s imprecision or else Tillyard’s obvious influence on it, it is of greater significance for me here that


Zoltán Márkus

Székely sees this play as Shakespeare’s documentation of, and reaction to, the increasingly chaotic and hostile world of early capitalism. As a judgment on capitalist society, the play ceases to be an existentialist or pessimistic critique of Western civilization and can be claimed for a socialist canon of socially conscious progressive works. In his 1964 monograph on Shakespeare’s comedies, the literary historian László Kéry follows a similar critical trajectory. He also contemplates possible social and personal reasons for the changes in the playwright’s world view represented by Shakespeare’s ‘dark comedies’ and ‘great tragedies.’ Instead of providing an exhaustive discussion of the various theories that address this issue, Kéry focuses on only two major factors. First, he mentions ‘those emerging contradictions of English social and political life that the development of early capitalism has always involved but that start to appear more frequently and in more palpable forms at the turn of the century, inflicting tormenting doubts, even despair, on those who, up to this point, have observed the great changes with hope: the humanist thinkers and writers of this age.’ To this ‘crisis of humanism’ Kéry also adds a second factor, ‘which cannot be separated from the first’: ‘Shakespeare’s personal and artistic maturation.’ These two elements together make the playwright ‘able to grasp the deepest conflicts of his age and to represent them consistently in his art’ (Kéry 1964: 258). Instead of pointing to various artistic or aesthetic tendencies that privileged satirical dramatic representations at the turn of the century, Kéry locates the main reasons for the changes in Shakespeare’s art in ‘reasons of an economic and social nature’ (259). Similarly to Székely, Kéry also enlists Shakespeare as a progressive playwright sensitive to the depressing social and political changes brought on by early capitalism. Besides ‘absolute decay,’ Antal Németh’s passage quoted at the beginning of this paper includes a second buzzword that was frequently circulated in Hungarian interpretations of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida: ‘universal betrayal.’ In his epilogue to the play, György Székely makes the general statement that ‘Troilus and Cressida is about what happens to the world if it betrays its ideals and throws society into the consuming fire of personal interest and ambition.’ Altogether, ‘the whole story is an endless series of betrayals’ (Székely 1961: 883): Paris, Helen, Calchas, Achilles, and Cressida all betray someone or some ideal. ‘The Trojan war in Shakespeare,’ writes Székely, ‘collapses into an aimless and wild massacre. Human actions are ignominiously motivated. Mankind has betrayed itself’ (884).

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


As an allegory of ‘universal betrayal,’ the play could potentially be extremely problematic in 1960s Hungary. In the wake of the 1956 revolution, both sides of the barricade felt frightfully let down: in Communist state narratives of the events, fascistically inclined counterrevolutionary mobs betrayed the ideals of a progressive socialist society; on the other hand, the 1956 revolutionaries felt disgracefully abandoned and isolated by the international community in their struggle against the Soviet Union and its Hungarian vassal, János Kádár. This heightened sensitivity to the issue of ‘universal betrayal’ might suggest today that Troilus and Cressida would have been a perfect choice for a theatrical production, but this perception is deceptive. The year 1956 remained the Achilles heel, as it were, of the Kádár regime throughout its more than thirty-year-long history: the counter-revolution, as the 1956 Hungarian revolution was officially labelled, carried a historical taboo that strictly banned it from entering public discussion outside of the official channels of the party’s agitprop mechanisms. Moreover, narratives generated from the play’s central issue of ‘absolute decay’ also made Troilus and Cressida a potentially treacherous choice for theatrical performance. As we have seen, the play was rescued for the socialist canon in order to stand as a document and critique of early capitalism. A theatrical production, however, would necessarily engage both the play’s and its playwright’s planes of present time along with its own present as well: all theatre productions – to varying degrees – make Shakespeare ‘our contemporary.’ A socialist regime constitutively invested in a utopia of social progress could hardly tolerate any theatrical representation that would contrast its ‘decaying’ present with a glorious past. Apart from the play’s artistic inconsistencies, its potentially dissident political message might also explain why Székely suggests, ‘As an exception, this Shakespeare play is rather for reading than for theatrical production’ (1961: 886). Despite all of these anxieties and caveats, Troilus and Cressida was staged in five different productions in Kádárist Hungary. All of these productions manoeuvred around official sensitivities and displaced the problems of ‘decay’ and ‘betrayal’ in ways that the regime could not find offensive. At the same time, these issues were always potentially present: as the texts above anticipate, these productions provided pretexts that made these issues thinkable. There are several reasons why Troilus and Cressida, in spite of its potentially subversive nature, was permitted to be performed in socialist Hungary. First of all, Shakespeare can in many ways be considered a Hungarian national


Zoltán Márkus

Troilus and Cressida, directed by Károly Kazimír at Körszínház (Budapest, 1966). Cressida – Edit Domján, Pandarus – László Tahi-Tóth. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


classic: due to the lack of a robust Hungarian classic drama tradition, nineteenth-century translations of Shakespeare plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Coriolanus, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and King Lear became part of the national dramatic canon. Even in the gloomiest days of Stalinism, Shakespeare was a celebrated, albeit heavily appropriated, ‘social realist’ playwright. Another reason might be that Shakespeare’s presence in Hungarian culture was (and has been) frequently conceived as a measurement of ‘Europeanness’: as the works of the most celebrated playwright in the world, Shakespeare’s plays presented a chance to compare Hungarian theatres with their European counterparts. Moreover, as of John Barton’s 1956 production at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Troilus and Cressida had become a particularly popular play in Western theatres. Desperate to achieve international political legitimacy, the Kádárist regime must have found it politically expedient to subscribe to this theatrical vogue. A properly appropriated production of the play, after all, could also bolster, rather than undermine, the political status quo. The Lost Hope of Social Harmony: Körszínház, 1966 The first Hungarian postwar performance of the play well reflects these considerations. Somewhat surprisingly, it was a summer production put on stage in a former (Polish) pavilion of the Budapest International Fair in the City Park in July 1966. A brief announcement that appeared in a cultural weekly summed up the official stance on this play in laconic sentences: ‘This play, which has been produced only once (in 1900) in Hungary, is about the deception of love and the futility of bloodshed in war. The action of the play is placed during the Trojan War, but in fact it criticizes the conditions of Elizabethan England. The political message is voiced in the language of the most sublime poetry. The successful production was directed by Károly Kazimír’ (Tükör, 26 July 1966: 18). We could paraphrase these lines as follows: ‘This play is harmless, since it focuses on the subject of “love” and “the futility of war.” It has a political meaning, but this political message is a critique of Elizabethan England. It is by Shakespeare, and thus its artistic excellence is guaranteed.’ This blandly reductive and politically trivializing summary, however, had little to do with what in fact took place in the production. Despite Shakespeare’s intricately interwoven thematic duality of love and war within this play, the director placed his conceptual emphasis


Zoltán Márkus

directly on the destructive forces of war. In an interview, Kazimír claimed that Troilus and Cressida is one of the very best of the world’s dramatic literature and few other classical plays exist that so successfully deal with the degrading power of war that destroys everything beautiful, dignified, and human. In war, Troilus’s and Cressida’s love can only be mere illusion, and Achilles’s triumph over Hector cannot be anything but the result of an appalling ruse. War destroys all human values. This is the message we wished to emphasize through the direction. We turned the Trojan War into a war of all times; the war victims of antiquity are also the victims of the wars in our century. (Jósfay 1966: 4)

In the director’s interpretation, social issues overshadowed and determined private matters. Ignoring the ways in which Shakespeare blurs the boundaries of private and public in this play, Kazimír intended to show how the social cataclysm that is war destroys individual lives. War results in not only physical and social but also moral decay: individual betrayals are determined, or dictated even, by a wartime suspension of humanism and morality. In his review of the production, László Kéry followed the director’s conceptual scheme and also privileged the war plots over the love plots: Satirical indignation is central to this play, but often the extent and object of this critique cannot be determined with any precision. The principal target of attack is the meaninglessness and immorality of war – to this the second target is subordinated, which is an outrageous case of infidelity that resonates further as Troilus’s general disillusionment with the world grows: although he is heroically inclined, he cannot find real occasion to act upon this heroism. (Kéry 1966: 8)

Other reviewers also recognized the production’s primarily anti-war thrust: ‘Everything becomes degraded in war: love as well as humanity. There is nothing but insane butchery’ ([gantner] 1966: 2). These interpretations (including also that of the director’s) situated the main conflicts of the play in social life that influences or disrupts individual lives. The dialectic relationship of the individual and society was addressed by the reviewer of the official party daily, Népszabadság: ‘[I]mmoral human relations upset the balance of the world and the upside-down

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


world further tousles the moral norms of people.’ Or, more concretely still, ‘[T]his play focuses on the dialectic in which people form society into a certain shape and then society reshapes people into another form’ (M.G.P. 1966: 7). As in all dialectics, however, the seeming equilibrium of the two essences ‘society’ and ‘people’ conceals both the temporality and the value-hierarchy of these relations: in the world of state socialism, as well as in that of Troilus and Cressida in Kazimír’s direction, ‘society’ happens to ‘shape people’ more often and more powerfully than vice versa. Kazimír’s production, however, did not offer a subversive critique of the Hungarian political situation: by allegorizing the Trojan War as a ‘war of all times’ or ‘the wars of our century,’ it was safely left open to politically acceptable anti-fascistic or anti-imperialist interpretations. As to the general quality of Troilus and Cressida at the Körszínház, Kéry relates: The anti-war nature of the production was justifiably emphasized, and even twentieth-century topical allusions, such as certain elements of military uniforms and modern noises of whistling bullets and bomb explosions, seemed acceptable. In the performance, a satirical tone of a lighter and merrier kind became dominant, whereas the play’s bitterness was relatively toned down, and those passages that are outside of satire’s realm, or downright contradict it, were obscured. This lighter tone must have resulted from the ‘summery’ nature of the production as much as the unevenness of the actors’ accomplishments from their temporary employment for just this single production. (1966: 47)

Altogether, this 1966 production in the Körszínház was not considered particularly successful: apart from the uneven level of acting, the acoustics of the expo pavilion as well as the unimaginative stage costumes and settings were criticized. At the same time, however, the production provided a springboard for launching certain topical personal and political deliberations in the guise of reviews. One critic, for instance, posed politically loaded questions inspired by his visit to Kazimír’s Troilus and Cressida: ‘The walls of Troy have collapsed. And we, in front of whom, thanks to Shakespeare and the Körszínház, the past came alive for a few hours, can muse about the question of who struck a mightier blow to Troy’s strong fortifications: the Greeks who attacked from outside? or those who from inside joined together to all intents and purposes with the enemy


Zoltán Márkus

to warp, disparage, and shatter the ideals of Troy?’ (Simon 1966: 6). Even an artistically unsuccessful performance of Troilus and Cressida reminded a reviewer for the Communist Youth Association’s weekly of the social upheaval of 1956. Folding his experience into the narrative of ‘betrayal,’ he appropriated the production according to his own proKádárist agenda. On the other end of the political spectrum, the sixty-nine-year-old theatre expert, director, dramaturge, lexicographer, stage designer, theatre critic, and translator Pál Kürti wrote the following despondent passage about this same production: ‘Yes, life is a swamp, it does not possess any sense whatsoever. If you step out into the lukewarm summer night, there are the soaring trees and ... But no! That is prohibited by the Authorities and by Religion. Take a ride on the roller coaster1 instead, and drown your angst with your own scream’ (Kürti 1966: 11). Kürti was probably terminally ill when he wrote these lines: he died a couple of months later. His cryptic reference to suicide echoes György Székely’s observations quoted earlier: ‘[I]n this work, Shakespeare depicts the monstrosity of an inhuman world without mercy or redemption. This is the voice of hopeless despair’ (Székely 1961: 884). Even if Kürti articulated his personal depression in his theatre review of Troilus and Cressida, these dejected lines were relevant to the play itself as much as to the Hungarian political situation. These two reviewers used the occasion of this particular production to convey their own somewhat idiosyncratic personal anxieties. It is significant, however, that there also existed a relative consensus about the interpretational framework of this production in the Körszínház: both its director and several of its reviewers expressed the opinion that the production presented ‘war’ as the primary cause of personal and moral decay within the ‘love’ plot, and not the other way around. The distorting societal abnormalities of the war destroyed the possibilities for ethical and moral decorum. Within the economy of nostalgia, the most coveted lost value in Kazimír’s direction was located in the political and social sphere. What this production lamented first and foremost, therefore, was the lost illusion of a functioning social order (let it be a democracy or Ulysses’ model of absolute monarchy) that would guarantee the integrity of the private sphere as well. Loss of All Hope: The 1970s The potential social critique implied in Kazimír’s production became increasingly explicit in later theatre adaptations of Troilus and Cressida.

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


Similarly to their predecessor from 1966, these productions also put Shakespeare’s play on stage in order to negotiate the relations between society and the individual, between the public and the private; but rather than identifying the social disaster of war as the chief reason for all wrongs, they placed an increasing emphasis on the role and responsibility of the individual. Although exceedingly sensitive to any kind of expressis verbis criticism, in the course of the 1970s cultural gurus of the Kádár regime became somewhat less rigid about possible political undercurrents in stage presentations of the Hungarian classic Shakespeare. This relative and unpredictably fluctuating tolerance explains how Troilus and Cressida could be used as a Trojan horse of sorts to smuggle critiques of present politics and society into theatrical representations of Shakespeare’s account of the Trojan War. József Ruszt, the director of a production that opened at the József Katona Theatre in Kecskemét on 5 October 1973, followed and amplified Kazimír’s vision; he demonstrated how the disaster of war disrupted and demolished human lives – both morally and physically. At the same time, Ruszt did not place his play in the neutralizing context of ‘all wars’ or ‘the wars of our century,’ as Kazimír had. In a radio interview, Ruszt remarked, ‘[I]t is a very difficult play: if you read through the various debates and commentaries about it, you realize that all depends on how you read the play itself. How you read the play, furthermore, depends on how you live in your time and what sort of relations you find between the world of the play and your own world and your everyday life.’2 Rather than being an allegory of ‘all wars,’ this play for Ruszt engages the present of 1973. In the program leaflet for his production, Ruszt shares his ‘meditations’ about the play with his audience: Until quite recently I believed that Jan Kott gave us a catechism for Shakespeare. Today I know that this is not the case: he only tried to do what many others have done. I don’t like what he has to say about this play. My first striking realization is that, in this play, everybody is right, or is right to a certain extent: Thersites, Troilus and, what’s more, even Achilles, who murders Hector in a really nauseating manner, is right; even Cressida, who is having a little hanky-panky with Diomedes in a really nauseating manner although she is still cradling Troilus’s sleeve on her bosom; but even Pandarus, who is complaining about why people love to use the services of bawds if after the successful completion of these panders’ services they reject, even curse them, even he is right. And indeed: is it Pandarus’s fault that Cressida becomes unfaithful?! Bawds never solicit love. From a moral point of view, Pandarus does not have a


Zoltán Márkus

Troilus and Cressida, directed by József Ruszt at József Katona Theatre (Kecskemét, Hungary, 1973). Cressida – Eszter Szakács, Troilus – István Farády. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest

really uplifting ‘profession,’ that is true – but there is no logical link between his ‘profession’ and the tragically stomach-turning infidelity. And because I think everybody is right, that is precisely why I feel that, after two world wars, it is easy to blame everything on ‘war’ and find the play pacifistic. (Ruszt 1973: 7)

Ruszt does not specify what exactly he does not like in Jan Kott’s argument about the play. In his essay ‘Troilus and Cressida – Amazing and Modern,’ Kott privileges Theristes’ perspective and interprets the characters as ‘clowns’ ‘engulfed by ... universal foolery’ (Kott 1967: 61). In a ‘cruel and irrational’ grotesque world irrevocably distorted by war, all human values are consumed without the possibility of catharsis. ‘The grotesque,’ Kott concludes his essay, ‘is more cruel than tragedy. Thersites is right. But what of it? Thersites is vile himself’ (67). Ruszt, by contrast, argues that all characters in this play, not only Thersites, can claim an element of truth. The main artistic investment of Ruszt’s production was not in presenting a static image of an absurdist, gro-

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


tesque, and valueless world, but in showing a process in which this corrupt and abnormal world has destroyed values and individuals, who are all entitled to their share of ‘truth.’ Ruszt’s vision was ultimately perhaps more tragic and less grotesque than Kott’s, but it does not mean that Ruszt staged this play as a tragedy. As one of the reviewers put it, ‘In this play there are no tragic heroes. The characters of Troilus, without exception, are also comical. Today we say that their behaviour and attitudes are grotesque. And it is also grotesque that ultimately all of the characters in this play are right. These tiny individual truths, however, eventually amount to a big and fundamental untruth’ (Rideg 1973: 4). This production shows the impossibility for an individual to preserve his or her moral and ethical integrity in the world of ‘a big and fundamental untruth.’ As Ruszt saw it, the essence of Troilus and Cressida was ‘a war for human dignity’ (1973: 9) that was doomed to be lost when faced with a hostile external world; but this defeat was not without conclusions and lessons for today’s audience. A thorough and insightful review describes the last moments of the production: When it becomes obvious that all characters are even more sinister than they appear to be in the play’s introduction, the fight is over and the play is over. Jazz music plays when the actors come back on stage, stand there, and firmly look into the eyes of the audience. That’s when Pandarus enters and, running from one character to another, starts screaming, ‘O traitors and bawds, how earnestly are you set a-work, / and how ill requited! Why should our endeavour be so / desired, and the performance so loathed?’ (5.10.37–9). The music gets louder, the characters are eye to eye with the audience, Pandarus curses. The spectators find it increasingly difficult to endure the actors’ gaze. Only after a long time does the audience start applauding. (Nánay 1974: 23)

This ending of the production directly links the world of the performance with that of the audience: the devastating corruption of the Trojan War with the unhappy state of affairs in the Hungary of 1973. This closing scenic gesture is ambivalent, however: as the production located the source of all decay ‘outside’ of the social world, the audience embodied precisely this ‘outside’ world. On the other hand, the production also reminded the audience members, as individuals, of their own battles and losses with their own ‘outside’ world despite their


Zoltán Márkus

own ‘tiny individual truths.’ Returning the audience’s gaze can work both ways: both as alienation and as identification between audience and players. About three and a half years after Ruszt’s production in Kecskemét another Troilus and Cressida opened at the Gergely Csiky Theatre in Kaposvár.3 If Ruszt resisted Jan Kott’s interpretation of the play thinking he could thereby offer a more direct political and social assessment, the director of the Kaposvár production, László Babarczy, embraced Kott’s vision in order to do just that. The role of Thersites became central in this production; it appeared ‘as though we saw the events and characters with his eyes’ (Mészáros 1977: 4). It is significant, however, that Thersites (played by Ádám Rajhona) was not at all repugnant. This Thersites, as a review article pointed out, ‘has a clearer vision than the others, but he seems to enjoy what happens around him and to him. He enjoys that the world is like this.’ Kott finds Thersites ‘vile.’ The Thersites of the Kaposvár production, by contrast, ‘abandons his outsider position and blends into his social environment ... This Thersites is like the others. He is not even vile. He is cynical’ (Koltai 1977: 33). Oddly, if Thersites’ vituperative critical perspective is suspended, the play’s moral order becomes even more devastating. Babarczy’s production offered a more dejected world than Kott’s essay on Troilus and Cressida, if that were possible. One of the production’s critics could not help remarking, ‘László Babarczy is even more audacious than Jan Kott,’ and further commenting on Babarczy’s rather bleak directorial vision: A director has the right to adjust the new action to a new concept if it fits the dramatic text and if it is a sensible concept. With their gloomy colours, themes such as love oppressed at its birth, bitter prophesying, and the eventual destruction of Troy deviate, even if not in an excessive manner, from Babarczy’s grotesque world, in which there is nothing beautiful, nor good, nor true any longer; there only the distorted, the inadequate, and the false dominate. It makes one wonder: is it really what the Kaposvár company, not for the first time, would like to say? About the Trojans? About the Greeks? (Bogácsi 1977: 4)

The answer to these rhetorical questions is, of course, ‘About both – as well as about us.’ It became similarly clear to other reviewers that ‘the director, whether on purpose or not, accentuated the political pamphletnature of the play’ ([k] 1977; –kd– 1977). This remark acknowledges

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


Kott’s argument: ‘Troilus and Cressida is from the outset a modern play, a sneering political pamphlet’ (Kott 1967: 63). In this case, Kott locates the political edge of this play in Shakespeare’s time.4 On other occasions, in the spirit of his approach to Shakespeare as ‘our contemporary,’ Kott associates the play with more recent times. He argues, for instance, that Cressida ‘belongs to the Renaissance, but she is also a Stendhal type akin to Lamiel, and she is a teenage girl of the mid-twentieth century ... She is our contemporary because of this self-distrust, reserve, and need of self-analysis. She defends herself with irony’ (65). Babarczy’s production evidently deployed this same double perspective of focusing on Shakespeare’s time in order to discuss the present. The program brochure for the production identifies nausea as the pervasive force of Troilus and Cressida as well as Shakespeare’s personal disposition: The nausea expressed in this play refers equally to society, politics, war, love, friendship, honour; in other words it is absolute and total. So much so that the suspicion arises that we have to acknowledge Pandarus’s last words that are addressed to the audience and have very little to do with what has happened before as Shakespeare’s most personal message: ‘Till then I’ll sweat and seek about for eases, / And at that time bequeath you my diseases.’ (5.10.54–5)5

‘Nausea’ was a politically loaded word at this time: it opened up a chain of associations starting with Troilus and Cressida as a reference to Shakespeare’s assumed personal feelings of disgust, to Sartre’s existentialist novel, to Ruszt’s examples of immoral acts in the play quoted above and committed ‘in a really nauseating manner,’ to Ruszt’s and Babarczy’s present of the 1970s. Similarly to Kott’s claims about her as ‘our contemporary,’ Cressida set off more directly topical considerations in Babarczy’s production as well: Judit Pogány’s Cressida is simply bored and indifferent. She is smarter than anybody else in the play – except, perhaps, for the fool Thersites – , but she is bored even with her smartness. Her witty responses and puns give away her polished conversational and social manners. From this point of view, she is indeed a youth of today, only the chewing gum is missing from her mouth. She has no illusions; she simply accepts Troilus, because she is almost indifferent as to who is going to be the first one,


Zoltán Márkus

and – although she reminds herself of conventionally expected coyness – she does not make a big deal out of this all. (Koltai 1977: 32)

‘How will it be a tragedy then?’ asks the critic Tamás Koltai, and quickly answers his own question: ‘It won’t be. Grotesque is crueller than tragedy, says Jan Kott, and he is right’ (Koltai 1977: 32). In opposition to Ruszt’s production in 1973, which permitted a hint of tragic hues in an absurdly hostile world, Babarczy’s Troilus and Cressida rejects the possibility of any loss of values and depicts an utterly dejected and ‘nauseating’ world. This production served as a still life of social and moral ruins. If Kazimír’s production in 1966 mourned primarily the lost hope of a functioning social order and derived moral and ethical decay from this loss, Ruszt and Babarczy were more interested in the moral and ethical corrosion of the characters in the play. These productions’ object of desire was not located in the social context of an improved political life but in the personal context of the (callously rejected) possibility of a meaningful private life. Moving their primary focus from public life to the private sphere, these productions lamented first and foremost the lack of individual values such as personal freedom and dignity. Németh’s concepts of ‘absolute decay’ and ‘universal betrayal’ gained new interpretations in Ruszt’s and Babarczy’s productions: both were projected onto the private sphere. ‘Universal decay’ here meant hopelessly meaningless and dysfunctional private lives. The idea of betrayal also became internalized: ‘universal betrayal’ in the case of these productions referred to the betrayal of oneself rather than betrayal by someone else. Satirical Tragicomedy of Private Citizens: The 1980s The National Theatre’s production, which opened on 26 January 1980, reiterated some of the central concerns of its predecessors while it also tried to make the play relevant to its own present. Its director, Gábor Székely, summed up the general message of Troilus and Cressida by observing that ‘people can really love or stay pure and faithful only for a brief time, because war is an absurd institution of society and, as such, it sooner or later strips people of their dignity, teaches them how to hate, stains them, makes them become traitors, and, in the end, forces them to fulfil themselves in iniquity.’ ‘War,’ for Székely, was an allegory of politics. To the reporter’s enquiry ‘What happens when there is no

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


war?’ he cryptically responded, ‘There is always war. Even if there is none’ (Oravecz 1980: 10; Földes 1980: 11). Several reviewers of the production underlined the idea that war in the play was identified with politics. ‘Székely’s interpretation,’ Tamás Koltai commented, ‘zeroes in on power relations; war as metaphor, therefore, entails an artificially perpetuated murky situation in which vanity, private interests, and political manipulation propel all action’ (Koltai 1980: 34). In Székely’s production, war did not entail an immutable social condition that made private lives impossible or an almost metaphysical or existential condition that made private lives pointless, but a form of negotiable social life that was relevant to Shakespeare’s time as much as to the present. As theatre critic and literature professor Tamás Tarján remarked in a radio interview, ‘Gábor Székely sees it clearly that Troilus’s and Cressida’s very complex world may be an exact equivalent of today’s tangled reality, whose meaning it would be rather difficult to delineate here with precision, but that all of us feel on our skin, in our consciousness, and in our soul.’6 This production’s Cressida (Mari Csomós) demonstrates well how in practice Székely’s emphasis on war as politics in a current context worked. In his production, ‘she is not an unfaithful woman, but a growing-up and maturing human being who has understood her fate, who responds to her dishonouring challenge: if the world is foul, let it be, I’ll go for it, I can’t do anything else, “let’s see, God, what we can do, you and I ...”’ (Hajdú 1980: 7). This Cressida is not a heroine we might admire, nor a fallen angel whom we might pity, but neither is she an immoral slut. And neither is she ‘bored and indifferent,’ as was the Cressida of the 1977 production. She is a rational being who makes the best pragmatic decision in a hostile context. Undoubtedly, she still becomes sullied and immoral: in this world of war (or politics) there are only gradations of bad decisions. By equating war with politics, Székely was eager to stress the idea that politics was not fair, humane, and respectable, but a dangerously corrupting practice. Politics in this production, as much as in Kádár’s Hungary, inevitably contaminated the individual. The public sphere was distorted and distorting: participation in society inescapably meant submergence in iniquity. ‘Troilus and Cressida was an excellent choice,’ remarked Tarján; ‘this is a drama, a tragicomedy, of the lack, bankruptcy, and loss of values, and Gábor Székely perceived with great precision that, not only in the world of youth but more generally today, it is one’s most grievous problem in Hungary – and not only in Hungary, but also in the world –


Zoltán Márkus

Troilus and Cressida, directed by Gábor Székely at the National Theatre (Budapest, 1980). Left to right: Ulysses – György Kálmán, Diomedes – Sándor Oszter, Cressida – Mari Csomós, Agamemnon – István Velenczey, Nestor – Imre Sarlai. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest

that one does not know exactly what his or her worth is.’ This relativity or loss of values was crucial to Székely’s understanding of the play: his production contained no positive (nor, for that matter, purely negative) characters. One of the reviews complained that ‘the director incorporated the lack of values’ even in the arguably positive character of Ulysses. In his conversation with Achilles, Ulysses uttered his lines ‘like a member of the secret police, in a cold, sharp, aggressive, and threatening way.’ In all, owing to these interpretational choices, ‘Ulysses becomes an embodiment and representative of a tyrannical state power that scrutinizes its subjects’ thoughts and, with the aid of this, controls them’ (Bécsy 1980: 726–7). The lack and confusion of values resulted in conflicts not only between the play’s characters, but also, potentially, within the characters themselves. Referring to the dubious motives for war, Tarján found yet

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


more links between his present and that of the play: ‘[I]t is one of the most horrible things when one cannot face up to one’s own social, personal, emotional, and other kind of conscience, when one’s biographical self and one’s conscious self split up: one of them is swinging a sword, because it is one’s responsibility, even if one knows in one’s head that one ought not to be swinging that sword at all.’7 This schizophrenic vision split between the ‘biographical’ and the ‘conscious’ selves was often expressed in the production, in its reviews, and in general in Hungary in the 1980s as a rift between one’s private and public functions. Regarding Troilus, for instance, Tamás Mészáros observed: ‘Troilus, who knows at least two kinds of faithfulness (one in the private sphere and another in the public sphere), at the tragic moment when these two get fatally intermingled, switches on “autopilot.”’ He becomes an automaton of his public duties, which this critic found utterly immoral: ‘He is unable to rebel against this sanctified inhumanity, and when later he realizes how much he has been deprived, he can only respond with furious destruction of everything, including himself. This is a version of cowardice’ (Mészáros 1980; his italics). In other words, for Troilus, it would have been audacious (rather than egotistical) to give preference to private responsibilities over public duties: the only site of even potentially authentic action in this production seems to be within the private sphere. The production’s emphasis on the private through which even public matters have to be filtered was also made obvious by the amplified significance of Pandarus. ‘Pandarus becomes the protagonist,’ observed one reviewer, ‘and not only due to the radiant personality’ of the actor in the role, Ferenc Kállai. ‘In this dramatic interpretation, the bawd becomes a raisonneur, a mediator of the most important thoughts’ (Koltai 1980: 34). Whereas Kott and the two productions in the 1970s had identified the role of Thersites as the principal conveyor of the play’s gloomy vision, Székely’s production assigned this function to Pandarus. ‘Oddly enough, Shakespeare did not write any leading roles in this play,’ states another critic. ‘In the National’s production, however, to all intents and purposes, Pandarus seems to have been given such a role. This decision shifts the production towards the comical, and everything appears through this prism’ (Takács 1980: 4). With this shift of emphasis onto Pandarus, the love plot of the play (although with countless ramifications with regards to the war plot) gains the upper hand: Troilus and Cressida becomes a drama of the private sphere in which laws of heroism or grotesque determinism are substituted by the rules of individualistic pragmatism. In other words, the production presents Shake-


Zoltán Márkus

speare’s play as a comical satire of socialist petit bourgeoisie. As such, it became an extremely topical play for late Kádárist Hungary; and it is hardly surprising, therefore, that it was staged three times between 1977 and 1981. The production of the Szigligeti Theatre in Szolnok, which opened on 27 February 1981, amplified the topical parallels between the play’s world and the Hungary of the 1980s. Its director, Jen Horváth, announced: ‘All plays are about us. “In Troy there lies the scene,” therefore, means exactly the opposite,’ by which he presumably meant that in truth the scene lay there in Szolnok: ‘The audience does not need to watch the story of Troilus and Cressida, but – through the pretext of the story – they have to take part in their own lives’ (Horváth quoted by Gábor Czeizel in Magyar 1981: 6). Without even the pretence of historical, theatrical, or any other allegorization, the director set out ‘to hold as ’twere the mirror up to’ his audience. Similarly to Székely’s production, but in a yet more exaggerated manner, Horváth drew distinctions between private and public plotlines: ‘The Helena-Paris couple is national official love, state love, whereas Troilus’s and Cressida’s love is private love’ (Horváth 1981: 72). It is telling, moreover, that the Hungarian word the director used here for ‘private’ was not the everyday, usual term ‘magán,’ but a politically and culturally loaded one, ‘maszek,’ which was specifically characteristic of the Kádár era: ‘maszek,’ at this time, referred to a socialist form of private enterprise, especially in the service sector, that the regime tolerated and controlled with varying degrees of intensity: restaurants, greengrocers, small boutiques, and so forth. The ‘maszek’ sphere was a murky site of continuous manoeuvring between the interests of the state and the semi-entrepreneur – with ambivalent benefits to the public. Calling it ‘maszek’ love, therefore, Horváth placed Troilus’s and Cressida’s relationship within this dim zone of pseudo-bourgeois socialist entrepreneurship. The interpretation of Troilus and Cressida as a drama of the conflicting relations between a more human private (or ‘maszek’) sphere and a hostile public sphere had special relevance in socialist Hungary. In exchange for political assent and an artificially reduced and highly controlled public sphere, Kádár’s so-called goulash communism offered Hungarians relative freedoms in their private lives (such as decent living standards, the possibility of travel, and ‘maszek’ enterprise). On the one hand, this withdrawal into the private realm can be seen as a Faustian deal between the state and the public, whose final outcome was that the Hungarian population had become politically and socially

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


Troilus and Cressida, directed by JenoK Horváth at Szigligeti Theatre (Szolnok, Hungary, 1981). Troilus – Csaba Jakab, Pandarus – Tibor Kristóf, Cressida – Dorottya Udvaros. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest

passive, even inert. On the other hand, by seeing the population’s retreat as a tactic8 to reshape the private sphere in ways in which relative independence and even profit can be gained at the expense of the state, we can understand this process as a relatively active form of taking advantage of the state’s self-defeating strategy of wholesale bribery.9 What is crucial from the context of both Troilus and Cressida and the Kádár regime is that, either way we understand it, this conflict between the public and the private results in a total breakdown of both. Horváth’s topical appropriation offers a desolate mirror to his audience of Szolnok-Troy. He presents Cressida as a social climber: ‘Cressida’s strategy is to achieve a higher social position – it is as if a janitor-girl easily and quickly wanted to get hold of a college-graduate husband. Troilus seems to be the most excellent candidate. In order to get together with him, however, she will need influential contacts.’ The word Horváth uses here, ‘protekció,’ was again highly resonant in Kádár’s


Zoltán Márkus

Hungary: good words put in by a friendly helper at a state office could do wonders. Cressida’s influential contact is, of course, Pandarus. What is particularly chilling in the director’s account is that – identifying with the dreary moral universe of the play – he adds, ‘Realizing all this, Cressida does not become any smaller, only smarter. Otherwise, everyone would be fettered in his or her own circles’ (Horváth 1981: 84). Learning the ropes in a morally corrupt world does not necessarily make one corrupt: with hindsight as well as in the play’s context, Horváth was, of course, terribly wrong. When he argues, ‘Everyone finds his or her own business more important than the fate of the world, and wants to protect it with all the available means (through humility, an uncle, and so on), following his or her instincts and disposition’ (86), it becomes perfectly obvious that the director as well as his show are not as much a critic as a product of this Kádárist Troy. ‘At the end of the play,’ director Horváth concluded, ‘there is no catharsis; the protagonist does not die ... It is not the time that is out of joint: it is Troilus. Hamlet sets the world right and dies. Troilus is the “hero” of everyday life ... His fate, like that of the world in which Troilus and Cressida is played, is tragicomical’ (ibid.: 152). Director Horváth refashioned the play as a topical anti-heroic tragicomedy of everyday life. A reviewer of the production remarked, ‘It is a strange and grotesque world, in which anything is possible’ (Vértessy 1981: 4). Another asserted that, as in Székely’s production in Budapest, Pandarus was the ‘director’s spokesperson’ (Koltai 1981: 7). The world according to Thersites: that is what the Szolnok production presented to its audience. This world is a tragicomic account of ‘universal betrayal’ in which the state betrayed its people, people betrayed the state, the state betrayed the state, and people betrayed people. This production, with its unbearable tragicomic lightness and effortless resignation, was a more devastating image of moral and ethical decay of late Kádárist Hungary. In a 1983 study on ‘the emergence of bourgeois dramaturgy in England,’ László F. Földényi argued that Shakespeare’s play introduced a ‘new, bourgeois state of affairs’ (287) that had appeared at the end of the Renaissance, when ‘it became dubious whether an individual could indeed shape history, and new sentiments emerged gradually, which also determined Troilus and Cressida, such as the fortuity of individual existence, the separation of individual and history, and fundamental conflicts seen as trivial and ridiculous’ (288–9). Földényi’s selection of this particular play as the focus of his investigations was hardly acci-

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


dental: one of the possible reasons for the popularity of Troilus and Cressida at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s was that a refashioned socialist-type bourgeoisie had emerged in socialist Hungary, and its emergence determined the staging of Troilus and Cressida as well. The Szolnok production, perhaps more obviously than the others, was staged for (and by) the ‘private citizens’ of Kádárist goulash communism. Whereas the Troilus and Cressida productions in the 1970s showed a desolate world in which human action was impossible or futile, Horváth’s 1981 Troilus and Cressida showed that it was possible to survive in this desolate world. His production is the most disheartening of all.

NOTES 1 The amusement park is also located in the City Park, near the venue of this Troilus and Cressida production. 2 ‘Kett t l ötig,’ radio program, Radio Pet fi, 22 October 1973. Transcript at the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest, folder: Troilus és Cressida. 3 This production opened on 18 February 1977. 4 In a rather questionable fashion, I think, Kott claims, ‘Troy was Spain, the Greeks were the English’ (1967: 63). 5 Program leaflet to Troilus and Cressida, Gergely Csiky Theatre, Kaposvár (1977), 6–9. 6 ‘Láttuk, hallottuk,’ radio program, Radio Kossuth, 1 February 1980. Transcript at the Hungarian Theatre Institute, Budapest, folder: Troilus és Cressida. 7 Ibid. 8 See Michel de Certeau 1988: xi–xxiv and 29–43. 9 Paulina Bren calls this restructuring of the private sphere as a site of partial recuperation of the public sphere and potential resistance against the state ‘privatized citizenship’ (2002: 123–40). REFERENCES Bécsy, Tamás. 1980. ‘Színházi el adások Budapesten: Shakespeare: Troilus és Cressida; Németh László: Husz János.’ Jelenkor 23.7–8 (August): 726–30. Bogácsi, Erzsébet. 1977. ‘Shakespeare drámája a kaposvári Csiky Gergely Színházban.’ Magyar Nemzet 33.53 (4 March): 4. Bren, Paulina. 2002. ‘Weekend Getaways: The Chata, the Tramp, and the Politics of Private Life in Post-1968 Czechoslovakia.’ In Socialist Spaces: Sites


Zoltán Márkus

of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc, ed. David Crowley and Susan E. Reid, 123–40. New York: Berg. Certeau, Michel de. 1988. [1984] The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press. Földényi, László F. 1983. A dramaturgia csapdája: A polgári dramaturgia kialakulása Angliában; A restaurációs dráma. Elvek és Utak. Budapest: Magvet . Földes, Anna. 1980, ‘Troilus és Cressida a Nemzeti Színházban.’ N k Lapja 32.7 (16 February): 10–11. (gantner). 1966. ‘Jöv szombaton Shakespeare-rel nyit a Körszínház a Városligetben.’ Népszava 94.155 (2 July): 2. Hajdú, Gábor Ráfis. 1980. ‘Mennyit ér az ember? A Troilus és Cressida a Nemzeti Színházban.’ Népszabadság 38.36 (13 February): 7. Horváth, Jen . 1981. ‘Néhány mondat a rendelkez próbákból (A próbafolyamat els negyedéb l).’ In Fruzsina Magyar, ed., 6–152. Jósfay, György. 1966, ‘Körszínház, 1966.’ Szolnok Megyei Hírlap 10.164 (13 July): 4. (k). 1977. ‘Trolius és Cressida.’ Dunaújvárosi Hírlap 27.41 (24 May): 5. –kd– . 1977. ‘A Trolius és Cressida Dunaújvárosban.’ Fejér Megyei Hírlap 33.121 (25 May): 5. Kéry, László. 1964. Shakespeare vígjátékai. Budapest: Gondolat. – 1966. ‘Troilus és Cressida.’ Élet és Irodalom 10.30 (23 July): 8. Koltai, Tamás. 1977. ‘Jó muri vár a csatatéren!: A Troilus és Cressida Kaposvárott.’ Színház 10.5 (May): 31–3. – 1980. ‘Shakespeare: Troilus és Cressida.’ Kritika 9.4 (April): 34. – 1981. ‘Troilus és Cressida: Shakespeare színm ve Szolnokon.’ Népszabadság 39.79 (3 April): 7. Kott, Jan. 1967. [1965] ‘Troilus and Cressida – Amazing and Modern.’ In Shakespeare Our Contemporary, trans. Boleslaw Taborski, 61–7. London: Routledge. Kürti, Pál. 1966, ‘Troilus and Cressida: Shakespeare színjátéka a Körszínházban.’ Magyar Nemzet 22.162 (10 July): 11. Magyar, Fruzsina, ed. 1981. A Szolnoki Szigligeti Színház Múhelye 1980–1981, vol. 7. Szolnok: Szigligeti Színház and Ferenc Verseghy County Library. Mészáros, Tamás. 1977. ‘Troilus and Cressida: ... mindig harc és bujaság ... : Shakespeare bemutató Kaposvárott.’ Magyar Hírlap 10.63 (16 March): 4. – 1980. ‘Troilus és Cressida: Nincs többé mit mondani: Shakespeare-bemutató a Nemzeti Sznházban.’ Magyar Hírlap 13.40 (17 February): 8. M.G.P. 1966. ‘Megtartják a trójai háborút.’ Népszabadság 24.164 (13 July): 7. Nánay, István. 1974. ‘Troilus and Cressida.’ Színház 7.1 (January): 21–4. Németh, Antal. 1964. ‘Totus Mundus Agit Shakespeare-Histrionem.’ Nagyvilág 9.10 (October): 1590–4.

Troilus and Cressida in Socialist Hungary


Oravecz, Imre. 1980. ‘Trójai szerelmesek: Székely Gáborral a Troilus és Cressida próbáján.’ Film, Színház, Muzsika 24.2 (12 January): 8–10. Review. 1966. ‘Körszínház: Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida.’ Tükör 3.30 (26 July): 18. Rideg, Gábor. 1973. ‘Troilus és Cressida: Shakespeare-bemutató Kecskeméten.’ Népszava 101.273 (22 November): 4. Ruszt, József. 1973. ‘Meditációk rendezés közben.’ Program leaflet to Troilus and Cressida, József Katona Theatre, Kecskemét, 6–9. Simon, Ferenc Gy. 1966. ‘Míg együtt megyünk.’ Magyar Ifjúság 10.28 (16 July): 6. Székely, György. 1955. ‘Notes to Troilus and Cressida.’ In Shakespeare Összes Drámái, ed. László Kéry, vol. 4: Színm vek (Dramas), 920–32. Budapest: Új Magyar. – 1961. ‘Troilus és Cressida.’ In Shakespeare Összes Mûvei, ed. László Kéry, vol. 6: Színmûvek, 882–91. Budapest: Európa. Takács, István. 1980. ‘Színházi esték: Troilus and Cressida.’ Pest Megyei Hírlap 34.25 (31 January): 4. Vértessy, Péter. 1981. ‘Két színházi este: Troilus és Cressida Szolnokon.’ Magyar Nemzet 37.72 (26 March): 4.

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990): Marxism and Socialism xiao yang zhang

Ever since he was introduced into China at the beginning of the twentieth century, Shakespeare has exerted a tremendous influence upon Chinese theatre and culture. The Shakespeare industry has flourished rapidly since the New Culture Movement in 1919, and Shakespeare’s works have been widely read, interpreted, and performed. Interrupted by years of foreign wars and internal rebellions, the enthusiasm of the Chinese for the playwright has remained high, particularly after the Cultural Revolution of 1966–76. Westerners may find it difficult to image how Shakespeare is admired, even worshiped by the Chinese people. His works are regarded more highly than those of any other Western writer. In the 1980s, three million copies of his plays and poems were published. The second edition of Zhu Sheng Hao’s Complete Works of Shakespeare had a run of a million copies in 1988. Tu An’s Shakespeare’s Sonnets totalled three hundred and fifty thousand copies. More significantly, Shakespeare changed Chinese traditional theatre and continues to influence the development of Chinese culture. The Chinese perception of Shakespeare is not a simple, monochromatic, and static vision conjured up by the ‘universal’ appeal of the playwright or by any ‘authentic’ interpretation. It is a complex and variegated vision created by the changing social, cultural, and historical context of China. Generally speaking, there are three main approaches to Shakespeare in the country. The long-standing Chinese cultural tradition is the first major approach that directly affects Shakespeare’s reception in China. The appreciation of Shakespeare by the Chinese often shows the obvious influence of conventional Chinese ideology, especially Confucianism, aesthetic theory, and literary bias. Marxism, as the leading ideology in

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990)


modern China, serves as another major standpoint from which Chinese Shakespeare scholars view his works. In the past fifty years, Marxism has directly and explicitly influenced the response of the Chinese to Shakespeare’s plays and will continue to do so, even if popular interest in Marx has subsided since 1990. Finally, humanism has been regarded by Chinese scholars as the core value of Shakespeare, especially with the overthrow of the ‘Gang of Four’ in the 1970s. Yet the understanding and use of the term exhibit a strong Chinese flavour that is affected by the changing social and political context in the country. In this article, I shall survey the Marxist approach to Shakespeare in China and will deal with the political, philosophical, artistic, and theatrical appropriation of Shakespeare by Marxism, Leninism, and socialism in modern and contemporary China.1 Since the Communists took power in 1949, China has been a giant socialist country. In the 1950s, the social practice of the Chinese, both political and economical, was greatly influenced by their ‘Big Brothers,’ the Russians. Their relationship broke down at the beginning of the 1960s when the Chinese attempted to follow their own distinctive path under the guidance of Maoism. Subsequently, and sadly, political persecution and economic crisis followed, ending in catastrophe – the Cultural Revolution, in which Chairman Mao intended to clear away his political enemies (his previous comrades) and regain his absolute authority. All these disasters impelled both the party and the people to rethink the political and economic ideas of Marxism and Maoism and to initiate social and political reforms, including the ‘Open Door Policy.’ Marxism and Maoism, however, were reclaimed as the official ideology because the Communist Party needed a political faith to unify the vast country. It also needed to reaffirm and re-establish cultural roots that had been dug up during the ‘cultural’ revolution. Just as Shakespeare had been used to educate the proletariat in the Soviet Union, so he was now employed by Chinese authorities in a similar role. Knowledge of his works was interpreted as evidence of cultural maturity and advancement. Shakespeare’s plays in translation are required reading in senior middle-school classes: The Merchant of Venice is included in the syllabus of the second grade of senior middle schools. This means that each year more than five million Chinese teenagers study this Shakespearean comedy. Today, to ensure the quality of the teaching of Shakespeare in middle school, the State Education Commission makes the knowledge of his life and works a requirement for the qualification examination of


Xiao Yang Zhang

those teaching language and literature. In the Chinese, English, Foreign Language, and Language and Literature departments of most national and provincial universities, Shakespeare is a required course. In university courses generally, Shakespeare is the most popular elective. Because of his pervasive cultural influence, in all the national music institutions, fine arts institutes, colleges of dance, film institutes, broadcasting institutes, and in most provincial art colleges, Shakespeare is taught as either a required or an optional course. One of the examination questions for the students of the National Television University was ‘How do you interpret the character of Hamlet?’ Shakespeare is also an integral part of the adult education curriculum Since 1990 China has been the only socialist country in the world with a capitalistic economic foundation. Yet Marxism, as a general philosophy, world outlook, and methodology, still deeply permeates the social and cultural life of the Chinese, continuing to influence the country’s literature and art. The Marxist approach dominates Shakespearean productions and criticism in modern China not only because Marxism retains its status as the country’s ruling ideology, but also because Marx and Engels showed a great interest in Shakespeare’s works. Generally speaking, Chinese Shakespearean scholars were especially interested in Marx’s comments on Timon, Shylock, and Falstaff; in Engels’s references to the ‘Shakespeare Style’; and in the comparison Marx and Engels made between Shakespearean works and German literature and drama (Zhang Si Yang, Xu Bin, and Zhang Xiao Yang 1989: 452–71). The 1950s and 1960s saw the deep imprint of Marxism on Shakespeare’s reception in China. The function of Marxism in moulding China’s appreciation of Shakespeare is dual in nature. On the one hand, Marx asks his followers to embrace all of the world’s cultures, including bourgeois culture, while building a new proletarian society. On the other hand, Marxism confines people to a single and fixed angle from which to view the dramatist. While Marx himself tended to approach Shakespeare from a literary and artistic standpoint, his successors, especially those in Soviet Russia, often sought in Shakespeare an illustration of the Marxist theory of dialectical and historical materialism, interpreting his works from a historical and political perspective. The Chinese appreciation of Shakespeare from 1949 to 1978 was mainly influenced by Russian Shakespearean studies, as can be easily discovered by perusing Shakespeare criticism in China from this period. Like their Russian counterparts, Chinese Shakespearean critics maintained that since, in their opinion, Shakespeare’s works show the process of

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990)


social development from feudalism to capitalism, the dramatist represents progressive social forces and humanism. Consequently, they concentrated their research on the social and political significance of Shakespeare’s works, highlighting his realism, optimism, affinity with the people, descriptions of class struggle, and so forth. Influenced by Marxism, Chinese critics during this period believed that all writers wrote for a particular social class, usually their own. Thus, Chen Jia stated that Shakespeare was basically a bourgeois writer. However, since the bourgeoisie was a progressive class when capitalism was in the ascendant, Shakespeare – Chen Jia argued – should be regarded as a progressive playwright. In his historical plays, Shakespeare described political events from a bourgeois standpoint but also from that of the working class, because during that time the interests of the bourgeoisie and those of the working class basically coincided (Chen Jia 1956). Since many Chinese critics considered Shakespeare’s works a good metaphorical demonstration of Marxist historical materialism, there has been a prevailing tendency in Chinese Shakespeare studies to link the plays with their Elizabethan and Jacobean historical contexts. Chen Jia, for example, maintained that Shakespeare represented the panorama of class and political struggle in English history mainly by depicting the most typical political conflicts of a feudal society: the bloody power struggles both within royal families and between the monarchy and aristocracy. Moreover, bearing in mind that Marxist theory states that people are the real motivating force of history, Chen Jia, like other Chinese Shakespearean scholars, paid special attention to the role of the working class in political struggles. The critic asserted that despite the fact that in most cases the farmers and citizens in Shakespeare’s histories did not operate as an independent force, their participation was often an important factor in the struggle. Occasionally, they were even encouraged to fight directly against the ruling class, as may be seen in Henry VI, Part II (Chen Jia 1956). Marx’s special interest in Timon of Athens has particularly affected the interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays by Chinese critics. In his economic and political works, Marx frequently used quotations from Timon of Athens, especially Timon’s condemnation of gold (4.3.26–45), to discuss the essence of money and its function in a capitalist society. This discussion provided a ready formula in China for interpreting Timon of Athens and other plays relating to money worship. For example, Dai Xing Dong argued that Shakespeare revealed the basic drive of capital-


Xiao Yang Zhang

ism through Timon’s soliloquies. The play demonstrated that in a capitalist society the people’s enslavement to money was the root of all evil. Shakespeare, as Dai argued, represented the essence of capitalism in his play, while Marx expounded it through philosophical theory (Dai Xing Dong 1981: 32–5). The Marxist method of class analysis fostered the belief among some Chinese critics that in his works Shakespeare described the conflict between the declining feudal system and the ascendant bourgeois force. Thus, Zhu Wei Zhi summarized the theme of The Merchant of Venice as a clash between the rising bourgeois and old feudal ideologies, manifested in the play through the confrontation of different economic and cultural aspects of the two systems. For example, in the characters of Shylock and Antonio (who obviously represented a progressive social and economic force), Shakespeare embodied the confrontation between old usury and the new commercialism. The friction between the old and new ideologies was also evident in the play’s marriages: Portia and Jessica tried to marry partners of their own choice, which was contrary to the practice of arranged marriages of feudalism. Zhu believed that the defeat of Shylock was, in a sense, the defeat of an outmoded feudal by a new bourgeois practice (Zhu Wei Zhi 1978). Not all Chinese scholars, however, maintained that Shakespeare was limited by his class status as a bourgeois writer, indicating that the playwright often exposed and criticized the negative side of capitalism. Li Fu Ning, for example, held that As You Like It deliberately uses the setting of the forest world to form a striking contrast between the harmonious golden age of mankind and a malicious capitalist society. The moral principles and values espoused by the characters admitted to the forest world, especially Orlando, Adam, and Celia, completely contradict those of the bourgeoisie, which are based on gain and money. The play’s negative characters (Duke Frederick and Oliver, for example) embody, to some extent, the aspirations and ambition of the bourgeoisie with its tendency to ignore the interests of others (Li Fu Ning 1956). Studies of Shakespeare’s philosophical ideas, ranging from his concept of nature to his views of history, have also been greatly influenced in China by Marxist philosophy, especially its materialism and dialectics. In 1986 Zhang Yang wrote three articles that systematically discussed the philosophical ideas in Shakespeare’s plays and linked them to Marx. For instance, by examining the ‘golden sayings’ in Shakespeare’s texts, Zhang discovered that almost all the laws of Marxist

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990)


dialectics can be found in Shakespeare’s works. The law of the unity of opposites is represented in Shakespeare’s works, Zhang says, for his frequent use of polarities is one of the more obvious characteristics of Shakespearean art. The transformation of a contradiction is vividly expressed by many Shakespearean passages, such as in this one from Romeo and Juliet: Nor aught so good but, strain’d from that far use, Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse. Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, And vice sometime by action dignified. (2.3.19–22)

The law of the negation of negation also appears in Shakespeare’s works, as in Sonnet 64: When I have seen the hungry ocean gain Advantage on the kingdom of the shore, And the firm soil win of the wat’ry main, Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.

According to Zhang, the law of quantitative and qualitative change is also represented in Shakespearean works. It shows the changing process from quantity to quality. For example, in Henry VIII: To climb steep hills Requires slow pace at first: anger is like A full - hot horse, who being allow’d his way Self-mettle tires him ... Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot That it do singe yourself. We may outrun By violent swiftness that which we run at, And lose by over-running. Know you not, The fire that mounts the liquor till ’t run o’er In seeming to augment it, waste it? (1.1.131–45)

This passage tells us that the development of things needs an accumulation of quantity. If you are overly anxious for quick results, your haste will make waste. Shakespearean plays also urge moderation, as in Romeo and Juliet:


Xiao Yang Zhang

The sweetest honey Is loathsome in his own deliciousness, And in the taste confounds the appetite: Therefore, love moderately; long love doth so; Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow. (2.6.11–15)

Keeping a balance between two extremes (or the doctrine of the mean) is also one of the main principles of Confucianism. The law of appearance and essence is an important way of revealing the inner pattern of things. In The Merchant of Venice, at the decisive moment when Bassanio chooses the correct casket, he delivers a famous monologue in which he considers the relation between essence and appearance: The world is still deceiv’d with ornament. In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt, But, being season’d with a gracious voice, Obscures the show of evil? In religion, What damned error, but some sober brow Will bless it, and approve it with a text, Hiding the grossness with fair ornament? There is no vice so simple, but assumes Some mark of virtue on his outward parts. How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars, Who, inward search’d, have livers white as milk; And these assume but valour’s excrement, To render them redoubted. (3.2.75–88)

There are also many examples that represent the law of content and form. In Romeo and Juliet, when Lady Capulet tries to persuade Juliet to marry Paris, she says: This precious book of love, this unbound lover, To beautify him, only lacks a cover: The fish lives in the sea; and ’t is much pride, For fair without the fair within to hide. That book in many’s eyes doth share the glory That in gold claps locks in the golden story. (1.3.87–92)

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990)


This passage tells us that although content is a decisive factor, form is equally important (Zhang 1986). Marxism has also exerted an artistic influence on the Chinese productions of Shakespeare, which were in the 1950s and 1960s deeply indebted to Russian influence. During this period, Chinese productions strived to maintain verisimilitude: visual and psychological reality through naturalistic performances. Shakespeare’s plays were frequently staged during this period, particularly in Beijing and Shanghai, the two cultural centres of modern China. In 1956 the Chinese Central Drama Academy presented Romeo and Juliet. The play was directed by two drama experts from the Soviet Union, Lekov and Danny. Ji Qi Ming was cast as Romeo and Tian Hua as Juliet. Zhu Sheng Hao’s translation was used for the performance. It was the first time a Beijing audience, which included Premier Zhou En-Lai, saw a Shakespeare production on stage. In the same year, the Shanghai Drama Institute presented Much Ado About Nothing, directed by another Soviet director, Evgeniia Lipkovskaia. Twelfth Night was produced four times in the 1950s and 1960s: by the Beijing Film Institute in 1957, the Shanghai Drama Company of Film Actors in 1957, the Shanghai Film Drama Troupe in 1959, and the Shanghai Film School in 1962 (Li Hong 1980: 88). The performance of Shakespeare’s plays in this period was evidently influenced by Stanislavskii’s naturalistic style of acting. The widespread influence of Stanislavskii in Chinese theatrical circles derived not only from the special Chinese–Russian relation, but also from a general need at that time to represent modern life by means of realistic spoken drama. Stylized traditional Chinese drama was thought to be unsuitable for this task. Although Stanislavskii’s acting method was actually introduced in the 1930s in a fragmentary form, it was only systematically taught from the 1950s. Soviet drama coaches were invited to instruct Chinese actors, while many Chinese drama professionals were sent to the Soviet Union to study modern drama. In nearly all of the productions of Shakespeare’s plays on the Chinese stage during this period, Stanislavskii’s acting method was followed (Wang Yi Qun 1987: 96). Chinese directors wanted to transcend the limitations of a more visual reality and to seek a greater reality of character and psychology. The actor needed to understand and identify fully with the thought and emotion of the character he or she played. This method helped the actor not only to imitate the outer manner of the character, but also to recreate personality. A typical example of a Stanislavskii-inspired production was the 1961 performance of the famous actress Zhu Xi Juan, who


Xiao Yang Zhang

played the part of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing in Shanghai. Following the method of Stanislavskii, she intended to ‘become’ Beatrice both on stage and in daily life. In the church scene, she was shocked when Claudio attacked Hero for her lack of chastity, and then became very angry because she was convinced that someone had laid a plot against Hero. Seeing that Benedick looked uncomprehending, she understood that he had had no hand in the plot. Thus, when Hero fainted, she could not help but stretch out her hand towards Benedick and cry, ‘Help her! Benedick!’ Here Zhu Xi Juan identified so closely with Beatrice that she acted by the logic of Beatrice’s personality and did not follow Shakespeare’s lines (Wang Yi Qun 1987: 97–8). For thirteen years the Great Cultural Revolution, a nightmare for most Chinese, made China a cultural wasteland and kept the stage nearly empty except for the performance of the eight ‘Revolutionary Model Plays,’ which served the political ambition of Mao’s wife. The death of Chairman Mao and the fall of the Gang of Four marked the beginning of a new era of comparative political and ideological tolerance, and a cultural renaissance. The period from 1978 to 1988 may be regarded as a golden age of the stage productions of Shakespeare, during which theatre professionals gradually evolved a style of their own and successfully created a Chinese Shakespeare. This interest in Shakespeare culminated in the Inaugural Chinese Shakespeare Festival held in 1986. From 10 to 23 April, twenty-eight productions, sixteen in Shanghai and twelve in Beijing, were presented by twenty-three different companies for a total of one hundred and two performances. Othello and King Lear received three productions each. In addition, Shakespearean tragedy was represented by performances of Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, and Antony and Cleopatra. Ten comedies were staged, as was Richard III. By 1986, then, twentythree Shakespeare plays had been staged in China. Only Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Troilus and Cressida, and nine histories had not been produced (Richard III the exception.) As early as the 1920s, critics surprisingly turned to Shakespeare to point out deficiencies in traditional Chinese drama. They contrasted the reality, humanism, and psychological depths in Shakespeare with the outmoded stories and outdated stereotypical characters in the Chinese theatre. In fact, over the next decades, competition between the two dramas was weighted heavily in favour of Shakespeare. By the 1980s, the more the writers appreciated the dramatic merits of Shakespeare’s plays, the more they disparaged traditional Chinese drama, which now

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990)


Titus Andronicus, 1986. First International Shakespeare Festival of China. Courtesy of Sun Fuliang, Shanghai Theatre Academy

played to smaller and aging audiences. On the one hand, Shakespeare exemplified the Marxist virtue of humanism. The great modern Chinese dramatist, Cao Yu, writes: ‘He delineates subtly the mystery of human nature and eternal philosophy of life and represents the essence of humanism.’ On the other hand, ironically in a totalitarian state, Shakespeare’s appeal to audiences and readers alike lies in the individuality of his characters. Both traits distance his plays from the static and stolid traditional drama. When we turn to an artistic appreciation of Shakespeare, we see that Engels’s theory of literary typification has often been used by Chinese Shakespeare scholars to analyse Shakespeare’s characters. Following this theory, they tried to discover how Shakespeare reproduced ‘typical characters under typical circumstances,’ in an endeavour to relate the qualities of Shakespeare’s characters to the relevant social contexts shaping such qualities. Both Marx and Engels highly praised Shakespeare’s artistic talents but were dissatisfied with those of Schiller, because they held that moral and political themes should not be explicitly explained by the author; on the contrary, they had to be naturally


Xiao Yang Zhang

evident from the situation and action (Central Translation Bureau 1958: 145–7). Since this contrast between the Shakespearean and Schillerian styles reconciled great art with revolutionary commitment, it has had a great impact not only on Shakespearean criticism and Western literary studies in China, but also on all of the country’s literary and artistic practices. Obviously, this notion is by no means an original literary concept, yet it reminds Communist writers not to achieve political significance at the expense of artistic merit and urges revolutionary critics to pay attention to literary values while emphasizing ideological values. And it has provided yet another angle by which Chinese Shakespeare scholars can consider the literary merits of Shakespeare’s works. According to the bibliography included in Shakespearean Criticism in China (1991), twenty-five articles were published from 1980 to 1984 on the implications and significance of the Shakespearean and Schillerian modes. The attention focused on this notion in fact reflects the larger debate in China over the priority of political propaganda over artistic value. Whenever the political situation becomes tense, the former is greatly emphasized; when the political climate is more secure, the latter is cheerfully followed. This helps to explain why so many articles were written on this topic at the beginning of the 1980s, when China was more politically tolerant under Deng Xiao Ping’s ‘open-door’ policy: the universal appeal of Shakespeare facilitated the adaptation of his works to the taste of the proletarian revolutionaries, even if he wrote mainly for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. In a broad sense, one can say that Marxism has contributed to the positive reception of Shakespeare by the Chinese. Marx’s comments on both the ideological and aesthetic value of Shakespeare in fact provided a political umbrella for the dramatist in a closed socialist state that was antagonistic to the West during the 1950s and 1960s. The political climate, however, became increasingly unfavourable to the presence of Shakespeare in China after the country broke away from the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, and when the ideas and principles of Maoism in China came to be taken as political and cultural guidelines for all of the Chinese. Mao’s literary theory stated that all literary and artistic activities should first serve the revolution and comply with the political principles of the party. This injunction seriously fettered the practice of literary criticism during the Cultural Revolution, affecting Shakespeare studies and resulting, in the end, in the repudiation of all Western culture. In the 1980s, after the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, China saw the decline of Marxism and Maoism and the rise of a new enthusiasm for Western culture. Although the new leaders claimed Marxism and

The Chinese Vision of Shakespeare (from 1950 to 1990)


Maoism to be the dominant ideology in the country, the Chinese generally were able to approach Shakespeare in any way they liked, gaining their liberation from the previous dogmatic interpretation of Shakespeare’s works. Yet the philosophical method of Marxism continued to have a strong influence on the Chinese appreciation of Shakespeare and was still used by critics and scholars, although the conclusions they reached were quite different from those of the 1950s and 1960s. For instance, a fair number of the books and articles on Shakespeare written in the last decade have associated his works with the present state of China, comparing corruption and money worship to similar situations in the plays. In all these works, Marx’s historically and socially analytical method was commonly employed. This continuing Marxist influence on Shakespeare studies in China is partly due to the fact that the impact of Marxism on the Chinese is so deep that some of his principles, particularly dialectic and historic materialism, have become ingrained in the thinking of the people. Another reason may be that the Marxist analytical method is well suited to contemporary Chinese literary works and criticism, which have a strong political orientation stemming mainly from the continuous social turbulence and political unrest in modern and contemporary China. This same orientation also helps to explain the pronounced political colour of Chinese interpretations of Shakespeare’s works. Marxism has indeed provided a fruitful method for the criticism of Chinese literature and drama because traditional Chinese literary criticism lacks philosophical approaches.

NOTES An earlier version of a portion of this essay appeared in my book Shakespeare in China: A Comparative Study of Two Traditions and Cultures (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1996). 1 The reader will find amplification of several of these issues and the basis for statistics in my book Shakespeare in China, 210–35. REFERENCES Central Translation Bureau. 1958. The Literary and Artistic Theories of Marx and Engels. Beijing. Chen Jia. 1956. ‘The Political Ideas of Shakespeare in His Histories.’ Journal of Nanjing University 4 (July): 150–70.


Xiao Yang Zhang

Dai Xing Dong. 1981. ‘The Description of Gold: Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens.’ Journal of Northeast Normal University 1 (January): 32–5. Li Fu Ning. 1956. ‘Shakespeare’s As You Like It.’ Journal of Beijing University 4 (July): 19–28. Li Hong. 1980. Modern Drama Studies. Changchun: Jilin University Reference Department. Meng Xian Qiang, ed. 1991. Shakespearean Criticism in China. Changchun: Jilin Education Press. Wang Yi Qun. 1987. ‘The Development of the Theatrical Shakespeare on the Chinese Stage.’ In Shakespeare in China, ed. Shakespeare Association of China. Shanghai: Shanghai Literature and Art Press. Zhang Yang. 1986. ‘Shakespeare and the Concept of Nature during the Renaissance.’ Journal of Jilin University 1 (January): 53–60 Zhang Si Yang, Xu Bin, and Zhang Xiao Yang. 1989. A General Survey of Shakespeare, Beijing: Chinese Drama Press. Zhang Xiao Yang. 1996. Shakespeare in China – A Comparative Study of Two Traditions and Cultures. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press and Associated University Presses. Zhu Wei Zhi. 1978. ‘On the Merchant of Venice.’ Foreign Literature Studies (Wuhan) 1 (Spring): 19–28.

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China shuhua wang

We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again (And by that destiny) to perform an act Whereof what’s past is prologue. Shakespeare, The Tempest (2.1.252–4)

Prologue Most Chinese Shakespearean scholarship before the 1980s can only be described as pseudo-criticism, thanks to its excessive dose of Communist pragmatism. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, the supreme treatise on literary criticism in China, the de facto literary Bible, was Mao Zedong’s1 influential lectures entitled Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art.2 Delivered on 2 and 23 May 1942, the forty-two-page, 18,000-word Talks3 was to literary criticism what his ‘Little Red Book’ was to social reform. It set the definitive tone for a ‘practical’ approach to literature and art not to be challenged in the next forty years. Mao cautioned in Talks that writers and artists from the intelligentsia – ‘misfits’ in the revolutionary society – must ‘change and remold their thinking and their feelings’ before their works could be received by the masses (73). The guiding principles of Talks are simple enough and can be summed up in three main principles: 1 The function of literature in modern China is to correctly educate the people, in particular workers, peasants, soldiers, and their cadres. These people constitute simultaneously the ‘only legitimate source’ and the exclusive audience of literature and art.4 2 Literature should always serve political purposes: All literary activi-


Shuhua Wang

ties must allow politics at the helm (Zhengzhi guashuai). Mao considers literature and art ‘less significant and less urgent [than politics] and may only occupy a subordinate position’ (86). 3 Literary criticism should be guided by political correctness: Mao repeatedly emphasizes the importance of a ‘correct criticism’ – a writer’s work must not be judged by its ‘subjective intention’ (motive) but by its influence on the masses. Criticism should be driven by ‘reality’ rather than by theory, as ‘there is no “ism” in the world that transcends utilitarian considerations’ (85). Mao further argues that in ‘some petty-bourgeois’ criticism, so-called human nature and the concept of romantic love are overrated, being ‘nothing but bourgeois individualism’ (90). ‘In a class society there can be only class love’ (74). Savvy and politically alert, Shakespearean scholars in China immediately realized that Shakespeare was to be praised for his effort at representing injustices in society and the plight of the oppressed classes, as well as for his ‘anti-feudalistic’ stance and his ‘humanist’ ideas. He must also be criticized for his distance from the working people and his unfair treatment of women, for being an ‘idealistic humanist,’ and, as in the case of Hamlet, for his failure to understand and utilize the power of the people. The immediate effect of Mao’s ‘united front’ in criticism was that Chinese Shakespeareans were handicapped in their choice of research topics as well as in their critical stance. This explains why a large number of articles on Shakespeare appeared to ‘point to one single direction in Chinese Shakespearean criticism: a political and ideological approach which has been determined by “Mao Ze-dong Thought”’ (He Qixin 1986: 45). Conspicuously absent are major inquiries into the particular meaning of individual scenes and acts, detailed analysis of style and language, historical study of theatrical traditions and conventions, and in-depth discussion of such issues as authorship and the influence of Shakespeare on later writers. In the case of Hamlet, the then favourable topics included the problem of the ghost, the procrastination question, and the ‘human nature’ of the Prince. All of these topics allow room for a utilitarian approach that presumably benefits the masses of the people, despite the fact that most of the discussions tend to be banal in nature. Crude and artless as they are, Mao’s lectures remind the reader that humans exist in time and space and that all writing is for the ‘here and now.’ The fundamental belief that literary discourse must be grounded in the politics and the economy of the time (what Mao called ‘reality’),

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


and that both the text and the act of criticism itself must have a ‘practical use’ raises some legitimate questions. In 1985, Jonathan Dollimore observed that there was a growing scholarship relating literary texts to ‘enclosures and the oppression of the rural poor; State power and resistance to it; reassessments of what actually were the dominant ideologies of the period and the radical countertendencies to these; ... [and] a feminist recovery of the actual conditions of women’ (Dollimore and Sinfield 1985: 3). More fortuitous than clairvoyant, Talks has preempted ‘in a lively language of the masses’ virtually all subsequent inquiries of the late-twentieth-century secular historicist. Until the 1980s, the political milieu in China was hardly propitious for the healthy development of Shakespearean scholarship. Since then, Shakespearean plays have been an important source of inspiration for numerous Chinese authors, critics, and scholars. Today, articles on Shakespeare appear regularly in newspapers, periodicals, and university journals published across China; some of them have also begun to appear in scholarly books and journals in the West. Encouraging as the phenomenon of the 1980s was, China’s political reform remains both slowgoing and somewhat limited compared to its broad economic momentum. Since Shakespeare’s tragedies are likely to bear political overtones in China, a slow political reform means that the study of Shakespearean tragedies – and histories – is less ‘liberated’ compared to the study of comedies and romances. Politics at Play: Representing Hamlet in China The history of Hamlet study in China epitomizes the Chinese reception of Shakespeare’s dramatic works in general. In fact, a careful examination of twentieth-century Chinese scholarship on Hamlet reveals not only the development of Chinese interest in the play and in Shakespeare, but also the fluctuations of the political theatre in modern China. The reception of Hamlet began with a period of acquaintance and appreciation through translation and adaptation, roughly between the 1900s to the 1940s. Then, from the 1950s and the 1970s, the play was subject to a second stage: argument and attack from Marxist and Maoist propaganda. The turning point came in the 1980s, in a period of revival and reaffirmation, as the result of China’s open-door policy and her eagerness to modernize. These three phases, as one can see, are intimately related to changes in Chinese politics, much more so than they are to changes in Chinese literary taste, but then in China, literature has always been inseparable from politics.


Shuhua Wang

For two decades after the Communist victory in 1949, Chinese studies of Hamlet, informed by the official guidelines of the government, were consistently Maoist- and Marxist-oriented, churning out lesssophisticated modes of criticism that were ill informed about both the methodological principles and the development of Western scholarship on the play. In the 1950s, Hamlet criticism in China closely reflected the cultural and political ideologies of the time, focusing mainly on three issues deemed vitally related to the strengthening of a national character: the complaint against social injustice, the problems associated with the ghost, and the character of the prince. Typical of the criticism of this time is Yang Zhouhan’s 1958 article ‘Shakespeare and His Major Works.’ Yang praises Shakespeare’s works for their ‘exceptional insight and connection to the people.’ Shakespeare ‘not only opposed feudalism but also transcended the limits of bourgeois ideas, and therefore was also against the bourgeoisie. Artistically speaking, he reached the pinnacle of Renaissance realism’ (Yang Zhouhan 1958: 28). In the same article, Yang also commends Hamlet as the greatest work of all English literature because it presents ‘the incessant struggle of earlier human beings in their effort to create a beautiful future – a struggle to destroy such reactionary forces as cruelty and oppression’ (32). He further explains that Hamlet is an idealist who, in his confrontation with realities, has seen ‘the root of darkness and evil.’ Despite his enormous effort, Hamlet, Yang argues, is only able to ‘destroy a tyrant, yet is unable to correct the wrongs of the world. Besides, he lost his life in the end.’ For his part, Shakespeare, Yang insists, is truly great since he ‘points out that the tragedy of Hamlet lies in his inability to understand the power of the people. He fights a lonely battle, [and] is unable to unite with the force of the people who are ready to fight beside him’ (32). What puzzled Yang Zhouhan and many other traditional Chinese scholars was the death of Hamlet at the end of the play, an arrangement that was rather unpleasant and barely acceptable to the Chinese, who are used to the grand tradition of datuanyuan (big, happy reunion) and the preservation of poetic justice found in classical Chinese drama (Hawkes 1967: 71–2). Chinese audiences expect the final triumph – not the destruction – of the hero who stands up for the weak and less fortunate in society. ‘Hamlet’s eventual triumph,’ protests Chang Siyang, ‘is only a moralistic, not a real, victory in life. He perishes with his enemies; his person, family, love, career are all destroyed. Even the rule of the kingdom falls into a stranger’s hands’ (Chang Siyang 1983: 76). Tragedy, in a purely Western definition and execution, was largely

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


unknown in China until the twentieth century. As Clara Yu Cuadrado observes, to a person ‘trained in the orthodox Western literary theories,’ who is accustomed to the ‘polar divisions’ of tragedy and comedy, it is difficult to imagine that Chinese drama ‘refuses to lend itself to the arbitrary division of the “tragic” and the “comic”’: ‘If one judges the classical Chinese drama on its own terms, one easily realizes that a dramatic tradition fostered by the trinity of Confucianism-BuddhismTaoism, preaching personal virtue, social order, universal harmony, and demanding unmistakable poetic justice cannot produce works that are truly “tragic” in the Greek sense’ (Cuadrado 1980: 223–4). To many Chinese, the term ‘tragedy,’ literally translated as ‘sad drama’ (beiju), simply means an unfortunate – and therefore sad and pathetic – incident that happens to the protagonist, not because of his or her character flaws, but because of misfortunes or the evil-doing of wicked villains. Tempting as it may be to draw similarities between the Chinese concept of tragedy and the medieval concept of the Wheel of Fortune as defined by Chaucer in ‘The Monk’s Tale,’ one needs to realize that in the Chinese case the hero is not necessarily a prince or someone of noble birth, but rather a virtuous, innocent person. Moreover, the hero in classical Chinese drama always survives the trials of fortune; in the end, good triumphs over evil, and virtue and justice always prevail. Likewise death, signifying defeat, is often reserved as a just punishment for the antagonist in the Chinese tragedy, much to the delight of the audience. The protagonist, usually virtuous and altruistic, suffers a twist of fate that temporarily throws him into the nadir of life; but, by the end of the trial, as in most classical Chinese dramas and narratives, the hero is vindicated, justice served, order restored, and truth prevails. Hamlet, in other words, is a very different ‘sad play.’ For the chief emphasis of Chinese tragedy falls on the extent of the injustice (rather than misfortune) perpetrated on the hero, whose perseverance and constancy in times of adversity will finally render him stronger and wiser. Unlike the defeated, self-emasculated Prufrock, the Chinese tragic hero would proudly announce: ‘No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be’ (Eliot 1963: 17). The unwillingness of the Chinese audience to accept the outcome of Hamlet could have been as significant and worthwhile a research topic as T.S. Eliot’s controversial designation of the play as ‘most certainly an artistic failure’ (Eliot 1960: 123). But, instead of examining the historical and cultural factors of this phenomenon from a well-grounded critical standpoint, Chinese critics up to the 1980s usually resorted to their own


Shuhua Wang

brand of populist Marxism, or rather Maoism, as a politically convenient approach, as Yang Zhouhan’s early article, quoted above, adequately proves. With Marxist jargon liberally sprinkled throughout his argument, Yang’s article clearly shows that Marxist ideology was firmly behind the criticism, and that Mao’s decree, that all art and literature should serve the proletariat, was its unchallenged principle. Yang Zhouhan thus set the tone and guidelines for later critics of Shakespeare to follow. And what followers he had! Hamlet and Chinese Marxism In their 1961 article, Zhao Li, Meng Weizai, Guan Long, and Wu Zhilan discussed the development of Shakespeare’s social and political ideas, and declared that ‘only by grasping and applying Marxist principles and methods can we achieve a truly scientific evaluation [of Shakespeare], and only then can we talk about borrowing, imitating, learning, and inheriting [Shakespeare]. Only then can we, in theory and in practice, draw the line between ours and the capitalists’ concepts’ (20). The authors found in Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet a Shakespeare who was not only politically minded, but also regressively opposed to the masses, particularly the undereducated, underprivileged peasants: Generally speaking, Shakespeare’s attitude towards the masses and its historical role was a bourgeois and capitalistic one, and blatantly limited as far as social classes and history are concerned ... When it comes to Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and especially Coriolanus, ... the people [in those plays] are disorganized, stupid ‘rabble,’ blindly following others, serving only as the tool with which the heroes make history; but they are by no means history-makers themselves. They are essentially slaves driven by others, not knowing their own directions and unable to control their own destiny. (25–6)

In the heyday of Chinese Communism, Chinese scholars undertook the obligation to endorse the national literary policy based on Mao’s Talks. Whatever their critical opinions, they had to take the precaution of not departing from the doctrines of Marx and Engels or, rather, those of Mao Zedong. Individuality, or personal insight, however perceptive, was not important in view of the overall function of criticism. While Shakespeare’s own merits were appreciated, he was worth studying in large part because Karl Marx himself, and Engels too, praised and

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


Ophelia (Hua Yijing) and Hamlet (Zhao Zhigang) in Revenge of the Prince, a Yueju adaptation of Hamlet for the 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang

appreciated him in their writings.5 In such a literary climate, it is simply not clear how much Hamlet criticism reflected the authors’ genuine view of the work. The fact is, many of the 1950s and 1960s studies of Hamlet, and of Shakespeare in general, simply sounded alike. Thus, for example, an article by Chen Jia in 1964 still echoed what Yang Zhouhan had expressed in 1958. In terms of ideological critique, Chen’s piece on Hamlet and Othello offered nothing remarkably different from what had already been said in Yang Zhouhan’s or in Zhao Li’s earlier articles. It did, however, perform a more detailed analysis of the plays. It is in such well-focused literary analysis, rather than broad ideological criticism, that the author’s own voice can be heard above (beneath, rather) the official statements. Nevertheless, Chen’s analysis of Hamlet represents and, thanks to its attention to details, sums up the Chinese critical approach to the play up to the 1966 Cultural Revolution. In many aspects, Chen’s conclusions are typical. He agrees with Yang Zhouhan, for instance, that


Shuhua Wang

Hamlet’s mission ends in failure because he lacks the support of the people. Chen’s main argument is that one can only rely on the Marxist approach to evaluate and understand Shakespeare. As in most other essays of this kind, the author explains his stance in the very first paragraph: ‘How we should view the traditional [that is, Western] criticism of Shakespeare, and how we should place Shakespeare [in literary history] when we measure him from Marxist-Leninist standpoint, ... is a question worth our careful and thorough consideration’ (1964: 34). Chen also argues that Hamlet is actually a social critique aimed at exposing the corruption of the Elizabethan court. The locale of Denmark is only a disguise. Claudius and Hamlet are types rather than individuals; they represent the conflicting values of different social classes: ‘Like other Shakespearean plays, the major achievement of Hamlet and Othello is Shakespeare’s exposure of the ugly realities of the English society ... in the early period of capitalism’ (34–5; my emphasis). Chen observes that, through Hamlet, Shakespeare protests against a ‘time out of joint’ and expresses his strong objection to feudalism, tyrannical monarchy, and many other forms of social injustice. As Chen points out, the Prince’s verbal assaults on the hardships and sufferings of life and on the inequity and wrongs of the society, as manifested in many of his soliloquies and in his sharp exchanges with the fawning courtiers, simply demonstrate his (and Shakespeare’s) social discontent: ‘From the soliloquy of act 3, scene 1, and [Hamlet’s] dialogue with the gravediggers in act 5, scene 1, ... [we find] the author’s all-encompassing invective against ... his society’ (36–7). Hamlet, as well as other Shakespearean tragic heroes, is doomed to fail because he does not appreciate the importance and the power of ‘the people’ and is fundamentally unable to mobilize them for his cause. Shakespeare, therefore, is ‘unprogressive’ in the following respects: namely, he is unsympathetic to the proletariat, especially the peasants; his treatment of women (as shown in his female characters) is discriminatory; and he betrays his unhealthy trust in the supernatural and consequently offers an oblique endorsement of a fatalistic world view in his treatment of the ghost. On the treatment of female characters, Chen Jia sees only Portia, Beatrice, Rosalind, and Viola as positive figures, though they have ‘limited social ambition’ (50). Elsewhere, Chen finds Shakespeare’s treatment of women generally inequitable: In Othello and Hamlet Shakespeare is not just unable to express his objection to the suppressed position of women in the family, he even approves such feudalistic evils. Ophelia is all obedience to her father, submissive

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


Sword fight between Hamlet (Zhao Zhigang) and Laertes (Chenghao) with King (Zhang Guohua) and Queen (Sun Zhijun) in the background. Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang towards Laertes, and meekly tolerant of Hamlet ... Desdemona is at least supposed to have a stronger personality [than Ophelia’s], ... but in answering her father’s accusations of her ingratitude, she nevertheless adopts some outdated argument similar to the ‘three obediences and four virtues of women’ of the feudal [Chinese] society. She persuades herself that since she was obedient and respectful to her father before her marriage, she should be so towards her husband now that she is married. Indeed, she follows this principle until she dies ... Shakespeare’s attitude towards women, as shown here, was the product of his times and of the limits of his [social] class. In addition, Hamlet’s comments on women as spoken in his conversations both with Ophelia and with his mother ... could very likely stand for the playwright’s contempt for women ... From the images of the female in several plays we can see Shakespeare’s consistent disparagement of women. (41–2)

On Shakespeare’s superstition, Chen’s view proves to be typical of Chinese scholars’ ‘active resistance’ to such ideas as Fate, Fortune, Providence, and other supernatural events, since they run ‘so directly


Shuhua Wang

across the grain of Marxist ideology.’ Chinese scholars, says Edward Berry, ‘concocted elaborate psychological interpretations’ to ‘explain away the supernatural elements in the plays.’ The ghost in Hamlet, like the witches in Macbeth, was treated as ‘mental projections of the protagonists, without objective status’ (Berry 1988: 214). Chen observes that Hamlet first bases his intention of revenge on the ghost’s revelation of the murder ... Hamlet is unwilling to kill the praying Claudius for fear that Claudius’ soul may thus be able to enter heaven – another evidence of Shakespeare’s religious superstition. In act 5, scene 2 of the play, Hamlet suddenly sounds fatalistic ... Such fatalism of Hamlet ... apparently highlights Shakespeare’s own superstitious thought.’ (42–3)

Chen’s comment was preceded by the criticism of Bian Zhilin, who in 1956 argued that Hamlet abandoned himself to a fatalistic attitude by ignoring the potential power of the people. The ‘departure from the direction of the people’s struggle brought about Hamlet’s tragedy’ (Bian Zhilin 1980: 46–7). Their atheism notwithstanding, Chinese critics are as puzzled by the motivation of the ghost as Eleanor Prosser is. ‘Since Shakespeare invites his audience to view the Ghost from a religious perspective,’ says Prosser, ‘we are justified in asking a crucial question: how does one determine whether a ghost is a good spirit ... or a demon?’ Whereas in the Western tradition ‘all Christians were warned to be thoroughly suspicious of any supernatural visitation’ (Prosser 1967: 107), the Chinese scepticism is based not so much on religion as on Hamlet’s psyche. Tao Siyan, who believed that Hamlet’s ‘tragic character’ and his indecisiveness cast doubt on the ghost’s motivation, agreed that the apparition was a ‘visual illusion’ and a projection of the prince’s subconscious (Tao Siyan 1981: 62). Tao based his observation on the following lines in Hamlet: Hamlet: My father – methinks I see my father. Horatio: Where, my lord? Hamlet: In my mind’s eye, Horatio. (1.2.184–5)

On the subject of Shakespeare’s superstition and his belief in the ghost in Hamlet, the critic’s charge underwrites the plain truth that China, like many other Communist nations, is officially atheistic and notoriously anti-religious. Yet more important is the fact that the charge stems

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


The Prince (Zhao Zhigang). Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang

ultimately from the heart of Confucianism, which is denounced by Communist revolutionaries as the archdevil of the old establishment. Confucius (552–479 BC) and his disciples emphasized pragmatism, while discouraging the discussion and pursuit of the unknown and the otherworldly. One famous passage from The Analects of Confucius notes that the Master never discussed the uncanny, the violent, the chaotic, or the supernatural. For thousands of years, Confucianism remained the mainstream of Chinese thought – although occasionally Taoism, which does deal with the supernatural, became a strong contender. During those thousands of years literature in China was assigned the honourable task of edifying, educating, and elevating the minds of readers. Notwithstanding the massive anti-Confucian, anti-intellectual campaign launched by the Communists throughout the early years of its regime, educated Chinese are still reluctant to designate any plot with ghosts and witches as orthodox, mainstream literature or a classic. Despite the wide differences elsewhere between traditional Confucianism and Communist ideology, Chinese scholars seem to be unanimous in their mission to exorcise literature of, and to discredit, any superstitious creations.


Shuhua Wang

At this point, at least, it seems that party guidelines and the collective, traditional consciousness of the elite literati meet and mix. To the Chinese critics of Chen Jia’s time, peasant and women’s issues are of paramount interest to the study of Hamlet. They allow politically correct literary criticism with utilitarian implications reaching far beyond the play. Sancong Side, the ‘Three Obediences and Four Virtues’ mentioned by Chen Jia, had long been regarded as ideal qualities of women. The three obediences are, in traditional order of importance: obedience to her father before a woman’s marriage, obedience to her husband after her marriage, and obedience to her son after the death of the husband. The four womanly virtues are moral demeanour, appropriate speech, modest and pleasant manners, and a willingness to do diligent housework. These so-called womanly virtues, particularly the Three Obediences, are viewed by modern Chinese as spiritual fetters imposed upon women in the old, male-dominated society. However, in Communist society, where Marxism advocates equality for all and justice and freedom for the oppressed, such ‘feudalistic’ ideas are especially condemnable. Hamlet’s view of women as ‘frail’ (1.2.146) and ‘most pernicious’ (1.5.105) is thus ‘unprogressive.’ The Chinese critics of this period are by no means feminists, but their reaction, and occasionally overreaction, to the issue of women make them look as if they were years ahead of Western feminists. Yet, when one realizes that institutionalized feminist criticism was in fact substantially influenced by liberal neo-Marxism, this Chinese interpretation of Hamlet should become perfectly logical. Likewise, the anti-peasant issue is politically self-explanatory. As a new generation of ‘ruling classes’ honoured in the Communist emblems of the sickle and the hammer, the previously underprivileged peasants and working class were now revered as productive models of a healthy society; hence, they could not be criticized or reprimanded. Certainly they could not be treated as ‘rabble’ and ‘dogs’ as they are by Gertrude and the messenger (4.5.99– 110), who never truly understood the suffering of the people; nor could they be treated as country tramps who dare rub the ‘kibe’ on the heel of the courtier (5.1.138–40). Thus, in criticizing Shakespeare’s treatment of women and the mob in Hamlet, the Chinese critic effectively lashes out at both old Chinese feudalistic values and the Western social hierarchy using a double-edged sword. Shakespearean scholars of the Mao era could not forget that their writings must be of service to the people, even if this only meant to pay them lip service. Indeed, from the didactic principle of wen yi zai dao to the Communist principle of ‘worker-

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


Hamlet (Zhao Zhigang) and Ophelia (Hua Yijing). Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang


Shuhua Wang

peasant-soldier’ literature, the Chinese ruling class has always been able to subjugate both literature and literary scholars in order to promote its own brand of political propaganda. The need to enforce such ideologically based literary policy resulted in the notorious wenzi yu – imprisonment resulting from inappropriate writing – ‘writing jails’ that cost the critic his freedom and sometimes even his life. The history of imperial and modern China is littered with tragic stories of many such writers who were severely tortured and persecuted for what they dared write. In the wake of many of those highly publicized ‘writing jails,’ the majority of writers and critics have learned to be cautious in expressing their thoughts. If Chinese Shakespearean critics sound monotonously uniform in their evaluation of Hamlet, it is because they are keenly aware of Big Brother watching over their shoulders. Thus, a full twenty-four years after Yang Zhouhan’s critique of Hamlet, and eighteen years after that of Chen Jia, Bian Zhilin’s 1980 article on Hamlet began by paying homage to the party leadership and to Marxist ideology: In the summer of 1952, Beijing ordered the reorganization of college and university departments. The reorganization affected my job, so I had a chance to leave the classroom [and spend a year working with the peasants in the village ... I chose the following topic: a preliminary study of the philosophy and the art of Shakespeare’s works from a Marxist standpoint and methodology. (Bian Zhilin 1980: 38)6

The turning point in Shakespeare study in China came around 1978, when the nation began to awaken from a decade of rabid purges and class struggle, and gradually came to understand the chaos and massive economic and intellectual destruction that was known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. However, the transition from ideological critique to academic criticism was anything but clean and swift. Indeed, the process of modernization was stubbornly slow: it began in 1978 with Zhu Weizhi’s tepid call for ‘Shakespearization’ following his reading of Karl Marx’s letter to the German socialist Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–64), dated 19 April 1859. Marx’s letter contains his own as well as Friedrich Engels’s observations on Lassalle’s play Franz von Sickingen, which they consider to be too abstract and didactic, full of propaganda but weak in artistic representation. Influenced too much by Johann Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805), Lassalle, says Marx (and Zhu concurs), should have learned from Shakespeare’s imagination and realism (Zhu Weizhi 1978: 70). Based entirely on Marx’s and Engels’s com-

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


The Prince (Zhao Zhigang). Revenge of the Prince, 1994 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival. Courtesy of Zhao Zhigang

ments, Zhu’s article expounds the concept of ‘Shakespearization,’ with an emphasis on realism in literature both in content and in form. Yet, for the socialist writers of the 1970s, realism, in Engels’s words, simply ‘implies the creation of typical characters under typical circumstances,’ a familiar notion ‘to all Chinese readers with any acquaintance with literary theory’ (Engels’s letter to Margaret Harkness; Judd 1987: 99). Realism means ‘true to life’ or ‘reflecting the realities of life.’ The emphasis is clearly on human conditions rather than human nature. Of course ‘realities’ here refers to social injustice, oppression of one class by another, and scores of other evils inside the system. ‘Shakespearization’ means, therefore, to emulate Shakespeare, to use his works as models of literary creation, and to grasp his comprehensive treatment of ‘realities.’ In elaborating what might have been an underdeveloped remark by Marx (who did not further elaborate the concept of ‘Shakespearization’ in his letter or elsewhere), Zhu Weizhi and other Chinese critics thus created a critical dichotomy between the objective, realistic approach, represented by Shakespeare, and the subjective, abstract approach epitomized in Schiller’s works. Since Communists habitually idolize their leaders, Marx’s and Engels’s


Shuhua Wang

remarks were quickly transformed into yet another orthodox literary tenet, which was then widely accepted. No one cared to question either the intent or the judgment of these two ‘leaders of revolution’ who, like Mao, were made gurus of literary criticism because of their political accomplishments. The sheer fact that both Marx and Engels openly praised Shakespeare was enough to confirm Shakespeare’s status both as a great writer and perhaps as the premier model for all writers. In other words, Marx was deified before Shakespeare could be canonized. Nevertheless, despite the trite formula of invoking Marx, Zhu Weizhi was able to further explicate, in his criticism of Hamlet, what seemed to be a somewhat modified and modernized view of literary criticism in China at the end of the 1970s. While he still mentioned social conflicts and class struggles as the most important of Shakespearean themes, he clearly placed more emphasis on analysing and appreciating the text of the play, calling attention to such literary topics as plot construction, parallel characterization, language, and style. Whereas most critics had treated Shakespeare’s works as political tools and had often judged them according to their ‘messages’ and ideology, Zhu’s article, however rudimentary, was able to point out the aesthetic value, the beauty, and the art of Hamlet, as though it were not entirely independent of political connotation and propaganda. Using Hamlet as an example, Zhu Weizhi praised Shakespeare’s artistic achievement and determined that four attributes distinguished his genius, and hence formed the essence of ‘Shakespearization.’ The first, depth and comprehensiveness, is suggested by the array of dramatis personae representing different ranks, professions, and social classes in Shakespeare, faithfully reflecting the time and life of his multifaceted society. In short, his works are an ‘epitome of his times’ (1978: 71). Second, Shakespeare’s works possess vividness and complexity. In constructing his usually complex plots, Shakespeare is unsurpassed in his ability to let the story unfold itself: ‘Unlike Schiller and other writers of the Enlightenment who made drama a platform for preaching, Shakespeare’s drama features such vividness and versatility that his thoughts are conveyed implicitly. The ideas are naturally [and unaffectedly] revealed through [well constructed] scenes and plots without being deliberately advertised’ (71–2). With reference to Hamlet, Zhu combined the approved socialist critical dictum with an honest effort to read the play as analytically as he could: ‘Hamlet is a play about the bourgeois humanists’ revolt against the feudalistic monarch,’ argued Zhu. ‘T]he revenge plot follows three convoluted lines of development ... with many sub-plots such as love, friendship, and family to

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


complement the main plot and illumine the personalities of the characters ... Hamlet’s melancholy, ... Ophelia’s deranged madrigal, ... Laertes’ explosive challenge, ... and lightening action following the gravedigging scene ... what power this is!’ (72). Third, Shakespeare’s characterization is masterful and unique. Zhu carefully examined the different ways in which the three sons in Hamlet conducted their own revenge business. He compared and contrasted their disposition, as well as behaviour, and pointed out that it is the individuality and uniqueness, as well as the complexity, of each character that distinguish Shakespeare from other lesser playwrights such as Lassalle. The parallel revenge plots of Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras demonstrate how Shakespeare prepares radically different responses from his individual characters put under similar conditions, and how each character serves as foil to the other two, thus adding complexity and dramatic appeal to the play. Fourth, Zhu turned to Shakespeare’s lively language. Replete with vivid imagination and powerful imagery, Shakespeare’s language, argued Zhu, is an ingenious, artless art, a style that enhances and complements without distracting from the content of his plays. While making these claims, however, Zhu’s article did not offer any specific examples. By Western critical standards, these four observations, or the essence of ‘Shakespearization,’ may be intolerably trite, uninteresting, and even outdated. In fact, the term ‘Shakespearization’ may itself sound simplistic and slogan-like. Yet, aside from its familiar invocation of the socialist Muses, Marx and Engels, and its association with the customary accusation of Shakespeare’s circumscribed bourgeois perspective, Zhu’s article broke new ground by focusing extensively on a detailed literary analysis, rather than ideological critique, of Hamlet and of Shakespearean drama in general. The death of Mao Zedong signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution, and with it a political era. The 1980s saw the government easing its grip on scholars; the floodgate of literary studies finally swung open. Yang Zhouhan, who in 1958 praised Shakespeare for his ‘connection to the people’ and his anti-bourgeois stance in Hamlet, published in 1980 a summary review of twentieth-century Shakespearean criticism in the West. Without any pretension to thoroughness, the review covered a range of areas and disciplines from textual, historical, and theatrical studies to the influence of New Criticism, archaeology, and psychology on the study of Shakespeare. It was a broad introduction lacking the specifics of a substantive study or the bibliographic data of an omnibus review. Yet, despite its deficiencies and its Marxist residue,


Shuhua Wang

Yang’s article called attention to what had been and was being done in the West on Shakespeare. The review did more than it was meant to do: it ended the isolation and excommunication of Chinese Shakespearean scholars by lifting their blindfold, allowing them a preliminary view of the Shakespearean criticism outside China. What was significantly new in Yang’s article was his change of attitude from that of a stubborn, orthodox Communist to that of a more tolerant reviewer. Yang was also courageous enough to admit (though shifting the blame onto the Soviets) that Chinese critics had been singularly obsessed with Soviet-style Marxist criticism. And, for the first time, he openly criticized the inadequacy of such ideology-driven criticism, which had served as the model for Chinese scholars. Soviet-style Shakespearean criticism, said Yang, ‘lacks a dialectical perspective ... [and] ignores continuity [and tradition], denies the medieval heritage and its influence on Shakespeare both in theme and in style ... It affirms [the significance of] Shakespeare solely on the basis of his “people-ness”’ (Yang Zhouhan 1980: 10). Yang’s article closed with a plea for open-mindedness and regular contact with the West, a plea that has since become common in many articles. For nearly three decades, conformity to ideology and exclusion from Western criticism formed a double bind that precluded Chinese Shakespeare critics from producing genuine scholarly investigations and meaningful interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays. The political winds of the 1980s, blown by economic necessities, fanned the intellectual and critical torches of scholars as well. Today (as in the past), Hamlet is the play within the political play of China.

NOTES 1 All Chinese names are transcribed in their original order, namely, with the surname first, followed by the given name (e.g., Bian Zhilin is Professor Bian; Mao Zedong is Chairman Mao; and Deng Xiaoping, Chairman Deng. Taiwanese names, however, follow the Western given name-surname convention (e.g., Shuhua Wang is Professor Wang; Hugh K.S. Lee is Director Lee). 2 Hereafter cited as Talks. All references to Talks are based on the official 30page, 15,000-word English translation in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung [Mao Zedong] (1967: 69–98). 3 Numbers are based on the Chinese version in Selected Readings from Mao Zedong’s Works (1964: 249–90).

From Maoism to (Post) Modernism: Hamlet in Communist China


4 In ‘Talk to Music Workers,’ Mao acknowledges that ‘bourgeois intellectuals’ who have received a Western education ‘possess modern culture’ and ‘have comparatively more knowledge and skill.’ ‘Provided that we educate and remold them,’ says Mao, ‘we can get them to serve the cause of socialism’ (89). The ‘laboring masses of the urban petty bourgeoisie’ and the ‘pettybourgeois intellectuals,’ says Mao in Talks, are both ‘our allies in the revolution and capable of long-term co-operation with us.’ However, Mao cautions, ‘we must take the class stand of the proletariat and not that of the petty bourgeoisie. Today, writers who cling to an individualist, pettybourgeois stand cannot truly serve the masses of revolutionary workers, peasants and soldiers. Their interest is mainly focused on the small number of petty-bourgeois intellectuals’ (77). 5 See the introductory paragraph in Cao Weifeng’s ‘Shakespeare in China,’ in which Cao cites both Marx’s and Engels’s comments on Shakespeare. Similar comments can be found in Yang Zhouhan’s ‘Shakespeare’s Life and His Major Works’ and in many other Chinese essays on Shakespeare. 6 Bian Zhilin’s translation of Hamlet and of three other Shakespearean tragedies was re-published in 1988 in a single volume, entitled Shashibiya Beiju Sizhong [Four Shakespearean Tragedies] (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe [People’s Literature Press]). REFERENCES The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works. 1998. Ed. Richard Proudfoot et al. Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. Berry, Edward. 1988. ‘Teaching Shakespeare in China.’ Shakespeare Quarterly 39.2: 212–16. Bian, Zhilin. 1980. ‘On My Translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: A Preface without a Book.’ Waiguo Wenxue Yanjiu [Foreign Literature Studies] 1: 38–50. – 1988. Four Shakespearean Tragedies [Shashibiya Beiju Sizhong]. (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe [People’s Literature Press]). Cao Weifeng. 1954. ‘Shakespeare in China.’ Wenyi Yuebao (Shanghai) [Art and Literature Monthly], April: 33–4. Chang [Zhang] Siyang. 1983. ‘Hamlet’s Melancholy.’ In Wenke Zhiyou [Companion to the Humanities] 2: 19–22; repr. in 1988, trans. and ed. Mason Y.H. Wang, in Homan, ed., 76–81. Chen Jia. 1964. ‘Toward an Evaluation of Shakespeare: Hamlet and Othello Analysed.’ Nanjing Daxue Xuebao [Nanjing University Journal] 8.2: 34–59. Cuadrado, Clara Yu. 1980. ‘Cross-Cultural Currents in the Theatre: China and the West.’ In China and the West: Comparative Literature Studies, ed. William


Shuhua Wang

Tay, Ying-hsiung Chou, and Heh-hsiang Yuan. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. Dollimore, Jonathan, and Alan Sinfield, 1985. Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Eliot, T.S. 1960. ‘Hamlet and His Problems.’ In Selected Essays, new edition. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. – 1963. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.’ In Collected Poems 1909–1962. London: St Martin. Hawkes, David. 1971. ‘Reflections on Some Yuan Tsa-Chu.’ Asia Major, new ser., 16: 69–81. He Qixin. 1986. ‘Shakespeare through Chinese Eyes.’ PhD thesis, Kent State University. Homan, Sidney, ed. 1988. Shakespeare and the Triple Play: From Study to Stage to Classroom. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses. Judd, Ellen R. 1987. ‘Prescriptive Dramatic Theory of the Cultural Revolution.’ In Drama in the People’s Republic of China, ed. Constantine Tung and Colin MacKerras. Albany: State University of New York Press. Mao, Tse-Tsung [Zedong]. 1964. Selected Readings from Mao Zedong’s Works. Vol. 2. Beijing: Renmin Chubanshe [People’s Press]. – 1967. Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung [Mao Zedong]. Vol. 3. Peking [Beijing]: Foreign Languages Press [in English]. – 1974 [24 August 1956]. ‘Chairman Mao’s Talk to Music Workers.’ In Schram, ed., 77–89. Prosser, Eleanor. 1967. Hamlet and Revenge. London: Oxford University Press. Schram, Stuart, ed. 1974. Chairman Mao Talks to the People / Talks and Letters: 1956–1971. New York: Pantheon Books. Tao Siyan. 1981. ‘On the Ghost in Hamlet.’ Nanjing Shiyuan Xuebao [Journal of Nanjing Teachers’ College] 4: 61–3. Yang Zhouhan. 1958. ‘Shakespeare’s Life and His Major Works.’ Tushuguan Gongzuo [Library Work] (Tianjin) 3: 28–33. – 1980. ‘20th-Century Shakespeare Criticism.’ Waiguo Wenxue Yanjiu [Foreign Literature Studies] (Wuhan) 4: 3–11. Zhao Li, Meng Weizai, Guan Long, and Wu Zhilan. 1961. ‘On Shakespeare’s Social-Political Ideas and Their Development.’ Jiaoxue yu Yanjiu [Teaching and Research] 2: 20–7. Zhu Weizhi. 1978. ‘On “Shakespearization.”’ Nankai Daxue Xuebao [Nankai University Journal, Philosophy and Social Sciences Section] (Tianjin) 2: 70–5.

PART FOUR Theorizing Marxist Shakespeares

This page intentionally left blank

Theorizing Marxist Shakespeares 305

Ideological Shakespeare did not expire in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR. Shakespeare was one of the first playwrights to whom directors of the New Europe turned. Indeed, the phrase ‘Shakespeare and the New Europe,’ the eponymous title of both a conference and, subsequently, an anthology of essays, suggestively linked the Bard to contested ideas of nation, history, truth, interpretation, and cultural formation. As Michael Hattaway and his colleagues argued in that book, it is ‘impossible to make sense of the present without chronicling and rethinking the past’ (17). A nuanced rethinking of the extraordinary experiments with the ideological Shakespeare of the past century has now become possible in part because of the opening up of hitherto inaccessible archives. History has added its own contribution. Fourteen years of economic, political, and cultural changes have cast the Communist and socialist past into unanticipated new shapes and shadows. If, in 1991, euphoria dominated and resulted in the claim (at least in some quarters) of the end of history, in 2005 such optimistic prognostics are no longer possible, tempered as they would have to be by the knowledge of bloody conflicts in Bosnia and continued corruption and coercion in some Eastern European countries. In short, a Darwinian approach to Marxist Shakespeare would not yield very useful results. Like history, which has not come to an end, Marxist Shakespeare continues to live, though not necessarily thrive, in countries such as Cuba and China. In the former, he is inflected by post-colonial issues of empire, independence, and cultural and racial identity. As in other parts of the Caribbean and in Africa, so in Cuba The Tempest has received provocative critical and stage treatment. Not as important as he has been to Central and Eastern Europe, in this part of the world the reception of Shakespeare raises questions about his ideological usefulness and his universality. Marxist Shakespeare is also very much alive in North American academic circles. Unlike their colleagues in China, Cuba, and the USSR, North American Shakespeareans were permitted the luxury of a choice of critical methodology. While only a few are ‘hard core’ self-identified Marxists, many flirt with its terminology and aspirations. Thus, some of the old Soviet Marxist strains may be heard in the background (such as the link with progressive thinking, the necessity of political commitment, and ‘democratization’) of North American Marxist discourse. In the foreground lies a much more sophisticated yet not unproblematic rhetoric, which returns to questions of value, use-function, authority,


Part Four

and agency debated so vociferously in the 1920s. In this ‘project,’ to use the currently fashionable term, Shakespeare and the past are reengaged in a conversation and confrontation between our past selves and our current realities. IRM

Caliban/Cannibal/Carnival: Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest maria clara versiani galery

The two most significant responses to Shakespeare that have come out of Cuba in the last thirty years or so have addressed The Tempest, a work that has been very important to the context of the Caribbean, where post-colonial re-articulations of Prospero’s island have produced radical and provocative interpretations of Shakespeare’s play.1 In 1971 the Cuban poet and philologist Roberto Fernández Retamar published the well-known essay ‘Calibán,’ which examines the question of Latin American cultural identity and was translated into English with the explicative subtitle ‘Toward a Discussion of Culture in Our America.’2 The other important Cuban response to Shakespeare’s Tempest takes the text back to the stage: it is a play entitled Otra Tempestad, written by Raquel Carrió and Flora Lauten for Teatro Buendía in the latter part of the 1990s. These two Cuban works, separated from each other by over twenty-five years, rely on Shakespeare’s play to present very different perspectives of Fidel Castro’s regime. They reveal a shift in attitudes in the society in which they were written, particularly in what concerns freedom to criticize the system. This essay examines these two rearticulations of The Tempest; it also illustrates how this play has been significant not only to Cuba and the Caribbean discourse of decolonization, but also to a discussion of cultural identity in Latin America that goes back to the late nineteenth century, addressing notions of colonialism, empire, and independence. Precursors to Retamar Readings of The Tempest from a post-colonial perspective are not uncommon. Various groups have made use of the text as a geopolitical


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

instrument for the contestation of European colonialism and hegemony. In this sense, the play has been aligned with an anticolonial revolt against dominant powers. Rob Nixon’s detailed study of appropriations of The Tempest by African and Caribbean nations during their struggle for independence identifies Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization (1990) as an ‘inaugural gesture [that] helped to shape the trajectory of those associated appropriations which lay ahead’ (1987: 562). Written in 1948 and first published in Paris in 1950 as Psychologie de la Colonisation, Mannoni’s book is an investigation of the colonial process in Madagascar, particularly the uprising of 1947–8. As Rob Nixon explains, ‘[T]he pressing horrors of the Madagascan crisis prompted Mannoni to find a new significance for The Tempest, encouraging him to weave a reading of Shakespeare’s poetic drama through his reading of the incipient drama of colonization’ (563). Mannoni proposes an analysis of the psychology of colonialism through the casting of the oppositional figures of Prospero and Caliban. These two characters illustrate the colonial relationship in terms of the dependence that the African native develops upon the European colonizer; according to Mannoni, what the colonial subjects really desired was not the autonomy of freedom, but rather the security of colonial rule and its material and educational benefits. Although this vision has received much criticism and rejection, particularly by writers from Africa and the Caribbean, Mannoni’s book remains an important reference point for readings of The Tempest that focus on the colonial metaphor that can be derived from Shakespeare’s play. In view of the way that Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban has become a reference for subsequent post-colonial appropriations of The Tempest that focus on Caliban as a victim of imperialism, it seems almost unimaginable that Caliban might once have been considered to be the oppressor. Yet that occurs in Ariel, a South American response to Shakespeare, written by the Uruguayan José Henrique Rodó and first published in 1900, where Caliban and Ariel appear as allegorical figures in the protracted quest for a Latin American identity. Ariel is a long essay that, in its attempt to provide a model for Latin American culture, establishes an antithetical opposition between Europe and North America, identifying Ariel with the former and Caliban with the latter. Interestingly, Rodó’s book does not advocate an autochthonous culture for Latin America, but instead claims spiritual and intellectual affinity with Europe, particularly in response to the United States’s imperial expansion south of its borders. To fully appreciate the political frame-

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


work that sets the background for Rodó’s Ariel, one must understand that the independence of Spanish American nations in the first half of the nineteenth century also signified a moral and aesthetic rupture with Spain. As Carlos Fuentes explains, in the illuminating prologue to Margaret Sayers Peden’s translation of Rodó’s text into English: For most [Latin American] liberals, independence meant renouncing the Spanish past as a reactionary, intolerant, and unscientific era of darkness. It meant promptly attempting to recover lost time by achieving all that the Spanish Counter-reformation denied us: capitalism, free inquiry, free speech, due process, parliamentarianism, industry, commerce: in short, modernity. (1988: 15)

However, at the end of the nineteenth century, the Latin American perspective had changed significantly. Spain was no longer regarded as the villain because a new empire advanced ominously on the horizons of the American continent. By the 1850s, the United States, whose constitution and progressive legislation had inspired the fight for independence in many parts of Spanish America, manifested the determination to expand beyond its borders, putting into practice the claims of the Monroe Doctrine. Texas was annexed to the American territory in 1845; after the defeat of Mexico in the war against the United States, California and New Mexico were confiscated from Mexico and integrated into the American territory, which stirred up the unease and resentment of Latin Americans towards the United States. Furthermore, with the outcome of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which the Philippines and Puerto Rico became North American colonies and Cuba a protectorate, feelings of sympathy towards Spain arose among the inhabitants of its former possessions in the Americas (Vaughan and Vaughan 1991: 150). These events inform the context in which Ariel was written. It should be noted, however, that Rodó’s identification of the United States with Caliban has two Latin American precedents: the Nicaraguan modernista poet Rubén Darío and the Argentine author Paul Groussac. The image of Caliban conjured by these two Hispanic writers draws on a vision of Shakespeare’s character as a coarse, primitive force. Darío visited New York City in 1893 and wrote an account of his impressions five years later in an article entitled ‘El Triunfo de Calibán,’ where he depicts Americans as boorish and unrefined: ‘Flushed, heavy, crude: they push and shove each other like savages on the streets, on their hunt for


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

dollars. The ideal of these Calibans is confined to the stock market and the factory. They eat, eat, calculate, drink whisky and make millions.’ Groussac made use of the term ‘calibanesque’ (calibanesco) in 1898 while referring to the United States in a public speech given in Buenos Aires, claiming that ‘since the Civil War and the brutal invasion of the West, the Yankee spirit has been liberated from its shapeless and calibanesque body, while the Old World has contemplated, with terror and unrest, the new civilization that came to replace the old one’ (Lagmonovich 1996: 19–20). As these examples illustrate, both writers invoke a negative image of Caliban when referring to the United States; to them, Sycorax’s son signifies raw greed, lack of subtlety, and a coarse nature. Rodó has a similar notion of Caliban. It is in counterposition to this ‘primitive’ force that he elaborates an emblematic image of Ariel to represent the goals Latin American intellectuals ought to pursue: Shakespeare’s ethereal Ariel symbolizes the noble, soaring aspect of the human spirit. He represents the superiority of reason and feeling over the base impulses of irrationality. He is generous enthusiasm, elevated and unselfish motivation in all actions, spirituality in culture, vivacity and grace in intelligence. Ariel is the ideal toward which human selection ascends, the force that wields life’s eternal chisel, effacing from aspiring mankind the clinging vestiges of Caliban, the play’s symbol of brutal sensuality. (Rodó 1988: 32)

It should be noted that when Rodó linked Ariel to European culture, he was thinking especially of France. In the nineteenth century, France still represented the revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity to Latin Americans; French culture connoted elegance and a sense of aristocratic refinement, uncontaminated by the utilitarian character and bourgeois materialism of the United States. Furthermore, the inspiration for Rodó’s Ariel was a French work, Ernest Renan’s play Caliban: Suite de ‘La Tempête.’ The most significant aspect of Ariel for the discussion of the meanings that Shakespeare’s Tempest has acquired in Cuba lies in the fact that, while idealizing Europe, Rodó fails to acknowledge the ‘many strands of Latin American culture’ (Fuentes 1988: 20). The Uruguayan writer displays no appreciation for the baroque aesthetics that characterize Spanish and Portuguese colonial art; furthermore, he makes no mention of the contributions that the Native American and the African have made to the cultural heritage of Latin America. It is precisely this lack of

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


recognition for the hybrid aspect of Latin American culture that is criticized in ‘Calibán,’ an essay that remains among the best-known works of Roberto Fernández Retamar, particularly for its introduction of the notion of mestizage, or miscegenation, to the discussion of Latin American cultural identity. Retamar’s ‘Calibán’ One of the most distinguished Cuban intellectuals to stand behind the revolution, Retamar is a poet, literary critic, and professor at the University of Havana. Throughout his career, the range of official and semi-official positions Retamar has occupied in his country reflect not only his endorsement of Fidel Castro’s regime, but also the prestigious situation he enjoys within it: president of the Casa de las Américas and editor of its journal, cultural counsellor of the Cuban embassy in Paris, coordinating secretary of the Union of Cuban Artists, and director of the Centre for the Study of José Martí.3 Retamar’s ‘Calibán’ is clearly a response to Rodó’s Ariel. Taking up the opposition between these two characters of The Tempest, the Cuban poet affirms: ‘[O]ur symbol ... is not Ariel, as Rodó thought, but rather Caliban’ (Retamar 1989: 14). The recasting of Caliban as a symbol of Latin American culture is based on Retamar’s identification of Shakespeare’s ‘salvage and deformed slave’ as a mestizo, a racially mixed figure compounded of the African, the Native American, and the European. In spite of insisting that Rodó’s identification of Caliban with the United States was misguided, the Cuban author gives credit to Rodó for his recognition of where the danger lies: in other words, for identifying the imperialist United States as a threat to Latin America. According to Retamar, who claims that Ariel was written in response to the American invasion of Cuba in 1898, ‘if it is indeed true that [Rodó] erred in his symbols, as has already been said, it is no less true that he was able to point with clarity to the greatest enemy of our culture in his time – and in ours – and that is enormously important’ (1989: 14). The central idea of Retamar’s text is his assertion of a mestizo heritage, whereby the blend of different races and cultures applies not only to the Cuban island, but to the whole of Latin America. Retamar’s text specifically addresses the socio-cultural context of Cuba and of the Caribbean, but it also makes reference to the cultural identity of Latin America as a whole. This is evident in the opening words of the essay, when the Cuban author narrates the following incident:


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

A European journalist, and moreover a leftist, asked me a few days ago, ‘Does a Latin-American culture exist?’ We were discussing, naturally enough, the recent polemic regarding Cuba that ended by confronting, on the one hand, certain bourgeois European intellectuals (or aspirants to that state) with a visible colonialist nostalgia; and on the other, that body of Latin-American writers and artists who reject open or veiled forms of cultural and political colonialism. The question seemed to reveal one of the roots of the polemic and, hence, could also be expressed another way: ‘Do you exist?’ For to question our culture is to question our very existence, our human reality itself, and thus to be willing to take a stand in favor of our irremediable colonial condition, since it suggests that we would be but a distorted echo of what occurs elsewhere. (1989: 3)4

These introductory words describe the problem of cultural identity faced by former colonies: their peripheral status condemns them to repeat and imitate works produced in the cultural centres of the metropolis, at least according to the perspective of the colonial mind. In the development of his essay, the Cuban writer’s vision of this problem reveals what Fredric Jameson, in his foreword to the English translation of the text, describes as Retamar’s keen ‘sense of the dialectics of difference and the paradoxical reversals of Identity and Difference, of the Same and the Other, the supremely mutable polemics of marginality and centrality’ (Jameson 1989: viii). In the terms of his discussion, the option towards a mestizo heritage, particularly one that includes nonEuropean strains such as the African and the Native American, clearly indicates the refusal to imitate the metropolitan centres. What is proposed, instead, is the contamination of the culture of the former colonial powers with that of other nations who have been subjugated by the European colonizer. It is from this perspective of a mestizo heritage that Retamar asks: ‘What is our history, what is our culture, if not the history and the culture of Caliban?’ (14). Retamar further explains why Cuba can claim a miscegenated culture: as he sees it, ‘although the thesis that every man and even every culture is mestizo could easily be defended and although this seems especially valid in the case of the colonies, it is nevertheless apparent that in both their ethnic and their cultural aspects capitalist countries long have achieved a relative homogeneity’ (4). This sort of affirmation, and there are many others in a similar vein, indicates the ideological standpoint from which Retamar writes and his support of Castro’s regime. He reproduces, for instance, a passage

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


from a speech given by Castro during the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the revolution, where the Cuban leader addressed the predicament of his people: To be completely precise, we still do not even have a name; we still have no name; we are completely unbaptized – whether as Latin Americans, Ibero-Americans, or Indo-Americans. For the imperialists, we are nothing more than despised and despicable peoples ... Racial contempt – to be a Creole, to be a mestizo, to be black, to be simply, a Latin American, is for them contemptible. (Castro, quoted in Retamar 1989: 16)

Retamar’s discourse, when he proposes that Caliban be taken as a symbol for the Latin American, fills in the gap for the situation described by Castro, and also proclaims the protagonization of the oppressed. For, as the Cuban writer affirms, ‘to assume our condition as Caliban implies rethinking our history from the other side, from the viewpoint of the other protagonist’ (16). As I have mentioned before, Retamar’s re-articulation of Caliban to express the voice and perspective of the oppressed is not unique in the Caribbean, where the best-known appropriations of The Tempest include the works of Barbadian novelist George Lamming and of Aimé Césaire, the Martinican playwright and poet of negritude. Lamming’s collection of essays The Pleasures of Exile, written in 1959, offers a reading of The Tempest as a commentary on the colonial process, with very particular implications to the Caribbean. Aimé Césaire’s play Une tempête, written ten years later for a theatre festival in Tunisia, and conceived as an adaptation of Shakespeare for a black theatre, deliberately sets out to bring the dispossessed to centre stage, making them occupy the role of protagonists. It should be noted that these Caribbean refashionings of The Tempest, along with Retamar’s essay, come from three different linguistic traditions of the region, English, French, and Spanish, which thus underscores the various strands of local culture, and the aptness of Retamar’s notion of mestizage for the discussion of cultural identity. The Tempest’s significance to the Caribbean is tied up with the question of the play’s relationship to the New World and also with the figure of Caliban. These two points are interconnected, in the sense that Caliban is a creature of the New World, emblematic of its exoticism and otherness. Caliban and the island where the play is set constitute two of the most persistent issues in criticism of The Tempest.5 For while the play’s geography alludes to the Mediterranean world, it is accepted that Shake-


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

speare’s sources include texts that speak of lands beyond the Atlantic, such as the travel narratives of the Virginia Company and Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Cannibals.’ As for Caliban, it is safe to say that no other secondary fictional character has ever acquired an afterlife to the same extent as Prospero’s ‘salvage’ creature, who has become a symbol of the dispossessed and the colonized. Interpretations of the origin of Caliban’s name place him as a creature of the Caribbean and also as a cannibal. The question of Caliban’s name has been exhaustingly dealt with by scholars, yet there are some points that deserve to be re-addressed here. Vaughan and Vaughan point out that ‘Caliban is attractive to some authors because of the etymological identification of Shakespeare’s savage with Caribbean or African settings through his supposed derivation from “cannibal”’ (1991: 164). The name works as an anagram for cannibal, a term originally used to designate the inhabitants of the Caribbean who consumed human flesh, but also associated with the inhabitants of the New World in general; the earliest use of the term, according to Peter Hulme, goes back to entries Columbus made in his journal, recording his impressions of the discovered lands (Ashcroft et al. 2000: 29). However, from the perspective of post-colonial studies, the depiction of the natives of the Americas as cannibals is viewed as problematic and as part of a process of distinguishing the ‘primitive’ from the ‘civilized,’ and thus empowering the justification for colonization and empire. The probable etymology that correlates Caliban with cannibal is related to the source material that Shakespeare used for the play. Frank Kermode, in his well-known introduction to the Arden edition of Morton Luce, argues that ‘the only undisputed source for any part of The Tempest is Montaigne’s essay “Of Cannibals”; there are unmistakable traces of Florio’s translation in the text’ (Kermode 1964: xxxiv). Whether or not the name of Shakespeare’s character derives from cannibal is not as significant as the fact that this etymology works within the critical framework of post-colonial readings of the play, which draw upon the figures of Prospero and Caliban to discuss issues related to empire and resistance. According to Vaughan and Vaughan, ‘Third World authors ... find in Caliban’s possible etymology further evidence of the imperialist mentality that let Prospero seize the island, enslave Caliban, and announce (through Miranda) that the native is immune to “any print of goodness”’ (1991: 163–4). I would argue, however, that the question of ‘evidence’ is secondary; it is, rather, the aptness of the etymology to express the colonial metaphor and the ideological assumptions behind

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


it that are most important in ‘Third World’ re-articulations of The Tempest. The question of Shakespeare’s intention is not the most significant issue in these readings of the play, which find in The Tempest an incipient paradigm for the colonial situation, and thus appropriate its text in order to generate another discourse, from another perspective. The strategy of appropriation is described in Retamar’s essay, where he explains how the language of the colonizer should be used by turning to one of the pivotal verses in post-colonial readings of the play: Right now as we are discussing, as I am discussing with those colonizers, how else can I do it except in one of their languages, which is now also our language, and with so many of their conceptual tools, which are now also our conceptual tools? This is precisely the extraordinary outcry that we read in a work by perhaps the most extraordinary writer of fiction who ever existed. In The Tempest ... the deformed Caliban – enslaved, robbed of his island, and trained to speak by Prospero – rebukes Prospero thus: ‘You taught me language, and my profit on’t / Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you / For learning me your language.’ (Retamar 1989: 5–6)

As Retamar illustrates, Caliban’s strategy in the use he makes of the master’s language is a means of asserting autonomy, a means of empowerment. Here the Cuban poet touches on what remains a significant point while reading Shakespeare’s play from the perspective of ‘the other protagonist,’ that is, the appropriation and subversion of ‘the conceptual tools’ of the master. Being able to curse – in the sense that, metaphorically, ‘cursing’ means a corruption of the language of the colonizer, a contamination of that language with other voices – is crucial for Retamar’s ‘Calibán’ and also for other post-colonial appropriations of The Tempest, in the sense that ‘cursing’ allows the colonized to dismantle the discourse of the metropolis. Rather than using the language of the oppressor in the same manner as the oppressor, thus prolonging a situation of dependence, Shakespeare’s Caliban subverts the values embedded in the transmission of the language and the values of the master. That is what some critics fail to see when they point out, as Vaughan and Vaughan do, that ‘the Third World’s adoption of Caliban is ironic. Although he readily symbolizes its oppressed and exploited peoples, he originally was a European construct – the product of an English imagination’ (162). The implications of Retamar’s notion of mestizage as a counterdiscourse to colonization are outlined by Richard Halpern, who finds


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

affinities between the mestizo heritage and some foundational concepts of post-structuralism. According to Halpern, the notion of mestizo culture ‘denies unique or delimited points of origin, it replaces a monological conception of cultural discourse with a dialogical or indeed disseminative one, and it problematizes boundaries and deconstructs binary oppositions, including that of center and periphery’ (1994: 263–4). The usage of a term such as ‘dialogical’ to describe the concept of mestizage also establishes an association between Retamar’s essay and Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of dialogism and carnival. Indeed, by giving voice to the perspective of ‘the other protagonist,’ Retamar proposes an inversion of roles typical of a carnivalized world, where official discourse is suspended and transgressed by other voices. It is important, however, to bear in mind that Retamar wrote this essay very much from a position aligned with the official power in Cuba, the regime of Fidel Castro.6 Up to this point, we have been discussing Retamar’s use of a Shakespearean character as a symbol of miscegenation and of resistance to the discourse of the oppressor. That is the perspective of Cuba in relation to the outside, to the colonial and neocolonial presences that have left (and continue to leave) their marks on the island as oppressors. The Cuban writer has written successive essays explaining the conditions that led to the writing of ‘Calibán’: accusations by Latin American intellectuals of lack of freedom in Cuba, and also alleged attempts to undermine the conquests of socialism in the island. To this effect, it is opportune to recall a well-known passage from Fidel Castro’s seminal address to the artists and intellectuals of Cuba two years after the revolution, during the 1961 campaign for literacy: ‘What are the rights of revolutionary or non-revolutionary writers and artists? Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing’ (Leal 1980: 132). It is only through sophistry that the implicit censorship behind these ‘parameters of artistic expression’ expressed by Castro can be denied, regardless of how necessary they were in order to implant the objectives of the revolution (Martin 1990: 39). Castro’s words clearly limit freedom of expression, especially as far as criticism of his policies are concerned; at the risk of making an oversimple generalization, I would say that it is a discourse that fosters the production of socialist realism, of works of art with an explicit ideological orientation, in conformity with the policies of the Communist Party and geared to the promotion of its objectives. But much has changed in Cuba in these recent years. Already in the

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


early eighties many of the earlier economic and administrative policies underwent considerable revision; cultural policies were also rectified in the light of a ‘seemingly spontaneous emergence of new developments in the arts’ in response to the rigid academicism characteristic of the earlier years after the revolution (Martin 1990: 40). In 1988 Castro once again summoned intellectuals and cultural practitioners and announced, while referring to the current wave of artistic production: ‘We will no longer be the executioners of this freedom, it would not be socialism. On the contrary: socialism’s reason for being is to maximize the capacity of man, his possibilities, to elevate as well to the highest grade this freedom to create, not only in form, but also in content’ (quoted in Martin 1990: 39). While this declaration may appear as typical Communist propaganda, it may also be seen in the context of certain structural revisions that characterize the country’s recent history, including occasional periods where a more lenient cultural policy has been adopted by the government. It cannot be overstressed how much the collapse of the Soviet Union affected the economy, bringing an end to certain policies of assistance that Cuba enjoyed, such as the possibility of buying subsidized Soviet oil. In order to survive with the loss of such economic benefits, added to the many years of a political and economic embargo imposed by the United States, Castro’s regime has had to reconsider many of its earlier policies. A Hybrid Tempest The structural revisions that Cuban society had to undergo in the last two decades of the twentieth century led to a series of transformations that reveal, as Candyce Leonard remarks, ‘a marked contrast to Cuba’s more repressive periods’ (1997: 139). It is quite astonishing to note the criticism that emerges out of some forms of cultural production, especially those heavily dependent on the government for subsidy, such as the theatre. Taking that issue into consideration, I would like to examine how in the late nineties Shakespeare’s Tempest served once again as signifying matrix for the portrayal of contemporary Cuban issues. This occurs in an adaptation entitled Otra Tempestad, a play that meshes characters from Shakespeare with deities from African Yoruba culture. Whereas Retamar draws from Shakespeare to elaborate his notion of mestizage as part of an ideological framework that sustains Castro’s revolution, Otra


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

Tempestad plays with the image of the patriarchal (and bearded) Prospero acting as ruler of the island to make a statement about the political reality of Cuba. Otra Tempestad is a collaborative work created by Flora Lauten and Raquel Carrió for Teatro Buendía, one of Cuba’s most innovative companies. Lauten has been the artistic director of Buendía from its beginning, and the company is indebted to her work and dedication for its success. Indeed, Lauten is a veteran of Cuba’s theatrical scene; she is an accomplished actress and director. Her career follows the most significant developments of Cuban theatre after the revolution. She started her work as an actress in the 1970s at Teatro Estudio, a company founded in 1958 by actors who supported the overthrow of Batista, and which became the central theatrical institution of Havana after the Revolution. It is from an internal dissidence within Teatro Estudio that two other important companies were formed in the late 1960s: Los Doce and Escambray. While Los Doce was a group of a more artistically experimental nature, the members of Escambray wanted to work as agents within the revolutionary process itself, and so took their politically oriented theatre to Escambray – a remote region in the mountains – to work against counter-revolutionary movements operating there. Lauten was the leading actress in their acclaimed 1971 production of La Vitrina. In 1973 she founded Teatro YaYa, where she began to direct and write her own works, working with people from a rural community. Later, she returned to Havana to teach acting and directing at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), a university-level institution for the study of arts. Otra Tempestad was written in 1997 by Raquel Carrió, poet, dramaturge for Teatro Buendía and also professor of dramaturgy at ISA. The play has been performed in Cuba and has also toured abroad to Brazil, Canada, and Great Britain, among other countries. It was performed in London at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 1998, in their Globe-to-Globe International Theatre Season program. In a sense, one might say that Otra Tempestad establishes continuity with the poetics of mestizage devised by Retamar at the same time as it alludes to the socio-political climate of Cuban society in recent years. Shakespeare is the source for the text; however, as the title indicates, Otra Tempestad presents another version of the canon, sustaining a dialogue with the Caribbean tradition of appropriating The Tempest as a privileged work for the exploration of issues such as race and colonialism. But Carrió does not limit herself to the story of Prospero and Caliban. Rather, she introduces to Prospero’s

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


island Afro-Cuban deities of Yoruba origin, the orishas. Other characters from Shakespeare’s canon are also present. The author describes the strategy behind the play as follows: Structured into fifteen scenes, Otra Tempestad tells the story of the encounters in the Caribbean, both imaginary and dreamed, between Shakespearean characters and figures from African mythology. From the streets of the Old World – as if from a puppet-theatre – emerge Macbeth, Hamlet, Shylock, Othello, the magician Prospero and his daughter Miranda, in a game of masks in which all take on their characters. (Carrió 2000: 158)

She explains, further, that ‘this crisscrossing of references ... characterizes the cultural syncretism of Latin America and the Caribbean’ (158). The terminology employed in her essay about Otra Tempestad has clear points of contact with Retamar’s notion of Caliban as a symbol for Latin American mestizage; it also makes implicit allusions to Bakhtin’s theory of polyphony and the carnival as applied to the process of textual creation. One ought to bear in mind that mestizage is only one of various ways of thinking about the crossing-over of cultures and identities that come out of the process of colonization. Hybridity is another term used to designate these ‘new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonization’ (Ashcroft et al. 2000: 118).7 I draw attention to this term because, in spite of its widespread use in post-colonial theory, hybridity has also been employed for the discussion of literary phenomena that dates back to the Middle Ages, to what Bakhtin viewed as ‘the prehistory of novelistic discourse.’ The Russian scholar used the term ‘intentional hybrid’ to speak of the ‘polyphony’ of voices that characterize the parodic and subversive tradition behind the appropriation of the word and the practice of quoting, particularly with regard to sacred and authoritative texts. This tradition is also related to Bakhtin’s idea of the medieval carnival and the carnivalesque, when ‘a boundless world of humorous forms and manifestations opposed the official and serious tone of medieval ecclesiastical and feudal culture’ (Holquist, quoted in Ashcroft et al. 2000: 118). In Bakhtin’s study of medieval literature, hybridity is already associated with the idea of subverting official culture. The terminology employed by Carrió in her discussion of the play recalls some of the theoretical concepts developed by Bakhtin, which she applies to the context of the Caribbean and its local traditions.


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

According to Carrió, even though her play re-articulates the roles of other Shakespearean characters, taken mainly from the tragedies, the spectacle breaks through the tragedy implicit in those references by taking on the form of a masque, which creates the possibilities inherent in mutation, intertextual play, irony, parody and the hybridization of genres. It is this counterpoint that makes Otra Tempestad a reflection on cultural tradition and appropriation; but also a ‘fiesta of body and soul,’ a strange carnivalesque and self-cannibalistic ritual, and, definitely, a framework full of metaphors, confessions, and surprising stories. (Carrió 2000: 158–9)

Her manipulation of Shakespearean motifs in Otra Tempestad is a carefully woven fabric of diverse cultural traditions. The plot is structured as a succession of fifteen interrelated episodes or scenes; on stage, the play unfolds as a spectacle that makes use of live music to create the various sounds of the island, and draws from the trance-inducing AfroCuban dances of santeria, a religious cult characterized by its syncretism of African and Christian deities. The performance relies on a cast of fifteen actors, whose roles are defined by the masks they wear. On the one hand, these masks function as a sign of different traditions: some look like African masks, others resemble commedia dell’arte masks. On the other, they establish the trope of Shakespeare’s theatrum mundi, which, in the context of the Cuban Tempestad, has its own specific resonances. As the first episode, entitled ‘The Old World,’ opens, Hamlet enters disguised as a clown and introduces the Players of Elsinore: Prospero, Miranda, Shylock, Macbeth, and Othello appear, lamenting their fate. Prospero proclaims that the cities of the old world are ‘as narrow as the minds of their inhabitants,’ and announces that he has heard a rumour that new continents exist. He invites the others to come with him to an exotic paradise island and everyone agrees to embark on this adventure. The second episode introduces an interesting fusion of plots and cultures, where Sycorax’s daughters, the Yoruban orishas Oshún, Oyá, and Eleggua, play the witches of Macbeth and conjure up a storm to sink the ship transporting Prospero and the other characters to the island. Sycorax and her daughters are the inhabitants of the island; in the third episode Sycorax gives birth to Caliban on stage and the islanders meet the shipwrecked characters, who make their way to the shore. In the succeeding scenes, a texture of Shakespearean motifs emerges as the characters become enticed by the tropical beauty of the island and

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


its exotic appeal. But in spite of finding themselves in a new and exciting context, the characters cannot find refuge from their guilty past and instead seem condemned to repeat it. Prospero is obsessed with power: he summons Ariel, who has magic powers, to bewitch the other Shakespearean characters into a fever of hallucinations so that Prospero can be the ruler of the island. The orishas of the island go along with this scheme; thus, Oshún transforms herself into Desdemona and then into Ophelia, first to confront Othello and later to haunt Hamlet. When Prospero finally assumes control of the island and becomes its ruler, he declares that his republic will be a utopia. Ariel announces its laws: Ariel: The government of the Republic will live according to its own laws. On illness: All people who fall ill will be provided for, attended to, and looked after with care. On madness: The mad – who really shall be very few! – will be transformed into clowns, who will maintain the public happiness! On marriage: Marriage will last forever! Those who commit adultery will pay for it with the harshest slavery! The reoccurrence of adultery will be punished with death! On children: Our children will be born healthy, strong and free. They will not abandon their country because they will live in conformity with its laws. If an Island exists anywhere in the New World, it is here, and its name shall be UTOPIA! (Otra Tempestad, 119)

Commentaries such as this one, along with the complaint that ‘the island is worse than a prison,’ resonate with indirect critical allusions to the situation of Cuba (Carrió and Lauten 1999: 112). In another instance, Hamlet expresses, reticently, ‘There is something rotten in ...’ (ibid.: 125). These remarks would indicate the theatre as a site for a sort of social criticism that is absent elsewhere in Cuba. But as Andrew Cawthorne observes, the relative freedom of expression one finds in plays such as Otra Tempestad could be little other than an escape valve for Cuban artists and intellectuals. In the theatre, he points out, this sort of criticism has little ‘social impact’ and offers no threat to the status quo of Castro’s regime, given that few people are motivated to deal with the inconveniences involved in going to see a live performance, such as the lack of gasoline, the precarious conditions of public transportation, and the heat in a theatre building in which there is no air conditioning. One would not find, Cawthorne observes, similar com-


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

mentary in more accessible forms of entertainment, such as in television (Cawthorne 2000). An interesting characteristic of the Lauten/Carrió version of The Tempest is the dislocation of speeches from the characters who originally utter them in Shakespeare’s plays to other mouthpieces (Hulme 2000a: 157). For instance, it is Prospero rather than Caliban who makes the claim: ‘This island’s mine.’ Likewise, Miranda, who falls in love with Caliban, affirms that she wants to ‘people the island with Calibans.’ These shifts of deliverance offer a change of perspective and unveil the motivations of the characters in Otra Tempestad: Prospero’s thirst for power, Miranda’s sexual desire for Caliban. But these modifications are also part of the fluid, permeable manner in which Shakespearean themes are recreated in the Cuban play. For instance, Prospero is furious when he discovers that his daughter is romantically involved with Caliban. She begs his forgiveness, and Othello, who enters the stage, comments that if she has betrayed her father, she could also easily deceive him. Thus, Miranda’s role is enmeshed with Desdemona’s and later with that of Juliet, when Miranda and Caliban turn into the star-crossed lovers. The plot of Macbeth becomes important for the later scenes. After Prospero is murdered by one of Sycorax’s daughters, Oyá, Macbeth is called onto the stage. Oyá transforms herself into Lady Macbeth, uttering various lines from Shakespeare’s play, particularly those that reveal Lady Macbeth’s determination and lack of scruple, and thus contributing to the statement regarding abuse of power that permeates the Cuban play. In the course of the delirious banquet that corresponds to the masque scene in Shakespeare’s Tempest and marks Macbeth’s rise to power in Otra Tempestad, the body of Miranda is served to feed the guests. During this feast Macbeth is haunted by guilty visions and, in a climatic moment of the performance, the masked chorus of adulators of the King is transformed into Birnam Wood and murder Macbeth. The final episode, entitled ‘Calibán Rex,’ portrays Caliban’s rise to power, amidst a chorus of actors who gloat about the virtues of a new, paradise-like island. As the new ruler, Caliban collects the masks that have been scattered over the stage, a gesture that recalls Fortinbras’s command to his entourage, at the end of Hamlet, to ‘take up the bodies,’ thus re-establishing order, but also leaving doubt as to what the nature of the new order, the new regime, will be. The use of masks in Otra Tempestad is part of a much larger conceptual vision of the meaning of theatre and performance. According to

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


Hulme, Otra Tempestad ‘find[s] common ground between the masquerades of the Cuban orishas and Prospero’s masque at the heart of Shakespeare’s play’ (Hulme 2000a: 158). In her essay about the play, Carrió offers a notion of masque that is much more encompassing than the courtly form of entertainment popular in Shakespeare’s days. Her understanding of masque is cross-cultural and broad enough to include celebratory, communal, and ritual aspects of performance. As she sees it, theatre emerges from this tradition: The idea of the masque is common to all cultures. Was The Tempest not presented as a wedding masque? In African traditions does there not exist the dance of the masks as incitement to and unveiling of change, the transformation of the seasons and the signs? Don’t we find the masque at the center of Romeo and Juliet or in Hamlet’s play to catch the conscience of a King? Is not festivity, the Fiesta, at the origin of all theatricality and of the forms of representation which we try to subvert or rescue? From this point of view, the Masque creates the subterfuge, the poetic entity which makes possible transgression, change, the mutation of the canon. (Carrió 2000: 160)

What is central to this carnivalesque perspective of the masque is the possibility that masking allows for transformation, for momentarily lifting and transcending the mundane. She also highlights here the transgressive character of this tradition, its capacity to divert the established norm. In Carrió’s understanding, the masque allows for the simultaneous coexistence of many identities and offers a point of contact between various cultures. Otra Tempestad offers some elements of this concept, especially in its fusion of cultural traditions and reworking of the canon. I would like to make a final observation on how the different voices and characters that inhabit the Cuban play recall Bakhtin’s theory of hybridity and his discussion of the problem of quotation, of appropriating another’s discourse. While explaining the rich parodic tradition of the Middle Ages, Bakhtin turns to the Cyprian Feast, a medieval text that takes the form of a ‘gothic symposium’ to render a parody of Bible. In spite of its parodic tone, the Cyprian Feast may have been used as a way to educate people about figures and events of the Scriptures. In its delirious rearrangement of Shakespeare’s characters, the Cuban Tempest recalls the procedure behind the Cyprian Feast. Bakhtin explains how the Cyprian Feast was constructed:


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

The entire Bible, the entire Gospel was as it were cut up into little scraps, and these scraps were then arranged in such a way that a picture emerged of a grand feast at which all the personages of sacred history from Adam and Eve to Christ and his Apostles eat, drink and make merry. In this work a correspondence of all details to Sacred Writ is strictly and precisely observed, but at the same time the entire Sacred Writ is transformed into carnival. (Bakhtin 1994: 70)

On the one hand, order is maintained; on the other, it is subverted, travestied, and contaminated by a blasphemous discourse. This word, contamination, is in fact essential to the discussion of the Cuban play as well as to the tradition in which it is inscribed. According to Carrió, contamination is able to express ‘our only real inheritance, and [that] of which we are made’ (2000: 161). It underscores the basis not only of culture but also of cultural production, the interrelation between different cultural practices and discourses. Contamination disrupts notions of purity and unity; it proposes, instead, contact and plurality. Thus, mestizage becomes Carnival. Otra Tempestad takes the notion of cultural and racial exchange proposed by Retamar, through his metaphoric use of the figure of Caliban, beyond the discourse of support for the political regime and the revolution. Diversity is performed as a rotation of signs, with allusions made to cultural practices at once local and universal, historical and ritual. The distinct manners through which these two Cuban texts, Otra Tempestad and ‘Calibán,’ rely upon Shakespeare’s Tempest as a signifying matrix for the exploration of local issues not only reconfirm the particular significance that the Elizabethan play holds for the Caribbean, but also illustrate how the themes of empire and identity, key notions for post-colonial interpretations of Prospero’s island, may be reworked within the political context of Cuban and Latin American realities. Retamar’s essay and Otra Tempestad have inventively drawn from Shakespeare in order to offer a possibility for new protagonists to emerge, presenting different perspectives of the Cuban regime and verifying the reserve of meanings that The Tempest holds.

NOTES 1 Unlike in the Eastern European and Soviet tradition, Shakespeare’s works are not central to the theatre of Communist Cuba, where Bertolt Brecht, Garcia Lorca, Maxim Gorkii, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams, among

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest







others, have been staged more frequently. After the Revolution, the Greek classics were often adapted to a local context by Cuban playwrights. Virgilio Piñera wrote Electra Garrigó and José Triana, who figures among the Cuban writers best known internationally, is the author of Medea en el espejo, in which the classical play is adapted to a lower-class Cuban environment. Anton Arrufat also produced an adaptation of Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes that won the UNEAC (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba) prize. For an overview of the theatre in Cuba after the Revolution, see also Woodyard 1979 and Leal 1980. The reference to ‘our America’ that appears in the subtitle of the essay is taken from José Martí, the Cuban writer and revolutionary who died in 1895 in Cuba’s fight against Spain. Retamar draws from Martí’s vision and idealism for inspiration in the writing of this essay. Martí’s works include several pieces for the theatre. A curious note: in Rine Leal’s Breve historia, the critic points out that, at the early age of thirteen, Martí attempted a translation of Hamlet, which he abandoned because he felt that it was undignified for Shakespeare to mention rats, a nuisance in Cuba at the time (Leal 1980: 70). As well as being a publishing house, the Casa de las Américas is an important cultural institution in Cuba, drawing artists and intellectuals from the Caribbean and Latin America. For additional information about Retamar, see also especially Goffredo and Beverley 1995. Richard Halpern (1994) thus analyses this passage of Retamar’s essay: ‘In Ovid, the mythological Echo is indeed disfigured by her unrequited love for Narcissus: she wrinkles, ages, wastes away to skin and bone before decorporealizing entirely into pure, disembodied voice. Latin America as a ‘disfigured echo’ is not only condemned by the dominating metropolis to mere repetition, it is also drained of strength and vitality by a vampire-like extraction of cultural and material wealth. The metropolis itself, according to the logic of this figure, plays the role of Narcissus, caught in a selfenclosed, specular enjoyment of its own cultural productions, and unable to read in the postcolonial world anything more than another, inferior image of itself’ (263). Regarding the setting of the play, Peter Hulme affirms: ‘[N]o issue has dogged criticism more insistently than that of the play’s relationship to the Americas’ (2000b: 171). For a discussion of how Caliban has endured for several centuries as a ‘cultural signifier,’ see Vaughan and Vaughan 1991. It should also be noted that after ‘Calibán’ Retamar wrote other essays in which he explained the circumstances behind the writing of that work: ‘Caliban Revisited’ is included in Caliban and Other Essays (Retamar 1989:


Maria Clara Versiani Galery

46–55), and three other essays appear in Retamar’s Todo Calibán (Retamar 1995). 7 For a discussion of the term, see especially Loomba 1998 and Ashcroft et al. 2000. REFERENCES Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. 2000. Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts. Routledge: London. Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1994. ‘From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse.’ In The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, 41–83. Austin: University of Texas Press. Carrió, Raquel. 2000. ‘On Otra Tempestad.’ Trans. Peter Hulme in Hulme and Sherman, eds, 158–61. Carrió, Raquel, and Flora Lauten. 1999. ‘Otra Tempestad.’ Gestos (Irvine, CA) 28: 105–33. Cawthorne, Andrew. 2001. ‘Un debate sacude a Cuba por la obra teatral Otra Tempestad: Shakespeare era anticastrista?’ Pagina/12, 10 June. At http:// Césaire, Aimé. 1969. Une tempête: D’aprés ‘La tempête’ de Shakespeare / Adaptation pour un théâtre nègre. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Darío, Rubén. 1938. ‘El triunfo de Calibán.’ In Escritos inéditos de Rubén Darío, ed. E.K. Mape, 160–2. New York: Instituto de las Españas. Fuentes, Carlos. 1988. Prologue to José Enrique Rodó, Ariel, 13–28. Goffredo, Diana, and John Beverley. 1995. ‘These Are the Times We Have to Live In: An Interview with Roberto Fernández Retamar.’ Critical Inquiry 21: 411–33. Halpern, Richard. 1994, ‘“The Picture of Nobody”: White Cannibalism in The Tempest.’ In The Production of English Renaissance Culture, ed. David Lee Miller, Sharon O’Dair, and Harold Weber, 262–92. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Hulme, Peter 2000a, ‘Otra Tempestad at The Globe.’ In Hulme and Sherman, eds, 157–8. – 2000b. ‘Transatlantic Routes: Introduction.’ In Hulme and Sherman, eds, 171–9. Hulme, Peter, and William H. Sherman, eds. 2000. ‘The Tempest’ and Its Travels. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Jameson, Fredric. 1989. Foreword to Roberto Fernández Retamar, Caliban and Other Essays, vii–xii.

Cuban Articulations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest


Kermode, Frank. 1964. Introduction to William Shakespeare, The Tempest, xi–xcii. London: Methuen. Lagmonovich, David. 1996. ‘Calibán: De Shakespeare a Manuel Gálvez pasando por Renan.’ In Peregrinaciones de Shakespeare en la Argentina, comp. Jorge Dubatti, 13–24. Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural Rector Ricardo Rojas. Lamming, George. 1960. The Pleasures of Exile. London: M. Joseph. Leal, Rine. 1980. Breve historia del teatro cubano. Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas. Leonard, Candyce. 1997. ‘La Cubanía: The Soul of Cuban Theater in the Mid1990s.’ Latin American Theater Review 30.2: 139–52. Loomba, Ania. 1998. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London: Routledge. Mannoni, Octave. 1990. Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. Trans. Pamela Powesland. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Martin, Randy. 1990. ‘Cuban Theater Under Rectification.’ The Drama Review 34.1: 38–59. Nixon, Rob. 1987. ‘Caribbean and African Appropriations of The Tempest.’ Critical Inquiry 13.3: 557–78. Renan, Ernest. 1954. Caliban: Suite de ‘La Tempête.’ Ed. Colin Smith. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Retamar, Roberto Fernández. 1989. Caliban and Other Essays. Trans. Edward Baker, 3–45. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. – 1995. Todo Calibán. Buenos Aires: IDEP, Colección Milenio. Rodó, José Enrique. 1988. Ariel. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. Austin: University of Texas Press. Vaughan, Alden T., and Virginia Mason Vaughan. 1991. Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Woodyard, George W. 1979. ‘Perspectives on Cuban Theater.’ Revista/Review Interamericana (San German, Puerto Rico) 9.1: 42–9.

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare robert weimann

The present volume, one must suppose, assumes a good deal of agreement that the criticism and theatrical production of Shakespeare in the European countries of the former Soviet Bloc deserve to be revisited. Taking this for granted, I would like to begin by raising what may well be an open question: Which, so the question can be formulated, is the most rewarding direction and the most helpful approach that a reconsideration, today, of the reception of Shakespeare in post-war Eastern Europe and beyond can adopt? No doubt a dozen or so years after the collapse of state-administered socialism in Eastern Europe is, historically speaking, a short time in which to come to terms with a remarkable and very peculiar chapter in the history of the reception of Shakespeare in the twentieth century. In so short a period we cannot very well presuppose an established body of carefully tested or widely accepted procedures, evaluations, and conclusions. In the absence of consensus, it is not safe, I feel, to rely on unformulated assumptions of method and approach. Rather, there is a desideratum for discussing a wider spectrum of bearings in revisiting the reception of Shakespeare in post-war Eastern and Central Europe. As I see it, there are two kinds of approaches that do not appear to be helpful in terms of the aims and strategies of my own contribution to this project. The first of these approaches is one that essentially pursues a salvaging operation. There is no point, I believe, in taking a defensive or nostalgic stance, or even in attempting to rescue certain aims and positions in a Shakespeare reception that, arguably, can today be used to resist basic cultural trends in an age of irresistible change and conflict. The second type of approach that appears to me to be equally unhelpful is that which, focusing purely on past contradictions and

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


liabilities, pursues the all-too-predictable conclusion that Shakespeare’s reception ‘under Communism’ was an altogether deplorable aberration from the true standards of Western culture. Rejecting both these salvaging and muckraking operations, I propose to plead for a less predictable approach. According to this approach, a set of highly diverse and contradictory discourses so happened to intersect in and through the Eastern European reception of Shakespeare that the latter constituted a site allowing for both unsuspected openings and orthodox closures in the criticism and production, in Eastern Europe, of potentially the greatest cultural text of modern Western civilization. In other words, these critical and theatrical receptions of Shakespeare are not viewed ‘under’ the sickle or ‘behind’ the iron curtain of any given or fixed political formation; not, that is (to play upon the metaphor of an ominous preposition as originally proposed for the present project), under the overarching incubus of Communism or Socialism. Rather, there was an encounter of discourses, marked by a good deal of incompatibility and instability, a site of political and cultural circumstances on which the reception of Shakespeare constituted discursive practices through which profound social and intellectual contradictions of the time were intercepted, assimilated, or displaced. Such appropriation of a Western classic must not of course be thought of as anything homogeneous; nor should important differences in the cultural scenario among the countries involved be overlooked. Even within each of the East and Central European countries, the appropriation of Shakespeare took varying forms; in particular, the performance of his plays in a self-styled socialist theatre was discontinuous rather than otherwise from what the academic criticism of, and research into, Shakespeare endeavoured to do. All these levels of difference must not be minimized, even though, I shall argue, it was precisely at the point of intersection between theatrical and critical discourses that the more illuminating insights and tensions in the assimilation of the classic emerged. Along these lines, such bracketing of ‘ideology and performance’ pursues a specific cultural and intertextual focus, a search for a peculiar figuration on the sprawling landscape of the reception of Shakespeare in post-war Eastern and Central Europe. This twofold emphasis in the title of this essay is, therefore, crucial for what follows: the emphasis on performance seeks to draw attention to Shakespeare’s theatrical appropriation; the emphasis on ideology seeks to draw attention to the politics of criticism, history, and theory in Eastern Europe. Clearly, this


Robert Weimann

proposed conjunction is helpful in that it distinguishes two differing modes and practices of reception. At the same time, the obvious area of difference and discontinuity must not be taken to have obliterated the space for interaction between performance and ideology. Thus, there was at least in East Germany but also, I suppose, in Jan Kott’s Poland and elsewhere some give and take between theatrical and critical representations of Shakespeare. In view of both the links and the gaps between performance and ideology, theatrical representations of Shakespeare may well be studied at the very point of interconnection where the representation of ideology was indissolubly tied up with an ideology of representation (and ideology in representation). In other words, as we set out to approach Shakespeare’s East European reception interactively from the two different angles of ideology and performance, it seems important to remember areas of collusion and complicity between them. While this element of interaction cuts right across the generic boundaries between criticism and performance, from the point of view of this project it is important, I think, for at least three reasons to foreground areas of both complicity and difference between performance and criticism. First of all, as far as recent discussions in critical theory and cultural studies can tell us anything, the whole question of performance, playing, and staging constitutes a highly rewarding focus, especially fascinating where performance is seen both in its continuity with and discontinuity from representation and ideology. Today it seems safe to assume that the links and gaps between performance and ideology appear more revealing than, say, the study of ideology pure, of a purely ideological type of Shakespearean production or criticism. Second, wherever it was possible for a European political criticism of Shakespeare to be responsive to the actual demands and realities of the theatre, that criticism almost as a matter of course was able to overcome a purely doctrinaire position in the reception of Shakespeare. It was precisely the performed text in the theatre, in touch with large and mixed audiences, that provided a more level-headed testing ground for what conjectural framework of concepts and ideologies then (and now) was feasible. Third, as far as I can judge from my own East German experience, the cooperation between scholarship and theatrical practice could be productive, but it was also problematic and ambivalent. Various forms of dialogue and cooperation were officially encouraged. But such encouragement was far from being a purely nominal or totally controllable

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


gesture. While on the one hand the Shakespeare scholar was officially expected to assist the mimes and, if necessary, to tell them which reading of the text was the politically correct one, it was, on the other hand, possible to circumvent this presumptuous, arrogant expectation. Thus, the role of the consultant was not an entirely predictable one. To work with theatre people through a lengthy period of rehearsals had a dynamic all of its own, at least one that could never quite be reduced to the ideology of any preconceived notion of the play’s given or desirable meaning. Even so, it was difficult for a consultant entirely to extricate herself/ himself from a certain embarrassingly biased position. For the role of the scholarly consultant was, almost as a matter of course, geared to a defensive stance in support of textual authority as against any purely self-authorized performative practice. At the same time, the scholar in the theatre was expected to provide information towards establishing a historically determined context of meanings for the classical text. Although this context of meanings was not necessarily located on the vulgar level of propaganda and anachronism, there was a distinct preference for the semantic space in which the classical text, on the strength of its historicity, could be made to anticipate a progressively unfolding future. Thus, in the cooperation between two dominant figures in the East German Shakespeare Society, between the Nestor of Shakespeare studies, Anselm Schlösser, and the artistic director of the Weimar Nationaltheater, Fritz Bennewitz, the element of anticipation in the classical text received a heavy, not to say thick, emphasis as demarcating some socialist-realist space for humanism, realism, and narodnost. The demand for narodnost or Volkstümlichkeit was to secure that closeness to the (predetermined) interests of the people, of which the arts in socialism were believed to be capable. Today the ideology in this agenda seems fearful enough, but in the circumstances its hoped-for implementation did not necessarily transform the role of the scholar in the theatre into that of a party functionary. Although the scholar in the theatre (or for that matter, the dramaturge) was never, I think, exposed to any briefing in current cultural politics, academics certainly were considerably closer to the institutionalized apparatus of doctrinaire ideology than theatre people. While they in their turn were never entirely exempt from the controlling agencies of cultural politics, theatre people, thanks to the symbolically encoded order of their work, enjoyed a much greater margin of experimentation and unorthodoxy.


Robert Weimann

To understand the ambivalence that marked the uses of ideology in the circumstantial practice of both critical representation and theatrical performance, let me first discuss briefly the cultural and political role of the theatre in East Germany and then, second, attempt to historicize the relevant context in terms of its socio-cultural and theatre history. Talk about the role of the theatre in state-administered socialist societies can be entirely misleading unless a critical distinction is observed between the dominant political definition and prescription of this role and the way the theatre actually played it out. Obviously, the two were never the same, because even when the theatre’s management and its own publicized project were completely marked by orthodoxy, the result – that is, the performed play – inevitably was exposed to multivocal mediation and response through the work of actors interacting with not quite controllable occasions and audiences. In a situation like this the East German theatre more often than not tended to play out an ambivalent type of politics – one characterized by a desire to discover something new within and beyond the dominating Marxist analysis of history, something that often enough was marked by complicity with unorthodox audience perceptions and expectations. At the same time, there was a shared, though certainly not unanimous, understanding among performers, audiences, and the ruling party representatives alike that theatre was important, that it had to be strongly supported and subsidized, and that theatre, including the classics, among them Schiller, Goethe, and Shakespeare, had something directly to do with politics. As the years went by audiences, as Lawrence Guntner pointedly notes, came ‘to expect, and party cultural functionaries came to suspect, that Shakespeare productions might just (and often did) contain gift-wrapped critiques of the East German version of the Socialist system’ (Guntner and McLean 1998). At this point, the significance as well as the strength of this unorthodox political role of the theatre needs to be seen as part of a wider context of discursive practices. In European state-socialist societies, news and information could only partially, though never quite successfully, be controlled, rationed, or suppressed. In a state where a freely accessible, open public sphere did not for all practical purposes exist, the stage came to assume the role of a public forum where cultural ideology and, by extension, the socialist claims and problems of the state could be staged, debated, and criticized. Newspapers, television, radio, and books could be and were censored in the sense that they constituted media which were directly controlled, even partially pro-

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


cessed, by the authorities. But there was no official theatre censorship office as such; in East Germany, for example, only the year’s repertory had to be submitted to the Direktion für Bühnenrepertoire for approval. And although over the years, and particularly in the course of the later 1970s, ideological requirements and standards noticeably began to relax, the official demand for a humanist and realistic treatment of the classics was never quite surrendered. In regard to Shakespeare, this demand was particularly stringent, because it was associated with the earlier impact of the Elizabethan dramatist on a formative period of German cultural history. In the late mid-eighteenth century, as witnessed by Wieland’s translation, Lessing’s reception of Shakespeare, and Goethe’s early interest in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, culminating in his work on Urfaust (1772/5), the Elizabethans stimulated the rise of a German drama under anti-aristocratic and non-neoclassical auspices. In this period, the reception of Shakespeare in particular became a site of intense cultural identification, serving as a potent catalyst in forming the national response – socially by and large identifiable with the middle-class position – to the then dominant theatre of classicism. Paradoxically, in East Germany this site of cultural reception was destined to prove both a rallying point and a point of departure for future divisions. In its own time, the Elizabethan theatre, with its socially mixed audiences, its mingle-mangle dramaturgy, and its culturally indivisible and socially unlimited poetics, helped constitute a remarkably encompassing national culture. In this culture, city, court, and country came together, and the Renaissance humanist and neoclassical component at least partially coexisted with a pre-Enlightenment culture of ‘jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits.’ But in the eighteenth century, this comprehensive platform was generally depleted; in most European countries, the theatre failed to assimilate what was one particularly vital element in the Elizabethan theatre tradition. It failed to revitalize the original degree of cultural independence, or, should I say, the sovereignty of the performer. It was the poet’s, the dramatist’s word, the written text itself that came to constitute the all-important site of authority, the source of whatever moral and political message the enlightened middle-class theatre was to offer in a later century. At this point, it is one of the ironies associated with the cultural politics of state-administered socialism in Germany that this textual, purely literate location of authority in the theatre of an emerging middleclass society was entirely endorsed and thoroughly reconfirmed. This


Robert Weimann

position in the cultural politics of the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, and at least partially beyond, amounted to a poetics of closure in theatrical representation. But as soon as, in the seventies, theatre people found themselves in a position to defy this prescribed doctrine of realism, they began to undermine purely literate and thoroughly textualized locations of authority – locations whose strength was largely identical with a controllable emphasis on both character and coherent meaning. It was surely no accident that it was in the theatrical production of Shakespeare’s plays that the traditional uses of ideology behind the closure of representation were radically questioned. Let me, at this point, use an illustration – a production of Hamlet directed by Benno Besson, in the Berlin Volksbühne in 1977. This production, for which, following the director’s invitation, I was privileged to serve as consultant, pursued several of the readings that I had first explored in Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater (1967); at the same time, there may well have been memories of Dresen’s and Hamburger’s legendary Greifswald production of Hamlet in 1964. But Besson’s Hamlet, more than a decade later, went further in at least one direction when it went out of its way to emphasize a deep rift between neoclassical order in the humanist poetics of the Prince of Denmark and the sheer expertise, competence, and experience of the players. Rather than minimizing these tensions in the language of the play,1 Besson’s version of Hamlet surrendered any univocal assertion of meaning in favour of a more complex projection of a divided space for socio-cultural diversity and conflict. Thus, Besson’s production, using Heiner Müller’s adaptation of Maik Hamburger’s Greifswald translation of the play, in no uncertain terms challenged the adequacy of neoclassical-romantic standards of appropriating Shakespeare’s text for the modern age. Rejecting any purely humanist reading of the role of the Prince of Denmark, the production emphasized instead the ‘muddy-mettled rascal,’ the ‘Johna-dreams,’ who could refer to himself as ‘a rogue and peasant slave’ (2.2.502–20). The idea was not to play down the Elizabethan minglemangle, where ‘the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier’ (5.1.136–7), but to redefine a mobile social relationship that appeared to affect the circulation of authority inside the theatre itself. In this context, Besson – generally recognized as the most talented and internationally influential director among Brecht’s disciples – contributed a striking rereading of Hamlet’s advice to the players that, in our present context, deserves especially to be considered. As, I suppose, was the case in most European countries, Hamlet’s advice to the play-

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


ers was a canonized text on which generations of actors were brought up and led to believe in that classical ‘smoothness’ and balance in the interplay between performed ‘action’ and written ‘word’ (3.2.17–19). As the famous phrase goes, ‘Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.’ This is indeed sound advice, except that, upon scrutiny, what appears a cogent and altogether impartial pronouncement is couched in the context of a not at all unbiased character. The bias manifests itself in the strong emphasis on a certain ‘purpose of playing,’ which is defined in that its ‘end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature.’ Continuity between times past and time present is called upon to fortify time-honoured classical learning as an incontrovertible site of authority. To corroborate this type of authority, Hamlet invokes the ‘judicious,’2 those, let it be remembered, who can worship a play that ‘was never acted,’ that ‘pleased not the million,’ and was ‘caviare to the general’ (2.2.430–3), and whose ‘censure’ was assumed to have weight enough that ‘must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of others’ (3.2.28). In East German cultural politics, this neoclassical definition of ‘the purpose of playing’ was especially canonical in that it was used in every cultural and theatrical school and institution as the fountainhead of dramatic realism. How shocking, then, for Besson to present in this scene an obtrusive, loquacious Prince – acted by Manfred Karge – who delivered his platitudes with an air of self-conceit inseparable from the pompous enunciation of these all-too familiar principles. No less striking was the stance of the First Player. As he was told to ‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue’ (3.2.1–2), the First Player’s response, conveyed through facial and gestural expression, was that of an impatient sceptic: here, obviously, was a practitioner, slightly bored by mere theory, who appeared to know more about histrionic delivery than any theoretical disquisition could teach him. Suffering the self-conceited fool of a princely Maecenas gladly, the player went through the motions, clearly understating social distance with his ‘I warrant your honour,’ and a rather proud and none too polite ‘I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us’ (36). The remarkable thing was that this reading could be so sustained in the production that, convincingly, it appeared to be a variation of what elsewhere in the play emerged as a location of conflict between text and performance. Thus, the scene harkened back to the well-publicized tension between child actors and writers in the private theatres, as


Robert Weimann

Hamlet, directed by Benno Besson. Volksbühne, Berlin, 14 April 1977. Hamlet – Manfred Karge. Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin)

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


when Rosencrantz reports that ‘the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question’ (2.2.354). Although there was, of course, no open conflict when the author of ‘a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines’ (2.5.535) presumed to advise the performer in his own craft, yet Besson’s reading provided Hamlet’s lengthy advice with the dramatic thrust of a submerged conflict. Challenging not simply the poetic validity of the neoclassical doctrine of imitatio vitae, this reading defied the privileged status and education of the Prince of Denmark and, with it, a strictly literate authority, one predicated on a humanistic belief in the dignity and stability of the text itself. This reinterpretation of Hamlet’s famous advice to the players – far from being a mere gimmick – drew attention to what was a cultural division of discourses and authorities in the Elizabethan theatre. On the one hand, there was the discourse of humanism and neo-Aristotelian representation, the masterful uses of a mode of imitation that involved a ‘conquest of the world as picture,’ establishing the measure for everything and, thereby, affirming, in Heidegger’s phrase, ‘unlimited power for the calculating, planning, and molding of all things’ (Heidegger 1977: 134f.). It is against this discourse of representation that the performer and the performative thrust of Hamlet’s madness itself provided a counterpoint. Besson’s interpretation provided us with a corrective agency of considerable resilience, when it suggested that ‘holding the mirror up to nature’ was not good enough, even though it did of course sanction the strong self-representation of the courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s image in the play. Accordingly, there was a sense of forces inside the play resisting any single masterful code of representation, jeopardizing it through antic clowning, disguise, ‘ecstasy,’ and other audience-related forms of performative practice. To learn from Besson’s theatre was to scrutinize the text of Hamlet’s advice more critically. Could it be that Hamlet’s language itself invited a divisive response? Was it possible that Shakespeare the actor wrote with tongue in cheek when referring to Hamlet’s own pronouncing the speech as ‘Trippingly on the tongue’? ‘Trippingly’ could be read as ‘in a nimble, light-footed manner’; but ‘tripping’ is also what Kent in his disguise does to Oswald so as to make him stumble. Hence, as the Oxford English Dictionary records, ‘tripping’ is ‘stumbling,’ especially ‘to stumble in articulation; to falter in speaking’ (under ‘Trip, ’ v. 8. b.). Here, there was at least the possibility that, thanks to a careful rereading of Shakespeare’s potential meanings, the production itself culminated in a divisive play on words. And Hamlet, as we know, uses wordplay far


Robert Weimann

Rosencrantz (Jürgen Rothert) and Guildenstern (Henry Hübchen) receive an antic welcome: ‘I am most dreadfully attended’ (2.2.267). Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin)

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


more profusely than any other Shakespearean character – M.M. Mahood in her study Shakespeare’s Wordplay counted almost ninety puns. Besson’s Hamlet had remarkable impact on the East German cultural scene. Hamlet, the presumed representative of both humanism and the people, was effectively (and without much fuss) dislodged from his former pre-eminence as premature harbinger of idealized news about a revolutionary future. Here, indeed, a canonized tradition was practically questioned in terms of both what (in Shakespeare’s text) was represented and what (in the Elizabethan theatre) was doing the presenting and performing. Basic presuppositions of authority and validity, hitherto governing selection and control over a given canon, had ceased to be operative. As was the case in Greifswald in 1964, the theatre itself challenged the politics of canonization through which the alleged certainties in a masterful use of the past were designed to control and contain whatever uncertainty the future held. The question, then, needed to be confronted whether there was an alternative to an understanding of the Shakespearean Erbe, or heritage, that, arrogantly, claimed to institute a possessive, totalizing, selfcongratulatory mode of ownership over texts and discourses of the past. Was it perhaps possible, on the strength of the performative element in the theatre, to redefine the canonized uses of Shakespeare? And to do that in such a way that the reception in the present of his plays would not have to be regarded as an illusory project by which some ideological consciousness (or reason, in its presumed autonomy) hoped to extend its sense of sovereignty and continuity to the events and figures of the past? As far as these questions did receive an affirmative answer, there emerged in Besson’s production a site on which the textual meaning of representation and the energies of performance could mutually engage one another. Such engagement was highly consequential in that it helped constitute a thoroughly viable space for revitalizing the classic in the ever-changeful world of its reception. Over and beyond a mutually significant ‘interference’ between then and now, there unfolded in performance a discursive practice in which textual authority – far from being given – could re-inaugurate itself as part of a larger circulation of cultural agencies in playful rehearsal. It was in response to this perspective that, I felt, the popular tradition in the theatre deserved to be further studied and assessed. Clearly, this tradition could not adequately be dealt with in terms of the nineteenthcentury concept of narodnost, let alone by its Marxist-Leninist adaptation or any other redefinition that presupposed humanist standards as


Robert Weimann

Hamlet (Manfred Karge) with Horatio (Michael Gwisdek), holding gravedigger’s tool and skull. Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin)

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


conceived by Enlightenment rationality. Instead, it seemed more promising to reopen the debate on more recent grounds, such as those developed in the path-breaking approaches of S.L. Bethell and C.L. Barber, or by Terence Hawkes’s eye-opening study Shakespeare’s Talking Animals: Language in Drama and Society. At the same time, what was needed was a new emphasis and focus on the incommensurate quality of a performative practice that could never quite be subsumed under any exclusive uses of textual meaning. In this respect, the study of the popular tradition in the theatre did reveal a challenging potential both on the Shakespearean stage and in our reception of his plays. That stage, as I then suggested, did not contain any unified type of theatrical space: there was a disparity between the symbolically charged locus, as textually prescribed site of what meaning was represented as in a fiction, and the partially non-symbolic platea (as a site of what actually was materially there, visibly, audibly performing on the platform stage). This disparity, of central importance to Shakespeare’s stage, precluded the self-contained autonomy of any textually prescribed role. On the contrary, on this stage role and actor, textual authority and performative agency would enter into a relationship that, spatially, socially, and semiotically, was an open one, offering space for both continuity and discontinuity between these two dimensions. If this was so, the reproduction of Shakespeare’s plays in our time was ill advised to favour a unitary concept of theatrical space that by itself would compel a univocally fixed mode in the relations of scriptural and non-scriptural signs and meanings. As against such closure of theatrical space, the Shakespeare text appeared to me to be most compelling in its appropriation on a modern scene wherever that scene was conceived to be both ‘individable’ and dividable. Such a scene would offer space for signifying practices that contradict and answer one another and that decline to annihilate themselves in a final global meaning. In the East German reception of Shakespeare, this aperture was rarely achieved, despite considerable attention bestowed on plebeian characters. Brecht after all was well advised when he said that today Shakespeare’s plays can best be revitalized when first of all his theatre is revisited in the context of its own circumstantial history. Brecht’s warning itself must be seen against the background of Shakespeare’s eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century reception and the formation of a Nationaltheater that Lessing and others had called for. As Maik Hamburger has pointed out, Brecht’s own theatrical project with its emphasis on gestus, on the gestic and performative qualities of


Robert Weimann

Hamlet (Manfred Karge) in the popular tradition, ‘with dagger of lath’ (Twelfth Night, 4.2.122). Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin)

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


drama, was in critical response to the purely literary orientation of an earlier middle-class theatre culture. As opposed to Shakespeare’s own proximity to all kinds of popular, colloquial, oral speech and corporeal action, that middle-class culture tended to deepen a deplorable ‘gulf between literary language and everyday speech.’ It did so by cutting the link between highly literary translations of the Bard and the dramatic uses of the language of ‘popular speech’ and ‘everyday life’ (Hamburger 1977: 41). Thus, to shift the emphasis somewhat, on the stage of the European Enlightenment, the authority of dramatic language as a source of moral sensibility and the refinement of social and emotional relations reigned supreme. But that, precisely, was the language of an educated poetdramatist whose precept was invoked, in Friedrich Ludwig Schröder’s words, as an entirely binding Vorschrift des Dichters, as, literally, the ‘prescription of the poet,’ that is, as a thoroughly prescribed authority. But what has rarely, if ever, been noticed is that such textual authority was theatrically used to ensure unity between performer and performed. The notion of textual authority sanctioned by the ‘aims’ or ‘intentions’ of the poet invariably went hand in hand with the attempt to proscribe the gap between the impersonator and the impersonated. In other words, the call for the authority of the dramatist over the authority of the performer was not an innocent gesture, for this gesture culminated in the closure of representation. To close the gap between what was representing and what was represented was one way of keeping out uncomfortable elements, such as ‘that low stuff’ in the productions of Shakespeare – to echo Sir Thomas Hanmer’s Preface to his 1711 edition of Shakespeare (quoted in Smith 1962: 86). If, then, in several European countries the appropriation of his plays could assume the status almost of a national shrine, that shrine served as a monumental and yet highly partial medium of inspiration. Although widely celebrated as universally valid, the reception of that heritage was, even at the height of nineteenth-century bardolatry, an exclusive one. Rather than being, as postulated, all-inclusive, it sought to preserve inviolate the literary art of the poet vis-à-vis the irreverent zest, the game, the craft and craftiness of the performer. As this critical excursion into the history of a predominantly literary reception of Shakespeare suggests, the interrelationship in the theatre between textually inscribed meanings and the strategies of performative practice was always already marked by a cultural politics of a sort. As today we look back upon the underlying uses of cultural difference and


Robert Weimann

Claudius (Dieter Montag), with Rosencrantz (Jürgen Rothert) and Guildenstern (Henry Hübchen), and players on flute; First Player (Fritz Marquardt) closest to view. Photo: Antje Stötter (with the permission of Volksbühne, Berlin)

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


confederation in the Elizabethan public theatres, it is difficult not to be struck by mid-twentieth-century analogies or, even, continuities in the circulation of a specifically scriptural authority in modern Shakespeare productions. Ironically, yet not quite unexpectedly, an anti-histrionic (though not an anti-theatrical) prejudice was resurrected almost wholesale, on a programmatic level, in some of the socialist countries in post-war Eastern Europe, but especially so in East Germany. Here, the dominant politics of reception sought to invoke authoritative precedent and, of course, legitimization in reference to the privileged emphasis on the written word in the formative period of the nation’s cultural history. Accordingly, the emphasis was on the authority of the classical text as best compatible with a realism in the theatre à la Stanislavskii. Together, these influential constellations culminated in the conservative strategies of empathy and closure. At its centre, there was a poetics that, without much ado, equated a Renaissance concept of ‘nature’ with ‘society,’ so as to postulate a traditionally sanctioned platform for realism. For that, Hamlet’s advice to the players, ‘to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature,’ was assumed to be at the heart of both Shakespeare’s credo and our own credentials for a competent reception of his work. After a relatively brief period of post-war experimentation, these strategies were institutionalized so as more or less to keep at bay memories of avant-garde theatre practices, as had vigorously flourished in the Berlin of the twenties and early thirties. It is of course true that, beginning somewhere in the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, there re-emerged a considerable margin for renewed experiment and reinterpretation. But in the earlier period, the more rigid observance of the faithful rendering of the classical text cannot, in the last resort, be disassociated from a cultural policy of control and consolidation. Behind it, there was a no-nonsense policy that was designed to preclude any subversive treatment of what was believed to be an essential continuity from the humanism in Shakespeare’s plays to its equivalent in the arts of Socialism. The case for humanism and narodnost in the reception of Shakespeare’s plays was formulated from variegated positions, and with different degrees of consistency. But even where this position was assimilated tactfully and with some subtlety, it remained a platform that had to cope with formidable areas of obliteration and displacement in the revitalization of Shakespeare’s plays in our time. It was at this point that the reception of post-structuralism served as a much welcome leaven permeating critical thought and discussion in


Robert Weimann

the East German Shakespeare Society.3 There, the emerging focus on discourse, power, authority, and representation in terms of Shakespeare’s textual and theatrical practices, initiated during the Weimar Shakespeare Society conference of 1983, was a surprisingly unorthodox move; most likely, it was among the earliest, if it was not the first, of such attempts in Germany to assimilate as well as to modify the new theoretical paradigm in terms of a sustained historical/theoretical reconsideration of a centrally canonized author. Two years later, this critical reorientation motivated and served significantly to key the agenda of the 1985 Weimar conference, the first in a number of international colloquia featuring among its distinguished speakers John Drakakis, Stephen Greenblatt, Graham Holderness, Jean Howard, Murray Krieger, Kiernan Ryan, George Steiner, and others. It appears difficult to believe that these developments would have been feasible without having throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s a continuously fruitful dialogue with, and a point of provocative reference in, the annual performances of Shakespeare’s plays. In conclusion, therefore, the best way to summarize this brief foray is to say that the appropriation of Shakespeare in East German post-war theatre and criticism constituted a public site on which cultural communications inhabited an ambivalent space between political control and unorthodoxy, between ideological dogma and a search for a forceful, irrepressible performative. Although insignificant, of course, when measured by the larger political issues of the cold war period, the ambivalence in question was inseparable from what politics informed, or was displaced by, a remarkable encounter of discourses East and West. The theatre in particular constituted a self-challenging, conflicting location where the discourse of Marxism-Leninism, endorsed and administered by the state apparatus, was not only bound to confront the foremost Western classic, but where it was exposed to the risk of being challenged by this same classic. In this encounter, the reception of Shakespeare’s plays, officially designed to provide a textbook case of cultural assimilation and legitimization, was to exemplify the native strength of the links between the most progressive, canonized achievements of the Renaissance past and its Marxist-Leninist reinvention in the present. In performance and through performance, however, such canonized linkage had to stand the test of viability, where no petrified doctrine, no prefigured repertoire of reception was of much help. Here, precisely, was the site on which the contemporary stage and the historicizing study of Shakespeare’s theatre could come together in a

Ideology and Performance in East German Versions of Shakespeare


vulnerable kind of alliance. Still, it was an alliance that allowed for a broader and at least partially liberating awareness of the conjunctural potential residing in both the links and the gaps between then and now, between the poetic world of passions represented in the plays and our own passionate desire through performance and research to bring that world to life again.

NOTES 1 The impact of Benno Besson’s work on the East Berlin theatre can perhaps best be compared with the great influence of his Bulgarian production of As You Like It in 1975. See Shurbanov and Sokolova 2001. My own debt to Besson’s Hamlet is such that to this day his production of the play continues to be very much in my mind, even when I am further developing relations between ‘Renaissance writing and common playing,’ as in my recent Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice (2000: 151–79). For a long perspective on Besson’s work, see my collage ‘Hamlet in Ostberlin – und kein Ende’ (1998: 191–200). 2 On the ‘fastidiousness’ and the newness of Hamlet’s use of ‘judicious’ as noun, see Leo Salinger 1993: 231–53; esp. 231f. 3 Since this was written, I have revisited the impact of post-structuralism on the Weimar Shakespeare Society at greater length in ‘A Divided Heritage: Conflicting Appropriations of Shakespeare in (East) Germany’ (1997: 173–205). REFERENCES Guntner, Lawrence, and Andrew McLean, eds. 1998. Redefining Shakespeare: Literary Theory and Theater Practice in the German Democratic Republic. Newark, DE, and London: University of Delaware Press / Associated University Presses. Hamburger, Maik. 1977. ‘Gestus and the Popular Theatre.’ Science and Society 41: 36–42. Heidegger, Martin. 1977. ‘The Age of the World Picture.’ In The Question concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt, 115–54. New York: Harper and Row. Salinger, Leo. 1993. ‘Jacobean Playwrights and “Judicious” Spectators.’ In British Academy Shakespeare Lectures, 1980–89, ed. E.A.J. Honigmann, 231–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Robert Weimann

Shurbanov, Alexander, and Boika Sokolova. 2001. Painting Shakespeare Red: An East-European Appropriation. Newark, DE, and London: University of Delaware Press / Associated University Presses. Smith, David Nichol, ed. 1962. Sir Thomas Hanmer, ‘Preface to the Works of Shakespeare’ (1744), in Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare, 85–8. New York: Russell and Russell. Weimann, Robert. 1997. ‘A Divided Heritage: Conflicting Appropriations of Shakespeare in (East) Germany.’ In Shakespeare and National Culture, ed. John J. Joughin, 173–205. Manchester University Press. – 1998. ‘Hamlet in Ostberlin – und kein Ende.’ in Benno Besson. Theater spielen in acht Ländern, ed. Christa Neubert-Herwig, 191–200. Berlin: Alexander Verlag. – 2000. Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marx Manqué: A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America, ca. 1980–ca. 2000 sharon o’dair

Its rigidities and vulgarities, the Eurocentricism of its historical account of the development of capitalism, its status as a metanarrative, its alternating indifference to or reductive absorption of feminist and race-based political agendas – all of this made ... Marxism ... ’a problem, ... trouble, ... danger, not ... a solution. Yet ... Marxism’s troublesomeness is inseparable from ... its usefulness.’ Howard and Shershow 2001 Why this continuing exorcism of a dispossessed house? Where are the vulgar Marxists? Holstun 1989

In the mid 1590s, Shakespeare composed a scene that has become the most famous in the world’s dramatic literature. Occurring late at night, after a grand party, the scene reveals a young girl at her window, musing on what has befallen her: O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet ... What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. (2.1.75–8, 85–9)


Sharon O’Dair

Smitten by love, and revelling in it, Juliet pursues an argument she knows is wrong. Romeo knows it, too – his first words upon hearing she is a Capulet are ‘O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt’ (1.5.115). And, as importantly, we know it, too, however much we bemoan the sacrifice of the young lovers to the ’enmity’ of family and clan (5.3.304) or embrace the play as inaugurating while ‘unambiguously validat[ing]’ a modern sense of individual identity and desire (Callaghan 1994: 79). Even if we resist this knowledge, we know that there was and still is much in a name, much in family and clan, much in ethnic group, religion, or nation. And we know, too, that anyone who underestimates these things – who accepts ‘the dominant ideology of desire’ as a map of reality (ibid.: 62) – is naive, headed surely, at some point, for a rude awakening. Dympna Callaghan’s essay on the play notwithstanding, Romeo and Juliet is not a favourite of Marxist critics – that honour might go to King Lear, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, any of a number of history plays, or even The Merry Wives of Windsor – but I cite the play and Juliet’s lines because they capture a telling characteristic of contemporary Marxist criticism of Shakespeare in North America:1 the adjective, the name, is crucial, and it is what critics fight over, because, in the end, a criticism by any other name might not smell as sweet. This is not to say that all Shakespeareans, or even some, wish to call themselves Marxists or even to be identified as such. By far, the majority does not – at best they ‘flirt’ with ‘traditionally Marxist ideological critique’ (Felperin 1991: 81) – and the number of Shakespeareans who openly identify themselves as Marxist is small. In the United States, this weakness in numbers suggests again the cogency of ‘American exceptionalism,’ the longstanding if well-debated notion that in its origins and its development, the United States differs from other nations.2 And because exceptionalism is invoked most often to explain the failure of socialist parties in the United States (which itself has been explained by so many factors – including material and economic wealth, the two-party system in politics, egalitarianism, anti-statism, and populism – as to seem overdetermined [Lipset 1991: 6]), the weakness in numbers suggests as well the political similarity of American Shakespeareans to their compatriots, despite the considerable Left credentials of the former. Given this context, James Holstun is correct to say that ‘anti-Marxism’ in the American universities ‘did not disappear with [the demise of Senator Joseph] McCarthy. It ... lives on in the form of a general reluctance to ask questions about relations of class and art, and in a willingness to label

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


anyone who talks about literature’s relations to social history, in however mediated and subtle a form, as a “vulgar Marxist” (is there any other kind?)’ (1989: 205). The reluctance of contemporary Shakespeareans to ‘ask questions about relations of class and art’ does not, however, prevent them from wishing to be perceived as progressives; they want to believe and have others believe that their scholarly work benefits the greater good. As is clearly evident, Shakespeareans have worked assiduously and with great success over the past two decades to promote the interests of persons long excluded from participation in the profession and in society generally, particularly women and racial minorities. But in pursuing these goals while ignoring the goal of understanding, much less ameliorating, the effects of social class in art, the profession, or society, Shakespeareans and literary critics more generally have made of ‘Marxism’ both something and nothing at all: ‘Marxism’ became a site for appropriating a ‘sweet’ legacy of oppositionality within modern cultures and states. In this paper, which differs significantly from others in this volume by not focusing on Shakespearean performance, I offer a reading of Marxist Shakespearean criticism in the later decades of the twentieth century, particularly of the process by which the Marxist approach to the analysis of Shakespeare’s plays was, depending on one’s point of view, either diversified or diffused into a variety of theoretically sophisticated materialisms that have a weak relationship to the transformative goals of traditional Marxism. I point in the end to the by now familiar, yet still peculiar, fact that these varieties of Marxist critique thrive almost exclusively within institutions of higher learning, where radical fervour and activist dreams are necessarily tempered by the rigours of professionalism, such that – if I may tip my hat to Russell Jacoby – success in the academy has meant ... success in the academy.3 This essay is conceived, therefore, to provide a touchstone for Western readers of this volume as they assimilate the arguments and descriptions that have gone before. It is salutary, I think, to recall that the meaning and effects of Marxist criticism and performance depend upon the social and institutional locations in which they thrive, and this is as true of Canada or the United States as it is of the Soviet Union, China, Poland, or Cuba. Thus, for Shuhua Wang, ‘the turning point in Shakespeare study’ in China occurs in the late 1970s, when the waning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution meant the beginning of a ‘transition from ideological critique to academic criticism’ (p. 296 above), a movement away


Sharon O’Dair

from the principles for literary analysis established in Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, which required above all else that all art and literature should serve the proletariat (p. 283). During approximately the same period of time, according to Robert Weimann, ‘the reception of post-structuralism served as a much welcome leaven permeating critical thought and discussion in the East German Shakespeare Society’ (pp. 345–6), thought and discussion that for decades had been dominated by the principles of socialist realism, which aimed to ‘expose capitalist corruption and to provide positive heroes for working-class audiences to identify with’ (Habicht p. 159 above). On stage, says Werner Habicht, this leavening meant that, in the 1980s, Shakespeare as a ‘vision of a socialist utopia [might turn] into the frustration of a young generation entrapped in a restrictive state ruled by criminal old men’ (p. 170). At the end of the millennium, in Cuba, such frustration emerged again on stage, in Raquel Carri ’s Otra Tempestad, though it remains unclear to Maria Clara Versiani Galery whether this production marks ‘the theatre as a site for a sort of social criticism that is absent elsewhere’ or serves merely ‘as an escape valve for Cuban artists and intellectuals’ (p. 321). For artists such as Carrio and critics such as Wang, the latter decades of the twentieth century offered new opportunities for expression, analysis, and critique, but as the millennium arrived in North America, a not quite opposite movement occurred, which it is the purpose of this paper to explore: a number of Marxist Shakespeareans began to question the value of the critical movements that had developed in North America over the past two decades, movements whose names allude to Marxism, but whose practices, to varying degrees, are not traditionally Marxist, including materialist feminism, new historicism, and, to a lesser extent, cultural materialism (the latter, of course, finds its practitioners mainly in Great Britain).4 Telling in this regard are the ways new historicism and cultural materialism developed during the 1980s. In 1985, in the introduction to Political Shakespeare, Jonathan Dollimore identified two strains in recent political criticism of Shakespeare – a British cultural materialism and an American new historicism – and he proceeded to highlight their ‘important and shared concerns’ (1985: 4), including a post-structuralist understanding of literature and history as socially constructed; of authors as something other than autonomous sources of meaning; and of social power as central to understanding how culture is produced and received. This yoking, this attempt to create a ‘shared political project’ in a revisioning of Shakespeare

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


(D. Wayne 1987: 51), had some success, such that, in 1988, both the British critic John Turner and the American critic Carol Thomas Neely could conflate the two: Turner called this new criticism ‘the “new historicism” of cultural materialism’ (4) and Neely called its practitioners ‘cult-historicists’ (6). Yet it also was contested almost immediately, most notably by Don Wayne and the Marxist critic Walter Cohen in essays that appeared in the 1987 volume Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology, and the consensus today is that American and British responses to Shakespeare differ and the two methods remain distinguishable.5 Felperin goes so far as to suggest that ‘in certain crucial respects [they are] actually opposed’ (1991: 77), and he makes much of what other commentators have also noted: that cultural materialism and new historicism carry different political weights, both intraand inter-institutionally, which results partly from the different values placed on ‘English’ or ‘Shakespeare’ in their respective cultures and partly from the larger histories of both literary and political engagement in them. For cultural materialists, Shakespeare almost seems to be a contemporary. Certainly his works are alive, and his influence is lively, even prominent, in contemporary British society, a society that remains divided by traditional structures of social class. As a result, cultural materialists tend to focus on ‘the uses to which the present has put the past’ (Thomas 1991: 24). And they feel empowered to be ‘relatively freewheeling in the way they range from Shakespeare’s time to our own and back again’ (D. Wayne 1987: 51). As Cohen, Bradshaw, and Felperin point out, cultural materialists are more optimistic than the Americans, perhaps because they inhabit ‘a discursive field in which Marxism [is] ... present’ (Felperin 1991: 88), and thus are more likely to respect its teleology and its belief that people make their own history. Their Shakespeare tends to be, generally speaking and with the exception of The Tempest, always potentially progressive: ‘these critics,’ Felperin says, ‘read and write to change the world, or at least the structure of British society, through the State ideological apparatus of higher education’ (88). In contrast, and even as they surely acknowledge the university as a state apparatus, American new historicists are deeply committed to it and to its forms of power. The Americans work in research universities subsidized handsomely by the state to accomplish two social functions – ‘credentialing, or the creation of a new social elite of professionals and managers, and research, or the production of knowledge’ (Guillory


Sharon O’Dair

2000: 1156). Implicated fully in the workings of what one might call emergent structures of social class, founded especially in formal education and its workplace avatar, professionalism, the Americans are themselves ‘highly professionalized’ (Bradshaw 1993: 29). Rigorous and ‘distinctly academic’ in their approaches to Renaissance texts (Felperin 1991: 79), the Americans are ‘meticulous readers and diligent historiographers’ (D. Wayne 1987: 51). In addition, and in contrast to the British, American new historicists focus on and, more importantly, estrange the past, ‘the socio-cultural field in which Renaissance texts were originally produced’ (Thomas 1991: 24; see also Bradshaw 1993: 28–9). Although American Shakespeareans often link their historical analyses to contemporary social problems, or use them to point out today’s sundry oppressions or misrecognitions, their engagements with the present are relevant only insofar as such concerns resonate, as Stanley Fish says, in ‘academic politics, in the (internal) politics of Shakespeare ... studies’ (1995: 50). Given that these movements developed in negotiation with Marxism – Stephen Greenblatt, for example, does not hide his early enthusiasm for Marx and gratefully acknowledges his debt to Raymond Williams, progenitor of cultural materialism (Greenblatt 1989: 2; 1990: 1–3) – it is not surprising that debate has followed about the extent to which each has maintained, renewed, or diluted Marxism. What does surprise, however, is the intensity and longevity of the debate, now going on twenty years, which continues even though we know that intellectual traditions must and do develop over time, and that major theorists arrive on the scene to revise and reinvigorate the work of earlier theorists. ‘Every complex body of thought,’ writes Loïc Wacquant, ‘is a mixtum compositum produced by a synthesis of diverse currents that generates original theoretical insights, empirical discoveries, and new conceptual tools’ (2001: 104). Indeed, concurs Richard Halpern, it would be ‘intellectually irresponsible for ... anyone ... to accept the Marxist legacy (or any other legacy) whole hog, without scrutinizing, judging, and therefore filtering or selecting it’ (2001: 37–8). Yet, with Marx we seem unable to leave the issue there: the recent Marxist Shakespeares (ed. Howard and Shershow, 2001) claims Pierre Bourdieu for Marxism, even though we know, certainly sociologists know, that Bourdieu’s sociology draws on work by Marx and Weber and Durkheim, and cannot readily be described as following any of the three in particular (Wacquant 2001: 105; see also Lane 1999). Similarly, in the same volume, and despite the concession noted above, Halpern complains that Jacques Derrida’s

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


deconstruction of Marxism goes too far, so far, indeed, as to make ‘Marxism ... indistinguishable from deconstruction’ (Halpern 2001: 39). Claims such as these lead one to conclude, with some justification, that the question of whether a given critic’s or theorist’s work is Marxist ‘teaches us more about the thought of the person who levies the question ... than about the oeuvre in question’ (Wacquant 2001: 104). Catherine Gallagher, for instance, is emphatic about the ‘preoccupations’ that, in the 1980s, ‘separated’ new historicism from Marxist criticism, preoccupations that, for her, were rooted in the agenda of the New Left and included a rejection of economic determination, even in the last instance, and an interest in the needs of agents or groups other than in those of the working class, particularly those of women and racial minorities, but also of putative deviants of all sorts, sexual, physical, intellectual. But Gallagher is equally emphatic about the progressive nature of those preoccupations and of the challenges new historicists offer ‘to the usual methods of left-wing criticism.’ New historicist methodology is not, she insists, ‘reactionary or quietistic,’ as some on the Left have charged (1989: 45). On the contrary, and as Gallagher makes clear at the very end of ‘Marxism and the New Historicism,’ new historicists function as a kind of conscience for Marxists, confronting Marxism ‘as an amplified record of Marxism’s own edgiest, uneasiest voices,’ the dismissal of which ‘as the mere echoes of a reactionary defeatism would be a serious mistake’ (47). Gallagher’s edgy tone – for whom, one wonders, would this dismissal be a serious mistake? The Marxists? The dispossessed of the world?—suggests, I think, the extent to which Marxism functions as a site of desire, as symbol for something other than, or in addition to, intellectual work. Yet, if Marxism is such a symbol, it is a symbol that has become almost infinitely malleable. During the last decades of the twentieth century, as Shakespeareans found it necessary to pursue ‘historical and cultural critique beyond the designs originally envisioned by Marx’ (V. Wayne 1991: 11), questions about the verity of specific tenets of Marxism became increasingly irrelevant. If such tenets stood in the way of, for example, feminist or anti-racist projects, we tossed them aside, as Gallagher tosses aside Marxism’s teleological meta-narrative or its privileging of class over race or gender. If they did not, if they could be used to further such projects, we held on to them, even when they had proved highly suspect, if not false, as Jean E. Howard and Scott Cutler Shershow hold on to the labour theory of value and the immiseration hypothesis, the latter of which predicted a continuing impoverishment


Sharon O’Dair

of a growing proletariat as wealth concentrated in an ever-smaller bourgeoisie.6 To explain away the difficulties of the former, they claim that Marx’s goal was not to predict accurately ‘the movement of prices in a market economy,’ but to ‘unveil the structures of domination that underlie the supposed freedom and equality of market-based social relations, and to reveal classical economic theory as ideology’ (Howard and Shershow 2001: 5). Perhaps so. But if so, then Marx seems to have been, proleptically, a postmodern literary or cultural critic: a theorist suspicious of truth claims, concerned with a superstructure conceived in Althusserian terms as relatively autonomous, and convinced that a Marxist social project may proceed without accurate assessments of basic economic activity or behaviour. To explain away the difficulties of the latter, Howard and Shershow claim that immiseration was avoided because of ‘a century of bitter labor struggle largely inspired by Marxism. It was organized labor and collective bargaining, not the good intentions of corporate capitalism, that gave us safety rules, the eighthour day, pensions plans, and the like.’ Only ‘a curious collective amnesia about our own history,’ only ‘impudence and hypocrisy,’ they contend, make it possible to use this achievement against Marxism (4). Before conceding the argument to them, however, one might accuse Howard and Shershow of a similar amnesia, unless their argument is disingenuous, and we are to count it as spin, for the historical relationship of Marxism to trade unionism is far from inspiring or transparent. Ambivalent is the word Frank Parkin uses to describe it (Parkin 1979: 183; see also Luxemburg 1970: 155–218; Gramsci 1977: 98–108; Lenin 1987; Calhoun 1982; and Lloyd 1997: 13–14, 414–15, 419–21), a perhaps logical reaction to trade unionism’s inability to guarantee either solidarity or radical political behaviour. As Randall Collins explains, it makes sense for workers in a particular branch of industry to defend their self-interest against workers in other branches, or for union members to defend their interests against nonunion workers ... [A]lthough political doctrine may declare the alleged advantage in an overarching union of all workers, in fact political union involves sacrifices and compromises that specialized groups or workers may not find to their liking. Workers in a particular industry may have stronger economic interests in common with their own bosses than with workers in rival industries, as witnessed by such modern phenomena as the politics of government defense contracting or national protectionism, or ethnic exclusiveness (including immigration restriction policies) on the part of labor unions. (1986: 127)

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


Of course, the exclusionary tendencies of American organized labour were an important reason why the New Left abandoned its traditional alliance with labour in the 1950s and 1960s, which leaves Howard and Shershow in the position, ironically, of appropriating as evidence of Marxist success the successes of a sexist and racist, that is, exclusionary, organized labour. With such reconstructions – lopping off theoretical limbs here and there, clinging to some injured beyond repair – Shakespeareans have created a situation in which, as Greenblatt judged in 1990, ‘critical affiliations ... are not linked to systematic thought.’ It is possible, even easy these days, to ‘describe oneself and be perceived as a Marxist literary critic without believing in the class struggle as the principal motor force of history; without believing in the theory of surplus value; without believing in the determining power of economic base over ideological superstructure; without believing in the inevitability, let alone the imminence, of capitalism’s collapse’ (Greenblatt 1990: 3). In a world of such possibilities, one might indeed ask, like Juliet, ‘What’s in a name?’ That is the pertinent question: under the influence of poststructuralism, and in the decades following 1968 – years that marked, as Perry Anderson admitted in 2000, the ‘historical defeat’ of socialism and the destruction of ‘virtually the entire horizon of reference in which the generation of the sixties grew up’ (6–17) – does Marxism today mean anything, stand for anything, in particular? Have Marxism’s encounters with post-structuralism revealed limits of belief and commitment beyond which Marxism cannot go, beliefs and commitments that make Marxism distinctive? It appears, in fact, and as I have already hinted, that a few Shakespeareans think there are such limits, and in the rest of this essay I will examine key moments in recent political criticism of Shakespeare that have led to this one, a moment when such questions are asked, when even critics like Howard (who, in 1991, argued that ‘postmodern feminist thought provides resources for continuing – on new terms – the project of a politically committed historical practice’ [103]) now acknowledge, if somewhat reluctantly, that ‘the tent of historical materialism is not infinitely expandable’ (Howard and Shershow 2001: 6). Despite Gallagher’s implied claim, noted above, that in the 1980s new historicists functioned as a kind of conscience for Marxists, it is at least as accurate to say that Marxists functioned, and functioned effectively, as a conscience for new historicists and feminists, the two groups who battled then to secure professional power, power made available by the waning of the new criticism. Following closely on the heels of


Sharon O’Dair

feminism in the effort to remake Shakespeare studies (Cohen 1987: 33), new historicists struck powerfully in Greenblatt’s programmatic, fourpage introduction to The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance (1982), which distinguishes clearly between the new research methods, ‘what we may call the new historicism,’ and the old, ‘both the dominant historical scholarship of the past and the formalist criticism that partially displaced this scholarship in the decades after World War Two’ (1982: 5). By the late 1980s, as Lynda Boose observes, those new methods had reshaped research in the field, and had begun to affect the teaching of literature, which was still largely taught according to ‘the formalist model of discovering “meaning” by close textual reading’ (1987: 709; see also Howard 1986: 14–15). But if feminists and (those who came to be called) new historicists were united early on in their efforts to unseat new criticism, the methodology in which they had all been schooled, unity proved difficult to maintain. Even as Greenblatt promulgated ‘the new historicism,’ efforts were under way to contain and re-marginalize feminist criticism, efforts seemingly sanctioned by the profession itself, and, as Boose reports, by 1985, when West Berlin hosted the World Shakespeare Congress, ‘the Family of Shakespeareans’ had taken on ‘almost the character of the divided city itself’ (Boose 1987: 728; see also V. Wayne 1991). Feminists were beginning to complain of betrayal by materialist critics who, they thought, had been allies. These men, ‘a small, interlocked, committed, and first-rate group,’ were beginning ‘to dominate the institution of the Renaissance in [the United States]: the conference programs, the journals, the glutted anthology market, and the spare job market, especially the upper level jobs which have generated a game of Renaissance musical chairs in the last several years’ (Neely 1988: 6; see also Greene 1991). From a distance of a decade or more, it is easy to cast those battles mainly in intellectual terms, as attempts to improve our understandings of literary and cultural texts: rather than ‘establish the organic unity of literary texts,’ critics would assess them more accurately as ‘fields of force, places of dissension and shifting interests, occasions for the jostling of orthodox and subversive impulses’ (Greenblatt 1982: 6). Rather than ‘emphasize male characters, male themes, and male fantasies,’ critics would assess ‘the distinct, gender-determined part’ that women and men play in Shakespeare’s plays (Lenz, Greene, and Neely 1980: 4, 12). Rather than see the past ‘as a stable point of reference, beyond contingency’ for the analysis of a privileged set of literary texts (Greenblatt 1982: 5), critics would see the past itself as a compendium

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


of texts, in which the literary might illuminate or be illuminated by the economic, the political, the religious, or the scientific. Those were times, it now seems, when one could read a journal and find one’s understanding of Shakespeare transformed, times when, as David Bevington puts it, one could arrive at a meeting, such as that of the Shakespeare Association of America, and find ‘urgency and vital critical encounter in the program itself ... what ... really mattered’ (1996: 1). Who can forget, Bevington wonders, ‘those tense and ultimately profound encounters in Boston and in Cambridge between feminist critics and the New Historicists?’ (1, 6). But Neely, Boose, and other feminist critics of the time make clear that those tense encounters were not only about profound intellectual matters. As importantly, they were about professional and institutional power (for without institutional power one has little chance of establishing one’s ideas as worthy of circulating in the ‘massive conversation’ that is the ‘intellectual world’ [Collins 1998: 30; see also Bourdieu 1984, 1988]). In contrast to those who would become new historicists, the feminists pursued an intellectual agenda from positions either outside of or weakly within sites of professional and institutional power. Not young turks, whose job it is to shake up the intellectual worlds of their elders (however much those elders obstruct or make difficult that job [cf. Greenblatt 1990: 2]), these women had a more profound task to accomplish: to shake up the institutional world in which intellectual worlds subsist, the institutional world that told them to use their initials instead of their first names when publishing or that, more brutally, simply denied them jobs because of their sex (cf. Boose 1987: 714, 726). As Gary Taylor observes, ‘the study of gender cannot be disentangled from the study, and the exercise, of power,’ and feminists, therefore, were required to reorganize not only ‘the hierarchy of social relationships and the hierarchy of the literary canon’ but also ‘the hierarchy of academic value’ (1989: 344). It is not surprising that when feminists published responses to what they perceived as attacks by or undermining from new historicists, they repeatedly pointed to problems of institutional power as well as to the nominally more relevant intellectual issues of, say, the macro-political orientation of new historicism or the epistemological status of psychoanalysis, the methodology preferred by most feminist critics of Shakespeare in the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s. Involved with, but standing to the side of, this struggle between feminists and new historicists were Marxists, who acted as consciences


Sharon O’Dair

to both, urging feminists to historicize gender and to create ‘a sociologically and ideologically sensitive ... theorization of Shakespeare’ (Cohen 1987: 26), and chastising new historicists for a number of sins, including their unduly pessimistic understanding of human agency – new historicism, writes one critic, ‘undermines anybody’s and everybody’s agency’ (Lewis 1994: 21) – and their over-reliance on the lockdown structuralism of Michel Foucault, with a resulting avoidance of causal explanation, a disdain for empirical evidence, and an obsessive focus on power (cf. Bristol 1985; Cohen 1987; Halpern 1991: 1–15; Holstun 1989; Howard 1986; Lewis 1994; and Siar 1997). Marxists were in the position to accomplish such critique partly because they were politically marginal, so few in number – in 1987 Cohen counted five – that they posed no real threat to the institutional power of either group; and partly because they had already been subject to and engaged in attempts to reform their own theory and practice. Feminist Shakespeareans, for example, had brought home to Marxist Shakespeareans the problem of gender (e.g., Greene 1981) and they would continue to do so (e.g., Howard 1991). Progress on this problem was slow – in the same essay in which he excoriates new historicism for espousing, among other things, a methodology of ‘arbitrary connectedness,’ Cohen chides both British and American Marxist Shakespeareans, including himself, for their ‘indifference to feminism or even to gender’ (1987: 34, 32). But attempts by Marxists to address this problem, as well as others, through imports from post-structuralism, gave them the moral as well as intellectual authority to press feminist Shakespeareans in turn to historicize their practice and to follow ‘the unstable constructions of ... gender and patriarchy back to the contradictions of their historical moment’ (Dollimore 1985: 11). The result was the emergence of a second wave of feminist Shakespearean criticism, a materialist practice heavily inflected by post-structuralism (V. Wayne 1991; Kamps 1995).7 At the time, perhaps, it seemed as if Marxism’s negotiations with post-structuralism were harmless, indeed positive, and certainly necessary, given the political environment in which academics functioned in North America. In 1986, for instance, Howard suggested that a proper historical criticism would do well to absorb the lessons of deconstruction (32) as well as of ‘recent developments in Marxist thought.’ Largely Althusserian, these developments were for Howard akin to developments, say, in the treatment of heart disease or in the manufacture of plastics: largely uncontroversial and undeniably of benefit (to Marxism

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


and to those who would understand ‘the place of literature in history’ [17]). Howard thus reinforced the position of James H. Kavanagh, for whom Althusserian Marxism was a tool of such obvious power that it was unnecessary to ‘review or critique the substantial body of previous marxist criticism of Shakespeare’ (142 n. 2).8 Yet the value of Althusser’s theorizing for Marxism is not transparent, and certainly was being contested and clarified in the late 1970s and early 1980s by, for example, Perry Anderson, Terry Eagleton, and Frederic Jameson. In 1985, in the introduction to Drama of a Nation, Walter Cohen offered some contestation of his own. Knowing that ‘traditional scholars, avant-garde theorists, and many Marxists all may well object’ to his book’s ‘totalizing strategy,’ Cohen devoted considerable space to a defence of it. He acknowledged totalization’s ‘potential dangers’ – such as ‘premature synthesis’ and the suppression of ‘detail, difference, heterogeneity, and conflict’ – but also enumerated its ‘possible advantages,’ including ‘an advance in explanatory power, ... the delineation of and contribution to a genuinely shared intellectual enterprise, the potentially disquieting confrontation with the largest issues raised by Renaissance theater, and the elucidation of the drama’s subversive political efficacy during the seventeenth century and radical potential today’ (21–2). In the North American academy, however, such defences, few in number, had little effect. Objections to Marxism, even as modified by post-structuralism, continued to build; and the late 1980s produced a ‘generally and increasingly hostile climate’ for Marxist analysis of Renaissance texts (Halpern 1991: 2). When Halpern published The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation in 1991, therefore, defence seemed a poor tactic, especially of totalization, and he capitulated to his opponents, arguing for a Marxist safe haven, or just a bit of the analytic pie: ‘Instead of defending against Foucauldian and new-historical critique, launching a counterattack against them, or “subsuming” these movements within a Marxist project, I prefer to begin by arguing the complementarity of Marxist and non-Marxist approaches. This I do somewhat polemically by isolating regions and models of power which are accessible to Marxist but not to Foucauldian or new-historical analysis’ (2). (In this context, it is intriguing that Halpern’s Shakespeare among the Moderns, published in 1997, does, in effect, launch such a counterattack, by attempting to recuperate the modern as a viable contemporary force and, with it, traditional Marxism [see also Grady 1991 and 1996].) In 1995 Ivo Kamps produced a reading of this history, according to


Sharon O’Dair

which traditional Marxist criticism of Shakespeare diversified, under the influence of post-structuralism, into several types of materialist practice, which have experienced a ‘meteoric rise’ in visibility and prestige, and have become ‘an omnipresent and thriving mix’ within the profession (1). This optimistic reading (note its invocation of a term, diversification, associated with the business world),9 occludes the fact that Marxism’s negotiations with post-structuralism were quite difficult and resulted in a number of awkward alliances, disturbing breakups, and fragile truces among feminists, Marxists, and post-structuralists. It assumes the perspective of the diverse materialist criticisms, of the victors, not the perspective of Marxism. From that perspective, the ‘meteoric rise’ of diverse materialist criticisms has been at the expense of Marxism: if Marxism so diversified is omnipresent, then ‘traditional’ Marxism is not, and indeed it is likely to be unlocatable within critical space. Understanding this, a new generation of critics, such as David Siar, as well as some older hands, such as Halpern, have begun to contest the post-structuralist ascendancy in an attempt to relocate Marxism as a distinctive theoretical and political enterprise.10 Like other writers discussed so far in this essay, and anticipating Halpern’s position in ‘An Impure History of Ghosts,’ Siar sees that the encounter of Marxism and poststructuralism has resulted in a variety of ‘hybrid practices’ but especially ‘the abandonment by some self-called materialists of concepts formerly thought by many to be key features of Marxist theory.’ Siar sees, too, that the appropriation of Marxism’s status as oppositional critique, accomplished by a stripping away of Marxism, what Halpern will call a ‘purgatorial cleansing’ of it (2001: 39), must finally raise the question of how one defines Marxism. To establish Marxism’s distinctiveness, Siar turns to the authority of Eagleton, who, in the mid-1980s, argued that Marxism cannot be distinguished by what it shares in common with ‘dialectics’ as such. It cannot be merely an historicism, or merely a materialism ... The specificity of Marxism is in my view at least twofold: it lies, first, in its claim that material production is the ultimately determinant factor of social existence, and secondly, that the class struggle is the central dynamic of historical development. I am tempted to add a third distinguishing feature, one which perhaps belongs more properly to Marxism-Leninism, and which concerns the revolutionary nature of the doctrine: Marxism is among other things a theory and practice of political insurrection. (1986: 81–2)

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


Interestingly, Siar omits the last of Eagleton’s distinguishing features, thus avoiding a focus on Marxism’s status as a politics. In contrast, although he waffles on the primacy of class and only implicitly supports economic determination, Halpern does not resist Marxism’s status as a politics. He repeatedly upbraids Derrida for avoiding the messy realm of ‘the traumatic Real,’ including his ‘failure to locate himself materially in the web of social relations and practices from which [the ills he criticizes] arise’ and his peculiar hope that he can ‘separate the acceptable “spirit” of Marx from the real history of socialism and the workers’ movement, a history construed not as a mixture of heroism and stupidity, triumph and defeat, but as absolute, “totalitarian” idea’ (2001: 38, 42, 37). As Howard and Shershow put it, in commenting on Halpern’s essay, what ‘makes Marxism an active, dangerous, and material force in the world ... [is] a commitment to a transformative practice rooted in actual social relations’ (11). In this, I think Halpern’s instinct is the more correct: what makes Marxism distinctive is not just its commitment to economic determination and class struggle as the motor force of history but also its commitment to political activism and radical social change.11 The positioning Siar seems to favour, without the latter commitment, offers Marxists intellectual integrity, which is not an insubstantial achievement, but it is unlikely to offer much hope for influence outside the institution or for power within it, given conditions in the North American academy, and particularly in the U.S. academy, which make sinful positionings or programs that privilege or exclude. Equalizing class and other modes of struggle, such as those based in race or gender, is a liberal move, not a Marxist one, but it is a move that organizes and indeed energizes the North American academy. The academy is a liberal institution, and will continue to be such, barring unlikely and unprecedented structural change in it. Unfortunately, as Fish has argued persuasively in Professional Correctness and as Ellen Messer-Davidow has demonstrated empirically in Disciplining Feminism: From Social Activism to Academic Discourse, the positioning favoured by Halpern, which privileges political commitment while fudging commitments to determination and the primacy of class, also offers little hope for influence outside the institution or for power within it. ‘Academic work is one thing and political work is another,’ argues Fish (1995: 93), a point supported by Messer-Davidow’s case study, an analysis that sets out ‘to answer a question about aca-


Sharon O’Dair

demic feminism as a formation: how did it happen that a bold venture launched thirty years ago to transform academic and social institutions was itself transformed by them?’ (2002: 1). Richly researched, and ranging across disciplines and methodologies, Disciplining Feminism concludes that feminists, including Messer-Davidow herself, badly misjudged the power of disciplines and institutions, as they set out to create interdisciplinary programs that maintained strong links with feminist activism outside the academy (157–8). For Messer-Davidow, what transformed the feminist project was not the ‘repressive power’ of the academy’s institutions but their ‘productive power, the rule-bound practices’ that helped establish a feminist discipline and, through publication and peer-review, ‘generated a superabundance of objects and knowledges’ shaped ‘according to prevailing scholarly conventions’ (86, 143). For my purposes here, the most pertinent cost of that transformation was to destroy effective links to feminist activism outside the academy. Like Fish’s Professional Correctness, Messer-Davidow’s history of feminism in the academy restates (in academic form) some of the conclusions made about the American Left by Jacoby, in his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals. Jacoby argues that New Left intellectuals, including feminists like Messer-Davidow and those who would become new historicists studying Shakespeare, did not ‘naively or unwillingly accept the academic regimen,’ but actively sought institutionalization (182). For the Left, such appointments ‘constituted small steps on the path to power ... Careerism and revolution converged’ (Jacoby 1987: 183). But as Messer-Davidow would admit fifteen years later, and as Jacoby stresses, these radicals and activists failed to consider, or badly misjudged, the costs of entering the academy, the fact that ‘professionalization leads to privatization or depoliticization, a withdrawal of energy from a larger domain to a narrower discipline’ (ibid.: 147). Within the academy, Marxism – like feminism – became ‘a professional “field” plowed by specialists’ and, for the specialist practitioners, ‘the “politics” of academic life [gradually] supplant[ed] larger politics’ (ibid.: 147, 185). It is for reasons like these that some Marxist academics now see the vital importance of focusing attention on locations other than their own, which have busied them for the past twenty-five years. To reorganize the Left effectively, argues Tom Lewis, ‘academics and intellectuals [must] ask themselves what role, if any, they should play or would want to play in the radical transformation of society’ (1994: 22). Lewis suggests that elsewhere is the location of radical transformation,

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


elsewhere than in the academy: choosing a role implies that such a role does not inhere in the role one plays professionally. And it also implies that the demands of such a role may conflict with those of the role one plays professionally. Careerism and revolution, as Jacoby implies, may not, in fact, converge. A hundred years from now, or maybe two, it may seem a curious fact that a society, that is, the United States, decided, or perhaps more accurately, purported to ameliorate gender, racial, and class distinction through ever-increasing amounts of formal education for its citizens. (Even more curious – or maybe not – will seem the readiness with which intellectuals embraced this idea.) While promising much to many, this strategy fails all but a few, who are absorbed into the upper reaches of society, as our post-war history shows; massive expansion of secondary and tertiary education has not lessened income or status inequality (Jencks et al. 1972, Collins 1979, Larson 1984, Collins 2002). Even more relevant, perhaps, is the fact that the egalitarian trend in education has not reduced inequality in education, perhaps especially in higher education. That there are now more than three thousand institutions of higher education in the United States alone, which accommodate far more than half of young people aged eighteen to twenty-two, has not lessened the status, prestige, wealth, or power of the institutions that dominated the intellectual field before its rapid growth in the post-war period. We tend to think democratization a good in and of itself, regardless of how it is instituted or institutionalized. But, as John Guillory observes, within higher education, ‘democratization [has been] accompanied by intensified effects of competition and stratification’ (2000: 1155), a point that had been made much earlier by Alain Touraine (1974) and Martin Trow (1970) as well as concurrently by Randall Collins (1998) and even myself. This point was brought home to members of the Shakespeare Association of America in 1996, when, in his President’s Message, David Bevington pondered the possibility of ‘our being endangered by our own success,’ by growth in the association (6). At the 1995 meeting, held in Chicago, a number of members compared the current scene to that of even just a decade or so ago, and worried that the conference had lost its urgency and even relevance. ‘Where were the sessions one simply could not miss? Where was the critical center of the conference?’ Members suggested one hypothesis – that after all the years of in-fighting, which I have described in this essay, ‘a kind of stock-taking’ or ‘consoli-


Sharon O’Dair

dation’ was necessary – and then another: democratization. Before, members were saying, ‘one knew most of the members at any annual meeting as friends and colleagues who were doing front-line work and who came to the meetings to find out what things really mattered’ (1). Now, ‘not only are there too many people to have a sense of knowing the group as a whole, one no longer knows who they are: graduate students in ever increasing numbers, ... along with some teachers at smaller institutions that used not to be so much in evidence’ (6). Soon, growth in the association may make it impossible for it to book a hotel like The Drake in Chicago, forcing it into ‘superhotels on the MLA model,’ which is an ‘alarming’ prospect to many (1). In his message to the association, Bevington acknowledges the many benefits brought to it by democratization, including, and perhaps most importantly, ‘a wide inclusiveness in the process of research and investigation.’ More scholars and teachers than ever before can and do contribute importantly to our intellectual conversations about Shakespeare. And he also knows that worries like those he reports are embarrassing; they sound ‘snobbish’ and reveal a ‘longing for a smaller gathering of the elite’ (6). Yet to his credit – for it is difficult to conclude such things in the U.S. academy as currently constituted – Bevington sees that his colleagues’ worries are not just elitist. They reveal an awareness that democratization comes with some costs, including tendencies toward routinization, mere professionalism, and a lack of intellectual focus: ‘increased size and diffusion are changing the nature of the association,’ just as they are changing the nature of higher education and of intellectual work in North America more generally. As Bevington observes, the ‘opportunities and dangers are inseparable’ (6). What Bevington does not observe is that the class anxiety revealed in Shakespeareans’ worries about democratization – for these worries are as much social, perhaps I should say, material, as intellectual – suggests only too clearly the extent to which higher education and, in particular, elite higher education participate today in the maintenance and reproduction of social distinction in this society. It is our awareness of this fact, however clear or coated, that makes ‘Marxism’ a site of desire for us, even as it marginalizes Marxism within our discourses, for we cannot achieve political transformation from within our institutions and we cannot and will not turn class analysis on ourselves or our institutions, although, as conscientious liberal pluralists, we will allow a few cranks, some of them Marxists, to do so for us.

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


NOTES 1 In this essay, North American Shakespeareans refers to those critics writing in Canada or the United States. Subsequently, I will use the term ‘Shakespeareans’ to mean both Canadian and American Shakespeareans. I will refer to the United States or to American Shakespeareans when I want to restrict my meaning to North America or to North American Shakespeareans south of the border. 2 On exceptionalism, in addition to Lipset, see also Alexis de Tocqueville, Werner Sombart, Frederick Jackson Turner, David M. Potter, Louis Hartz, Daniel Bell, Sean Wilentz, and Brian Lloyd. 3 Jacoby notes that for many New Left intellectuals, ‘academic freedom meant nothing more than the freedom to be academic’ (119). 4 Ivo Kamps says: ‘Traditional Marxism and its post-structuralist offshoots part ways on the question of economic determination. Cultural materialists, feminist materialists, and new historicists decline to analyze literary texts (which are, in some sense, the product of “the minds of men”) in terms of Engels’s fierce emphasis on economic determination. They do so for sound reasons’ (1995: 4). 5 See, in addition to Wayne and Cohen, Brook Thomas, Brian Vickers, Graham Bradshaw, Ivo Kamps, Kiernan Ryan, Claire Colebrook, and John Brannigan. 6 These tenets have long been criticized within the Marxist tradition, in the earliest instance by Eduard Bernstein, the father of social democracy in Europe, who concluded in the early twentieth century that because capitalism was increasing social wealth across the board, perhaps especially in the middle strata of society, history had falsified many of Marx’s economic predictions. An evolution of capitalist societies toward socialism, therefore, was not only possible but desirable, and he attempted to turn the German Social Democratic Party into a party of reform, not revolution. (For a rebuttal to Bernstein, see Luxemburg 1970: 36–105.) 7 An ironic result it was for a feminist Shakespearean like Greene, who, in 1981, had called for an alliance between feminists and Marxist critics that might make ‘the study of the literature of the past part of the present in an effort to effect social change’ (36). In making this call, Greene dismissed the tendency among Marxist critics to indulge the work of writers like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jacques Derrida, and Louis Althusser. These writers, she claimed, were ‘concerned with the elaboration of a theory increasingly abstruse and as unsuited to literary analysis as it is remote


Sharon O’Dair

from praxis’ (38). Of course, exactly these writers were subsequently embraced by ‘younger colleagues, eager to make a space for themselves.’ And so, ten years later, Greene found herself in the odd position of at once accepting the post-structuralist ascendancy – she invokes an Althusserian definition of ideology – and complaining bitterly about those younger colleagues, who ‘either ignore[d] us, writing as though feminist criticism had never happened, or attempt[ed] to climb to the top on our bodies, having exposed us as theoretically “soft,” anachronistic, vulgarly empiricist, naively Anglo-American’ (1991: 28). 8 Greene does review and critique this earlier Marxist work, which, she judges, tends ‘to be stuck in one groove,’ that of finding evidence of the transition to capitalism in Shakespeare’s plays (1981: 36). Critics like Sidney Finkelstein (1973), Paul Delany (1977), and Paul N. Siegel (1968) focus on that theme and ‘pay little attention to the way a text works,’ whether linguistically, structurally, or theatrically (38). Brian Vickers agrees with Greene that the principal objection to ‘Marxist literary criticism is, indeed, its lack of imagination, its mechanical discovery of Marxist concepts in literary texts on a “one here, one there” basis’ (1993: 384). 9 In 1991 Valerie Wayne described this process, which she thought was urgently needed, as ‘the diffusion of Marxism into materialism (10). ‘Diffusion’ better captures the process, I think, and offers a less optimistic understanding of it, as Wayne acknowledges, in noting that ‘traditional Marxists may lament’ it (11). 10 Another such challenge has emerged in a new movement called ‘presentism,’ which is associated primarily with the post-structuralist Marxism of Hugh Grady and the cultural materialism of Terry Hawkes. Challenging in particular a professionalized and hegemonic new historicism that fetishizes the historical early modern, presentism insists on our ‘recognizing the crucial impact of the present on how we constitute the past in the production of historical knowledge’ (Grady 1996: 7), and it does so, as Hawkes puts it, to help establish ‘a critical stance whose engagement with the text is of a particular character.’ For the critic, such a stance will result not in a ‘yearn[ing] to speak with the dead,’ but in a desire ‘to talk to the living’ (2002: 4) so as to influence contemporary public life. Still in its early stages of theorization, presentism seems at this point to extend rather than contest the post-structuralist engagement with, or appropriation of, Marxism. At this point, presentism seems to offer more Marxism without Marx, and it does so, significantly and unlike its predecessors, without alluding in its name to Marxism or historical materialism.

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


11 Tom Lewis, an American Marxist critic, but not a Shakespearean, accepts the Leninist temptation to which Eagleton openly refers and which Halpern implicitly or subtly invokes (cf. 2001: 43), insisting on the Left’s need to ‘build a revolutionary party rooted in the working class’ (1994: 22). More generally, one might wish to note, with Hayden White, the political point that ‘the Marxist view of history is neither confirmable nor disconfirmable by appeal to “historical evidence,” for what is at issue between a Marxist and a non-Marxist view of history is the question of precisely what counts as evidence, and what does not, and how data are to be constituted as evidence, and what implications for the comprehension of the present social reality are to be drawn from the evidence thus constituted’ (1973: 284). This argument is reinforced by Lloyd, who writes, ‘[T]he stubbornness of history, it seems, inheres not in facts but in the preconceptions that determine which facts will be acknowledged and committed to memory, and which dismissed as fancy and forgotten’ (1977: 15). REFERENCES Anderson, Perry. 1983. In the Tracks of Historical Materialism. London: Verso. – 2000, ‘Editorial: Renewals.’ New Left Review, 2nd series (January–February): 5–24. Bell, Daniel. 1975. ‘The End of American Exceptionalism.’ The Public Interest 41: 193–224. Bernstein, Eduard. 1970. Evolutionary Socialism: A Criticism and Affirmation. Trans. Edith C. Harvey, intro. Sidney Hook. New York: Schocken. Bevington, David. 1996. ‘The President’s Message 1995–96.’ Bulletin of The Shakespeare Association of America 20: 1, 6. Boose, Lynda E. 1987. ‘The Family in Shakespeare Studies; or – Studies in the Family of Shakespeareans; or – the Politics of Politics.’ Renaissance Quarterly 40: 707–42. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. – 1988. Homo Academicus. Trans. Peter Collier. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bradshaw, Graham. 1993. Misrepresentations: Shakespeare and the Materialists. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Brannigan, John. 1998. New Historicism and Cultural Materialism. New York: St Martin’s Press. Bristol, Michael. 1985. Carnival and Theater: Plebian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England. New York: Methuen.


Sharon O’Dair

Calhoun, Craig. 1982. The Question of Class Struggle: Social Foundations of Popular Radicalism during the Industrial Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Callaghan, Dympna C. 1994. ‘The Ideology of Romantic Love: The Case of Romeo and Juliet.’ In The Weyward Sisters: Shakespeare and Feminist Politics, ed. Dympna C. Callaghan, Lorraine Helms, and Jyotsna Singh, 59–101. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Cohen, Walter. 1985. Drama of a Nation: Public Theater in Renaissance England and Spain. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. – 1987. ‘Political Criticism of Shakespeare.’ In Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology, ed. Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O’Connor, 18–46. New York: Methuen. Colebrook, Claire. 1997. New Literary Histories: New Historicism and Contemporary Criticism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Collins, Randall. 1979. The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York: Academic Press. – 1986. Weberian Sociological Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. – 1998. The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. – 2002. ‘Credential Inflation and the Future of Universities.’ In The Future of the City of Intellect: The Changing American University, ed. Steven G. Brint, 23–46. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Delany, Paul. 1977. ‘King Lear and the Decline of Feudalism.’ PMLA 92: 429–40. Dollimore, Jonathan. 1985. ‘Introduction: Shakespeare, Cultural Materialism, and the New Historicism.’ In Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, eds. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, 2–17. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Eagleton, Terry. 1986. Against the Grain: Essays 1975–1985. London: Verso. Felperin, Howard. 1991. ‘“Cultural Poetics” versus “Cultural Materialism”: The Two New Historicisms in Renaissance Studies.’ In Uses of History: Marxism, Postmodernism and the Renaissance, ed. Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iverson, 76–100. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Finkelstein, Sidney. 1973. Who Needs Shakespeare? New York: International Publishers. Fish, Stanley. 1995. Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Gallagher, Catherine. 1989. ‘Marxism and the New Historicism.’ In The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser, 37–48. New York: Routledge. Grady, Hugh. 1991. Modernist Shakespeare: Critical Texts in a Material World, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


– 1996. Shakespeare’s Universal Wolf: Studies in Early Modern Reification, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Gramsci, Antonio. 1977. Selections from the Political Writings (1910–1920). Ed. Quintin Hoare, trans. John Mathews. New York: International Publishers. Greenblatt, Stephen. 1982. ‘Introduction.’ In The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, 3–6. Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books. – 1989. ‘Towards a Poetics of Culture.’ In The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser, 1–14. New York: Routledge. – 1990. Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture. New York: Routledge. Greene, Gayle. 1981. ‘Feminist and Marxist Criticism: An Argument for Alliances.’ Women’s Studies 9: 29–45. – 1991. ‘The Myth of Neutrality, Again?’ In Shakespeare Left and Right, ed. Ivo Kamps, 23–9. New York: Routledge. Guillory, John. 2000. ‘The System of Graduate Education.’ PMLA 115: 1154–63. Halpern, Richard. 1991. The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. – 1997. Shakespeare among the Moderns. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. – 2001. ‘An Impure History of Ghosts: Derrida, Marx, Shakespeare.’ In Marxist Shakespeares, ed. Jean E. Howard and Scott Cutler Shershow, 31–52. New York: Routledge. Hartz, Louis. 1955. The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought since the Revolution. New York: Harcourt Brace. Hawkes, Terence. 2002. Shakespeare in the Present. London: Routledge. Holstun, James. 1989. ‘Ranting at the New Historicism.’ ELR 19: 189–225. Howard, Jean E. 1986. ‘The New Historicism in Renaissance Studies.’ ELR 16: 13–43. – 1991. ‘Towards a Postmodern, Politically Committed, Historical Practice.’ In Uses of History: Marxism, Postmodernism and the Renaissance, ed. Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iverson, 101–22. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Howard, Jean E. and Scott Cutler Shershow. 2001. ‘Introduction: Marxism Now, Shakespeare Now.’ In Marxist Shakespeares, ed. Jean E. Howard and Scott Cutler Shershow, 1–15. New York: Routledge. Jacoby, Russell. 1987. The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. New York: Basic Books. Jameson, Frederic. 1981. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Jencks, Christopher, Marshall Smith, Henry Acland, et al. 1972. Inequality: A


Sharon O’Dair

Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America. New York: Basic Books. Kamps, Ivo. 1995. ‘Materialist Shakespeare: An Introduction.’ In Materialist Shakespeare: A History, ed. Ivo Kamps, 1–19. New York: Verso. Kavanagh, James H. 1985. ‘Shakespeare in Ideology.’ In Alternative Shakespeares, ed. John Drakakis, 144–65. London: Methuen. Lane, Jeremy. 1999. ‘“Un étrange retournement”? Pierre Bourdieu and the French Republican Tradition.’ Modern and Contemporary France 7: 457–70. Larson, Magali Sarfatti. 1984. ‘The Production of Expertise and the Constitution of Expert Power.’ In The Authority of Experts: Studies in History and Theory, ed. Thomas L. Haskell, 28–80. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Lenin, V.I. 1987. Essential Works of Lenin: ‘What Is to Be Done?’ and Other Writings. Ed. Henry M. Christman. New York: Dover. Lenz, Carolyn Ruth Swift, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely. 1980. ‘Introduction.’ In The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely, 3–16. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Lewis, Tom. 1994. ‘The New Historicism and Marxism.’ Journal of the Midwest MLA 24: 14–23. Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1991. ‘American Exceptionalism Reaffirmed.’ In Is America Different?: A New Look at American Exceptionalism, ed. Byron E. Shafer, 1–45. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lloyd, Brian. 1997. Left Out: Pragmatism, Exceptionalism, and the Poverty of American Marxism, 1890–1922. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Luxemburg, Rosa. 1970. Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, ed. Mary-Alice Waters. New York: Pathfinder Press. Messer-Davidow, Ellen. 2002. Disciplining Feminism: From Social Action to Academic Discourse. Durham: Duke University Press. Neely, Carol Thomas. 1988. ‘Constructing the Subject: Feminist Practice and the New Renaissance Discourses.’ ELR 18: 5–18. O’Dair, Sharon. 2000. Class, Critics, and Shakespeare: Bottom Lines on the Culture Wars. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Parkin, Frank. 1979. Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique. New York: Columbia University Press. Potter, David M. 1954. People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ryan, Kiernan. 1996. New Historicism and Cultural Materialism: A Reader. London: Arnold. Shakespeare, William. 1997. Romeo and Juliet. In The Norton Shakespeare: Based

A Brief History of Marxist Shakespeare Criticism in North America


on the Oxford Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, and Katherine Eisaman Maus. New York: Norton. Siar, David. 1997. ‘Jean E. Howard’s Postmodern Marxist Feminism and the Economic Last Instance.’ Renaissance Forum 2. Online at http://www Siegel, Paul N. 1968. Shakespeare in His Time and Ours. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Sombart, Werner. 1976. Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? White Plains, NY: International Arts and Sciences Press. Taylor, Gary. 1989. Reinventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History, from the Restoration to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. Thomas, Brook. 1991. The New Historicism and Other Old-Fashioned Topics. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Tocqueville, Alexis de. 1966. Democracy in America, ed. J.P. Mayer. New York: Harper and Row. Touraine, Alain. 1974. The Academic System in American Society. New York: McGraw-Hill. Trow, Martin. 1970. ‘Reflections on the Transition from Mass to Universal Higher Education.’ Daedalus 99: 1–42. Turner, Frederick Jackson. 1920. The Frontier in American History. New York: Henry Holt. Turner, John. 1988. ‘Introduction.’ In Shakespeare: The Play of History, ed. Graham Holderness, Nick Potter, and John Turner, 1–9. London: Macmillan Press. Vickers, Brian. 1993. Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels. New Haven: Yale University Press. Wacquant, Loïc. 2001. ‘Further Notes on Bourdieu’s “Marxism.”’ International Journal of Contemporary Sociology (Joensuu, Finland) 38: 103–9. Wayne, Don E. 1987. ‘Power, Politics, and the Shakespearean Text: Recent Criticism in England and the United States.’ In Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology, ed. Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O’Connor, 47–67. New York: Methuen. Wayne, Valerie. 1991. ‘Introduction.’ In The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Valerie Wayne, 1–26. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. White, Hayden. 1973. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in NineteenthCentury Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Wilentz, Sean. 1984. ‘Against Exceptionalism: Class Consciousness and the American Labor Movement, 1790–1920.’ International Labor and Working Class History 26: 581–609.

This page intentionally left blank


Alexey Bartoshevitch is professor of the Russian Academy of Theatre Art (GITIS), head of the Modern Art Department at the State Institute of Arts Research, and chairman of the Shakespeare Committee of the Russian Federation Academy of Sciences. His books include Shakespeare’s Comedy (1968), Shakespeare on the English Stage: End of the Nineteenth–First Half of the Twentieth Centuries (1985), Poetics of Early Shakespeare (1987), Shakespeare in Twentieth-Century England (1994), and Contemporary to the Universe: Shakespeare in the Twentieth-Century Theatre (2003). Laura Raidonis Bates is assistant professor of English at Indiana State University. She earned her PhD in comparative literature at the University of Chicago. Her special interest is Shakespearean reception in prison; publications include ‘The Uses of Shakespeare in Criminal Rehabilitation: Testing the Limits of Universality’ in Shakespeare Matters: Global Perspectives on Teaching and Performance (2003) and ‘“Here Is Not a Creature But Myself”: Shakespearean Reception in Solitary Confinement’ in Shakespeare and Higher Education: A Global Perspective (Shakespeare Yearbook XII, 2002). Maria Clara V. Galery is professor of English at the Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto (Brazil). Her research interests include Shakespeare in translation, and she is currently writing a book on Shakespeare in Latin America. Lawrence Guntner is associate professor of English at the Technical University in Brunswick (Germany), where he teaches English literature, American studies, and film. His special interests are non-Anglophone



Shakespeare performance and Shakespeare on film, and he has published numerous articles on these topics. He is a contributor to and coeditor, with Peter Drexler, of Negotiations with Hal: Multi-Media Perceptions of (Shakespeare´s) Henry the Fifth (1995) and a contributor to and coeditor, with Andrew McLean, of Redefining Shakespeare: Literary Theory and Theater Practice in the German Democratic Republic (1998). Werner Habicht is professor emeritus of English at the University of Würzburg (Germany), where he has been teaching since 1978. He is the author of numerous studies on Shakespeare and Shakespeare reception. He was president of the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft West and, from 1980 to 1995, editor of its Jahrbuch. Maik Hamburger, now retired, was for many years a dramaturge and director at the Deutsches Theater, Berlin. He has translated into German plays by Shakespeare, Sean O’Casey, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and others. He also translated and edited a volume of John Donne’s poetry. Hamburger has written and lectured on Shakespeare, O’Casey, Brecht, East German theatre, and problems of translation. He has taught at universities in Berlin and Leipzig. He was vice-president of the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft and is a member of the German P.E.N. Centre. Martin Hilský is professor of English literature at Charles University (Prague). He is the author of several books on modern British literature and a well-known Czech translator and scholar of Shakespeare. So far he has translated and published thirty Shakespeare plays, all of which have been staged in the Czech Republic. Krystyna Kujawi ska Courtney is professor of English at the University of Lodz. Much of her research is devoted to Shakespeare and cultural studies. She has published two monographs: ‘The Interpretation of the Time’: The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Roman Plays (1993) and Krolestwo na stanie: Sztuki Szekspira o historii Anglii w teatrze angielskim (1997), and has edited and co-edited a number of books, most recently, with John Mercer, The Globalization of Shakespeare in the Nineteenth Century (2003). In 2004 she became, with Yoshiko Kawachi, co-editor of the annual journal Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation, Performance (formerly Shakespeare Worldwide).



Irena R. Makaryk is professor of English at the University of Ottawa. Her special research interest is Shakespeare’s afterlife. Her most recent publications include Shakespeare in the Undiscovered Bourn: Les Kurbas, Ukrainian Modernism, and Early Soviet Cultural Politics (2004) and Shakespeare in Canada: ‘a world elsewhere’? (with Diana Brydon, 2002). Zoltán Márkus is assistant professor of English at Vassar College. His main fields of research are early modern English literature, especially drama, Shakespeare studies, European drama and theatre, and cultural, literary, and performance theory. His current project, Shakespeares at War: Cultural Appropriations of Shakespeare in London, Berlin, and Budapest during World War II, is a comparative study of Shakespeare’s cultural reception in these three European cities during the Second World War. Sharon O’Dair is professor of English at the University of Alabama. She co-edited The Production of English Renaissance Culture (1994) and is author of Class, Critics, and Shakespeare: Bottom Lines on the Culture Wars (2000), as well as numerous essays on Shakespeare, literary theory, and the literary profession. Currently she is working on Elitist Equality: Class Paradoxes in the Profession of English and The Eco-Bard: The Greening of Shakespeare in Contemporary Film. Arkady M. Ostrovsky is a Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times. He earned his PhD in English literature from the University of Cambridge (1999). His special academic interests include studies of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Byron, productions at the Moscow Art Theatre, and the wider perception of England and Englishness in Russian culture in the early twentieth century. He is the author of an upcoming book about Stanislavskii and Shakespeare. He has also contributed to A History of Russian Theatre (1999). Joseph G. Price is professor emeritus in the English department of The Pennsylvania State University. After conducting a National Endowment for the Humanities (U.S.A.) seminar, ‘Shakespeare and the History of Taste,’ at the Folger Institute, he was invited by the National Endowment to form a collaborative team of scholars to explore a subject of international humanistic interest. His choice, ‘Shakespeare in the Worlds of Communism and Socialism,’ led to this book. Scholars were recruited from the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc nations, Germany, Canada, and the United States to convene on two occasions in the United States.



Since then, scholars in China and Cuba have joined the research team and have contributed essays to the book. Prices’s publications include The Unfortunate Comedy: A Study of All’s Well That Ends Well & Its Critics, The Triple Bond: Plays, Mainly Shakespearean in Performance, Hamlet: Critical Essays, and Russian Essays on Shakespeare. He has conducted seminars at the Shakespeare Institute (Stratford-upon-Avon), the Folger Shakespeare Library, where he also delivered the Annual Shakespeare Birthday Lecture, and the Stratford Theatre (Ontario). Most recently, he has lectured on Shakespeare at universities in Chongqing and Kaifeng, China. Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University, where he is Director of Graduate Studies in Drama. He is a recipient of the St George Medal of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation for services to Russian art and theatre. He has also received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. His prize-winning books include The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre (2000) and The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of the Plays in Performance (1998). Most recently he has translated and edited the complete plays and dramatic fragments of Anton Chekhov for W.W. Norton. Shu-hua (also known as Shuhua) Wang is associate professor and former chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at the National Ilan University (Taiwan), where she teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance literature. Her recent publications include ‘A Tale of Two Cities: Shakespeare Adaptations in Shanghai and Taipei’ (2001), ‘Political Drama: The Shakespeare Phenomenon in China’ (2000), ‘Dungeons of Pride and Bower of Bliss: Spenser’s Allegorical Landscape in The Faerie Queene’ (2000), and ‘Globalization and Localization: On the Two Shakespeare Festivals in China’ (1999). Robert Weimann is a scholar, critic, and teacher. In the course of his career, he has been a fellow of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin (1968– 91), a visiting professor at various institutions in the United States and Canada, including Toronto, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley, vice-president of the Akademie der Künste (1979–90), president of the German Shakespeare Society in Weimar (1985–93), chair of the Literaturwissenschaft, Max Planck Society Associate Institute (1992–4), and a professor at the University of California, Irvine (1992–



2001). He has published numerous books and articles, the most recent of which are Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice (2000) and Prologues to Shakespeare’s Theatre, with Douglas Bruster (2004). Xiao Yang Zhang is a lecturer and freelance writer in the UK. Born in China, he earned his BA and MA degrees in Chinese language and literature in Jilin University. Then he worked as a lecturer in Beijing Language University in Beijing for four years. He holds a PhD from the English Department of Southampton University (UK, 1993). Zhang has published four books on English and Chinese literature, including Shakespeare in China: A Comparative Study of Two Traditions and Cultures (1996).

This page intentionally left blank


Abusch, A., 163–4, 170, 181–3 Ackland, Henry, 365, 371 Acting Club, Caoutchouc Rubber Factory, 100 Aeschylus, 324–5n1 Afinogenov, Aleksandr, 63 ‘Against Formalism and Naturalism’ (Radlov), 73 Akhmatova, Anna, 69, 80 Akimov, Nikolai, 73, 94, 136 Aleksandrov, Grigorii, 105 Alekseeva, M.P., 101n2 Alexandr Nevskii (Litovskii and Osipov), 122 Allilueva, Svetlana, 119 All-Trades Union Theatre (Moscow), 89 All-Union Communist Party, 132 All-Union Shakespeare conferences and festivals (Armenia), 3, 124 Alpers, B., 104, 154n3 Althusser, Louis, 356, 360–1, 367–8n7 Analects of Confucius, The (Confucius), 293 Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome: A Shakespeare Commentary (Müller), 169, 199n17

Anderson, Perry, 357, 361, 369 Andreev, Leonid, 151 Anikst, Aleksandr, 139–40 Anouilh, Jean, 158 Antigone (Sophocles), 205 Antonovych, Dmytro, 18 Appia, Adolphe, 19 Ariel (Rodó), 308–11 Aristocrats, The (Aristokraty) (Pogodin), 142 Arrufat, Anton, 324–5n1 Artaud, Antonin, 167 Arutiunian, B., 123, 125 Ashcroft, Bill, 314, 319, 326n7 Aspazija, 41 Astangov, Mikhail, 65–6 Authority and Representation in Early Modern Discourse (Weimann), 199n18 Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare’s Theatre (Weimann), 199n18, 347n1 Babanova, Mariia, 63, 65–6 Babarczy, László, 258–60 Bachelis, I., 82 Baer, Nancy van Norman, 35



Bakhtin, Mikhail, 316, 319, 323–4 Baltijus Zinj as, 48 Baniewicz, E., 242, 244 Barber, C.L., 341 Barthes, Roland, 193 Barton, John, 167, 251 Basov, Viktor, 69–70, 73, 76 Batista, Fulgencia, 318 Battle of Berlin, 143 Bauer, Roger, 173n4 Bazhan, Mykola, 20, 75–6 Beckett, Samuel, 167 Bécsy, Tamás, 262, 267 Beethoven, Ludwig von, 22 Beijing Film Institute, 277 Beilin, A., 154n1 Bekhterov, I., 122 Belenkii, Moisei, 82n14 Bell, Daniel, 367n2 Bennewitz, Fritz, 169–70, 331 Berezil Artistic Association, 21–2, 29–30, 32–4, 75 Berezkin, V., 154n2 Berger, Manfred, 199n9 Berliner Ensemble, 96, 167, 159, 179, 181, 186, 205 Berlin Wall, 157–76 passim, 181, 213, 206 Bernhardt, Sarah, 13 Bernstein, Eduard, 367n6 Berry Edward, 292, 301 B rzinjš (Behrsinsch), Arturs, 45 Besson, Benno, 169, 189–90, 192, 199nn15, 16, 334–40, 342, 344, 347n1 Besson, Pierre, 191 Bethell, S.L., 341 Beverley, John, 325n3 Bevington, David, 359, 365–6 Bian Zhilin, 292, 296, 300n1, 301n6

Biermann, Wolf, 188 Birgel, Willi, 127 Bismarck, Otto von, 166 Bitterfeld Conference, Second, 182 Bitterfeld Weg (Bitterfeld Way), 180–2 Blagoobrazov, V.S., 99 Blavatskii, Volodymyr, 126–7, 129–31, 133n2 Blinn, Hansjürgen, 167 Bochum Schauspielhaus, 246 Bogácsi, Erzsébet, 258, 267 Boiadzhiev, 96 Bokshanskaia, Olga, 61 Bolshevism, 4, 13, 17, 19, 38, 43, 46, 86, 90–1, 129, 154n4 Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, 63 Bonjour, Laurence, 243n2 Boose, Lynda, 358–9, 369 Bork, Kurt, 186 Boshyk, Yury, 125 Bourdieu, Pierre, 354, 359 Bradshaw, Graham, 353–4, 367n5 Brandt, Willy, 192 Brannigan, John, 367n5 Braque, Georges, 23 Braun, Kazimierz, 228 Brecht, Bertolt, 86, 159–60, 167–9, 179, 181, 183, 185–8, 192, 199n10, 205, 234, 324n1, 334, 341 Bremer Shakespeare Company, 170 Bren, Paulina, 267n9 Brest-Litovsk treaty, 44 Breth, Andrea, 170 Breughel, Pieter, 96 Breve historia (Leal), 325n2 Brezhnev, Leonid, 213, 216 Bristol, Michael, 360, 369 Brockhaus, Heinrich, 69 Broich, Margarete, 196

Index 383 Brook, Peter, 153, 160, 168 Brown, Ben, 89 Brunkhorst, Martin, 159 Bruno, Giordana, 141 Buchma, Amvrosii, 27–8 Buddhism, 287 Bulgakov, Mikhail, 105 Bullock, Alan, 119–20 Burbage, Richard, 185 Burckhardt, Sigurd, 223–4 Burdzhalian, Arshan, 124–5 Busheuva, Svetlana, 74, 76 Byron, Lord George, 18, 22 Caesarism, 51–2 Calederón, Pedro, 106 Calhoun, Craig, 356 Caliban: Suite de ‘La Tempête’ (Renan), 310 Caliban and Other Essays (Retamar), 325–6n6 Callaghan, Dympna, 350 Camus, Albert, 158 Canaris, Volker June, 173n6, 199n16 Cao Weifeng, 279, 301n5 Cao Yu, 279 Carrió, Raquel, 307, 317–24, 352 Carroll, William C., 226–7n3 Carter, Huntley, 88 Casa de las Américas, 311 Caspar, Horst, 180 Castorf, Frank, 199n17, 209 Castro, Fidel, 307–27 passim Cawthorne, Andrew, 321–2, 326 Central Committee, Eleventh Plenary Session of (East Germany), 188, 194 Central Committee of the Communist Party, 146 Central Committee for the Control

of the Repertoire in the USSR, 31 Central Red Army Theatre, 87, 93, 98–9, 107–8, 112 Central Translation Bureau, China, 280–1 Certeau, Michel de, 267n8 Césaire, Aimé, 313 Cézanne, Paul, 28 Chamber Theatre (Moscow), 142 Chang Siyang, 286, 302 Charles University, 8, 222 Chaucer, Geoffrey, 287 Cheban, Aleksandr, 86 Chechel, Natalia, 82n14 Chekhov, Anton, 89, 139, 146 Chekhov, Mikhail, 51 Chen Jia, 273, 289–90, 292, 294, 296, 301 Chernyshevskii, Nikolai, 146 Cherry Orchard, The (Chekhov), 139 Chinese Central Drama Academy, 277 Chukovskii, Kornei, 70 Churchill, Sir Winston, 136 Chushkin, N.N., 121 Chystiakova, Valentyna, 19, 21 Cielens, Felix, 41 Circus, The, 81n Clayton, Douglas J., 88 Clemen, Wolfgang, 163 Cobbett, William, 148 Cohen, Walter, 353, 358, 360–1, 367n5, Colebrook, Claire, 367n5 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 148 Collins, Randall, 356, 359, 365 Columbus, Christopher, 314 Commedia dell’arte, 68, 86, 88–90, 222, 320 Committee for Artistic Affairs



(Komitet po delam iskusstva) (Russia), 138, 142 Communist Party, 17, 91, 147, 229 Communist Party, Central Committee, 29, 56 Communist Youth Association, Hungary, 254 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Zhu), 270 ‘Concerning the Repertoire of Drama Theatres and the Means for Its Improvement’ (All-Union Communist Party), 132 Confucianism, 276, 287, 293 Confucius, 293 Coriolanus (Brecht), 159 Coriolanus (Hollmann adaptation), 167–8 Corneille, Pierre, 229 Craig, Edward Gordon, 18, 78, 88 Crime and Punishment (Dostoievski), 139 Csomós, Mari, 261–2 Cuadrado, Clara Yu, 287, 301 Cultural Revolution, Great Proletarian, 213, 270–1, 278, 280, 289, 296, 299, 351 Cultural Revolution, Ukraine, 31 Cyprian Feast, 323–4 Czeizel, Gábor, 264 Dai Xing Dong, 273–4, 282 Dangva, 53 Danny, 277 Darió, Rubén, 309 Darwin, Charles, 18 ‘Das Theater Shakespeare’ (Brecht), 199n10 Deinhardstein, Johann, 47 Delany, Paul, 368n8

Demetz, Peter, 166 Deng Xiao Ping, 280, 300n1 Denikin, Anton, 19 Derrida, Jacques, 354, 363, 367–8n7 Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft, 117, 162–4 Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft West, 162, 173 Deutsches Theater, 179, 186, 193–4 199n17 Devil’s Disciple, The (Shaw), 19 Dinamov, Sergei, 56, 81n1 Direktion für Buhnenrepertoire, 177, 333 Disciplining Feminism: From Social Activism to Academic Discourse (Messer-Davidow), 364 Divided Heritage: Conflicting Appropriations of Shakespeare in (East) Germany (Weimann), 347n3 Dobrjanskaya, Liubov, 107 Dobrovolska, Olympia, 19 Doctor Faustus (Marlowe), 333 Doctors’ Plot, 141 Dollimore, Jonathan, 285, 352, 360 Doll’s House, A (Ibsen), 90 Domján, Edit, 250 Domostroi, 91 Dostoievskii, Fiodor, 139 Drakakis, John, 346 Drama of a Nation (Cohen), 361 Drama Theatre (Moscow), 142, 153 Drescher, Piet, 205–9 Dresen, Adolf, 183–8, 194, 199nn11, 12, 13, 334 Drewniak, Bogus aw, 133n4 Dub ek, Alexander, 216 Dubrovskii, V.Ia., 140 Dürer, Albrecht, 170 Durkheim, Emile, 354

Index 385 Dürrenmatt, Friedrich, 159 Durylin, S., 72 Dzhugashvili, Iosif (Stalin), 120 Derrida, Jacques, 354, 363, 367 Eagleton, Terry, 361–2, 369n11 East Berlin Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, 159 East German Shakespeare Society, 331, 346, 352 Efron, 69 Efros, Anatolii, 139 Eisenstein, Sergei, 91 Electra Garrigó (Piñera), 325 ‘El Triunfo de Calibán’ (Darío), 309 Eliot, T.S., 158, 287 Elizabeth I, 216, 247 Engel, Wolfgang, 199n17 Engels, Friedrich, 5, 38, 54, 57, 59, 94, 164, 166, 170, 182, 272, 279, 288, 296–9, 301n5, 367n4 Erasmus, Desiderius, 206 Ermolova, Maria, 101n2 Ermolova Theatre (Moscow), 109, 111 Escambray Theatre Company (Cuba), 318 Essex, Earl of, 247 Evreinov, Nikolai, 86 Fadeev, Konstantin, 147 Farády, István, 256 Fascism, 49, 121, 232 Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), 158, 162, 167, 179, 195 Fedotova, G.N., 85, 101n2 Fehling, Jürgen, 160 Felperin, Howard, 350, 353–4 Ferau, Rudolph, 127 Ferry-boat Girl, The (Lodochnitsa) (Pogodin), 143

Field Marshall Kutuzov (Soloviov), 122 Fik, Marta, 234–45, 237 Filipowicz, H., 241 Finkelstein, Sidney, 368n8 First World War, 3, 15, 20, 42–3, 119, 122 Fish, Stanley, 354, 363–4 Five-Year Plans, 93 Flaubert, Gustave, 148 Fletcher, Giles, 105 Florio, John, 314 Flower, Sir Archibald, 51 Földényi, Lásló F., 266 Fonvizin, Denis, 90 Formalism, 73–4 Foucault, Michel, 360–1 France, Anatole, 148 Franz von Sickingen (Lassalle), 296 Freiligrath, Ferdinand, 165, 178, 183, 194 Freindberg, O., 108 Freud, Sigmund, 22, 117, 183 Friche, V., 106 Fried, Erich, 171 Frisch, Max, 159 Front, The (Korniichuk), 123 Frühling, J., 173n2 Fry, Christopher, 158 Fuchs, Georg, 19 Fuentes, Carlos, 309–10 Furness, H.H., 216 Galery, Maria Clara Versiani, 352 Gallagher, Catherine, 355, 357 Galsworthy, John, 19 Gamlet, 154nn5, 6, 8 Gang of Four, 271, 278 (gantner) (pseud.), 252 García Lorca, Federico, 205, 324n1



Garnett, Sherman W., 10n6 Gauguin, Paul, 22 General Briusylov, 132 Genêt, Jean, 158 Gergely Csiky Theatre (Hungary), 267n5 German Democratic Republic (GDR), 117, 158, 162–4, 167, 169, 171–2, 178–82, 186, 188, 192, 194–7, 205–6, 208 Gj rmanis, Uldis, 38–9, 44, 50 German Shakespeare Society, 181 German Social Democratic party, 367n6 Gerould, Daniel, 31 Gibi ska, Marta, 232 Giraudoux, Jean, 158 Gladkov, Aleksandr, 74 Gleason, Abbott, 34n1 Globe Theatre, The (London), 112 Gnedich, Piotr, 85–6, 101n1 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 18, 22, 127, 164–5, 182, 205, 332–3 Goffredo, Diana, 325n3 Goldman, Wendy Z., 92 Goldoni, Carlo, 105 Golub, Spencer, 91–2 Goluch, Ryszard, 243n5 Gomu ka, W adys aw, 237 Goncharov, Ivan, 146 Good Person of Setzuan, The (Brecht), 205 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 84, 219 Gorchakov, Nikolai A. 122 Göring, Hermann, 179, 198n5 Gorkii, Maxim, 3, 4, 32, 56–7, 59, 81n2, 90, 106, 142, 148, 213, 324n1 Gorkii Theatre (Russia), 99 Gozzi, Carlo, 93 Grady, Hugh, 361, 368n10

Gramsci, Antonio, 356 Granovskii, Alexei, 16 Grass, Günter, 160 Great Feast of Language, The (Carroll), 226–7n3 Great Purge (Russia), 93 Great Terror (Stalin), 61, 109, 112 Greenblatt, Stephen, 346, 354, 357–9 Greene, Gayle, 358, 360, 367–8n7, 368n8 Greif, Heinrich, 180 Greiner, Bernhard, 199–200n19 Grén, Zygmunt, 231–2, 244 Gr vinj , M ris, 51 Griffiths, Gareth, 314, 319, 326n7 Gris, Juan, 23 Grossman, L., 154n3 Groussac, Paul, 309–10 Groys, Boris, 31 Gründgens, Gustaf, 160 Guan Long, 288 Gudri , B., 39 Gudzuhn, Jörg, 197 Guillory, John, 353–4, 365 Gulag labour camps, 6, 54, 74 Gundolf, Friedrich, 164–6 Günther, Frank, 171 Günther, Matthias, 206–7 Guntner, Lawrence, 168, 170, 181, 183, 198, 199n16, 200n23, 332, 347 Gurvich, A., 100, 149 Gvozdev, A.A., 69 Gwisdek, Michael, 191, 340 Gysi, Klaus, 165 Haas, Azisa, 196, 200n22 Habicht, Werner, 133n3, 198n2, 352 Haidabura, Valerii, 125 Hajdú, Gábor Ráfis, 261 Hakkebush, Liubov, 25–6

Index 387 Halpern, Richard, 315–16, 325n4, 354–5, 360–3, 369n11 Hamburger, Maik, 168, 170–1, 180–3, 187–8, 196, 199nn8, 12, 16, 200n23, 334, 341, 343 ‘Hamlet’ (Freiligrath), 165, 178, 183, 194 ‘Hamlet in Ostberlin – und kein Ende’ (Weimann), 347n1 Hamlet/Machine (Müller), 193–4, 199n17, 200n19 Hamletmaschine (Müller), 169, 172, 193–4, 196 Hanmer, Sir Thomas, 343 Hans-Otto-Theater (Germany), 206–7 Hanuszkiewicz, Adam, 239 Harkness, Margaret, 297 Hartz, Louis, 367n2 Hastings, Lady Mary, 216 Hattaway, Michael, 226n1, 305 Hauptmann, Gerhart, 17 Hausmanis, V., 39 Haussmann, Leander, 172 Hauswald, G., 132 Havel, Václav, 225–6 Hawkes, David, 286, 302 Hawkes, Terence, 179, 341, 368n10 H.C. Tennant Company, 153 Heidegger, Martin, 337 Heine, Heinrich, 148 Heinz, Wolfgang, 186 Held Henry (Zadek), 168 Helias, Iaroslav, 132 Hentsch, Jürgen, 183, 185 Herbert, Zbigniew, 196 Herder, Johann, 164–5 Hilpert, Heinz, 160 Hirniak, Iosyp, 25, 126–8, 132, 133nn2, 3

Hitler, Adolf, 51, 113, 117, 122, 125, 127 Höfele, Andreas, 200n23 Hoffmeier, Dieter, 165 Hölderlin, Friedrich, 185 Holderness, Graham, 346 Hollman, Hans, 167–8 Holstun, James, 349–50, 360 Holz, Jürgen, 184–6 Honecker, Erich, 172, 188 Hortmann, Wilhelm, 173n7 Horváth, Jen , 264–6, 268 Houghton, Norris, 86 House of Bernada Alba, The (Lorca), 205 Howard, Jean E., 8, 346, 349, 353–8, 360–1, 363 Hruzbenko, S., 130 Hryhoriiv, Myroslav, 133n2 Hua Yijing, 289, 295 Hübchen, Henry, 344 Hulme, Peter, 314, 322–3, 325n5 Hungarian Theatre Institute, 250, 256, 262, 265 Huntingdon, Earl of, 216 Hus, Jan, 141 Ibsen, Henrik, 90 ‘Impure History of Ghosts, An’ (Siar), 362 Inaugural Chinese Shakespeare Festival, 278–9 Independent, The, 226 Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) (Cuba), 318 ‘Intermezzo Erdöl’ (Dresen), 199n13 International Revolutionary Theatre Society (Russia), 89 Ionesco, Eugène, 158 Iron Curtain, 3, 161, 197



Iron Flood, The (Zheleznyi potok) (Serafimovich), 142 Izvestiia, 43 Iufit, A.Z., 85 Iuzhin, 85 Iuzovskii, Iosif, 59, 65, 72, 181n6 Iuzovskii, Iu., 194 Ivan the Terrible, 216 Ivasivka, Mykhailo, 133n4 Jacoby, Russell, 351, 364–5, 367n3 Jäger, Manfred, 198n1 Jakab, Csaba, 265 Jameson, Fredric, 312, 361 Jaszcz (pseud.), 243n4 Jencks, Christopher, 365 Jesus Christ, 145 Ji Qi Ming, 277 Jósfay, György, 252 József Katona Theatre (Hungary), 255–6, 258, 262 (k) (pseud.), 258 Kadár, János, 249, 251, 254–5, 261, 264–7 Kafka, Franz, 109 Kaiser, Georg, 17 Kaiser Wilhelm, 44 Kalb, Jonathan, 192, 199–200n19 Kállai, Ferenc, 263 Kálmán, György, 262 Kamenov, V., 154n3 Kamernyi Theatre (Moscow), 86, 154n7 Kamps, Ivo, 360–1, 367nn4, 5 Kana, Vašek, 229 Kantor, Tadeusz, 231, 239 Karge, Manfred, 189–91, 335–6, 338, 340, 342, 344 Kavanagh, James H., 361

Kazimír, Károly, 250–5, 260 –kd– (pseud.), 258 Kenez, Peter, 122 Kennedy, Dennis, 10 Kermode, Frank, 314 Kersten, H., 173n2 Kéry, László, 248, 252 Khmelev, Nikolai, 109, 111 Khrushchev, Nikita, 7, 99, 132, 153, 213 Khrushchev Thaw, 99, 117, 140, 230 Khrystovyi, Mykola, 30 Khvylovyi, Mykola, 18 Kipp, Heide, 189 Kiršent le, I., 39 Kiss Me Kate (Porter, Spewack, and Spewack), 90 ‘Kleiner Organon’ (Brecht), 199n10 Klimova, L., 154n3 Knebel, Maria, 109, 111 ‘Koba’ (pseud.) Dzhugashvili, 120 Kollontai, Aleksandra, 91–3 Koltai, Tamás, 258, 260–1, 263, 266 Korniichuk, Oleksander, 122–3 Korsh theatre and Ars studio (Moscow), 86 Körszínház (Budapest), 250–4 Kortner, Fritz, 160 Kosyk, Volodymyr, 125 Kotas, Rszard, 236 Kott, Jan, 39, 167–9, 182, 213, 228, 235, 237, 239, 243nn1, 3, 255–60, 263, 267n4, 330 Kozakov, Mikhail, 153 Kozintsev, Grigorii, 108, 119 Kral, A.W., 230, 232 Kreyn, Ulf, 182 Krieger, Murray, 346 Kristóf, Tibor, 265

Index 389 K í , Karel, 218 Kucherenko, Zoia, 23 Kuckhoff, Armin-Gerd, 161, 180, 198n6, 199n16 Kudli ski, T., 231 Kulish, Panteleimon, 20, 23 Kultura Dva (Papernii), 68 Kundzinjš, K rlis, 50 Kurabelnik, Mark, 100–1 Kurbas, Les (Oleksander), 18–30, 33–4n2, 75, 77, 82nn12, 14, 117 Kürti, Pál, 254 Kustro , I., 240 Kyiv Dramatic Theatre (Kyidramte), 19 Lagmonovich, David, 310 Lamming, George, 313 Lane, Jeremy, 354 Lang, Alexander, 170 Langhoff, M., 170 Langhoff, Thomas, 170 Larson, Magali Sarfatti, 365 Lassalle, Ferdinand, 5, 57, 164, 296 Last Intellectuals, The (Jacoby), 364 Latvian Revolutionary Socialist Party, 46 Latvija, 39–40 Lause, Beate, 198n4 Lauten, Flora, 307, 317–24 Leal, Rine, 325n2, 327 Ledebur, Ruth von, 163, 173n3 Lee, Hugh K.S., 300n1 Leepinsch, Olgerts, 50 Lekov, 277 Lenin, Vladimir, 6, 13, 28, 38, 43, 86, 90–1, 141, 188, 356 Leningrad Comedy Theatre, 93 Leninism, 141, 163, 165, 271, 290, 339, 346, 362, 369n11

Lenin Komsomol (Young Communist League), 66–7 Lenskii, Aleksandr, 85, 101n2 Lenz, Carolyn Ruth Swift, 358 Leonard, Candyce, 317 Leopardi, Giacomo, 148 Lessing, Gotthold, 164–5, 179, 333, 341 Levin, M., 154n3 Levytska, Vera, 131, 133n2 Lewis, Tom, 360, 364, 369n11 Liang, 279 Li Fu Ning, 274, 282 Li Hong, 277, 282 Liebe, Ulrich, 198n4 Lieven, Anatol, 41 Life of Man, The (Zhizn cheloveka) (Andreev), 151 Link, The, 15 Linzer, Martin, 196, 200n20 Lipkovskaia, Evgeniia, 277 Lipset, Seymour Martin, 350, 367n2 Liszt, Franz, 22 Literature and Art (Literatura i iskusstvo), 121 Litovskii, O., 122 Liubimov, Iurii, 139 Lloyd, Brian, 356, 367n2, 369n11 Loomba, Ania, 326n7 Lorca. See García Lorca Lordkipanidze, N., 154n3 Love for Three Oranges (Meierkhold), 68 Lubianka prison, 33 Ludowy Theatre (Cracow), 228–30, 232, 235–8, 240, 242–3 Luce, Morton, 314 Lukina, T.A., 154n1 Lunacharskii, Anatolii, 13, 86 Lüthi, H.J., 198n2



Lutskii, Iurii, 124 Lviv Opera Theatre (LOT) (Ukraine), 125, 128–9 133n2 Lviv Theatre (Ukraine), 126–7 Luxemburg, Rosa, 356, 367n6 Lysenko, Mykola, 133n2 Macbeth (according to / after Shakespeare) (Müller and Tscholokowa), 169, 199n17 McCarthy, Joseph, 350 McLean, Andrew, 198, 332, 347 Macleod, Joseph, 100 Mäde, Hans-Dieter, 168, 182, 186, 195, 199n8 M.G.P., 253 Mahood, M.M., 339 Maiakovskii, Vladimir, 65, 86, 99 Maiakovskii Theatre (Moscow), 137, 140–1, 153 Majchrowski, Zbigniew, 241 Makaryk, Irena R., 34n2, 75, 82nn11, 12 Makhno, Nestor, 20 Malenkov, Georgii, 153 Malina, Jaroslav, 218 Malyi Theatre, Imperial, 69 Malyi Theatre, 71–2, 75, 82n13, 85 Mamontov, Iakiv, 15 Mandelshtam, Osip, 80 Mannoni, Octave, 308 Maoism, 271, 280–1, 283–6, 288 Mao Zedong, 213, 271, 278, 280, 283–4, 288, 299, 300nn1, 2, 3, 301n4, 352 Maretskaia, Vera, 100 Marianenko, Ivan, 24–6 Markov, Pavel A., 33–4, 88, 95 Marlowe, Christopher, 96–7, 333 Marowitz, Charles, 28

Marquardt, Fritz, 191, 344 Marriage of the Shrew, The (Sp atnieces prec bas), 53 Martí, José, 311, 325n2 Martin, Randy, 316–17 Martsevich, Eduard, 153 Marx, Karl, 5, 9, 10n4, 18, 38, 54, 57, 89, 90, 94, 97, 140, 152, 160–1, 163–7, 169, 171, 178, 182–3, 247, 271–4, 279–81, 288, 296–9, 301n5, 354–6, 363, 367n6, 368n10 Marxism, 5, 7–8, 10, 90–1, 160, 228–9, 237, 270–82 passim, 285–6, 288, 290–2, 294, 296, 300, 305, 332, 339, 346, 349–66 passim, 367nn4, 6, 7, 368nn8, 9, 10, 369n11 Marxist Shakespeares (ed. Howard and Shershow), 354 Mastny, Vojtech, 133n1 Matisse, Henri, 22 Medea en el espejo (Triana), 325n1 Meierkhold, Vsevolod I., 60, 68, 73–5, 81–2n10, 85–6, 96, 105, 117, 141–3, 147, 153 Melchinger, Siegfried, 163 Melianskii, Bohdan, 129 Melke, Martin, 199n17 Meller, Vadym, 21, 23 Mendelssohn, Felix, 112–13 Meng Weizai, 288, 302 Meng Xian Qiang, 280 Mennicken, Rainer, 173n5 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 367–8n7 Messer-Davidow, Ellen, 363–4, 372 Mészáros, Tamás, 258, 263 Michaelis, Rolf, 173n9 Michelsen, Peter, 166 Mikhoels, Solomon, 33, 60, 68, 75–80, 81n9, 82nn12, 13, 14, 147 Miklashevskii, Konstantin, 88

Index 391 Miller, Arthur, 158, 324n1 Milosz, Czeslaw, 109 Ministry of Culture (Poland), 242 Ministry of Culture (Russia), 138 Mitsishvili, Nikolo, 32, 213 Mittenzwei, Werner, 159, 162 Mnouchkine, Ariane, 168 Molìere, 105 Molière (Bulgakov), 105 Molotov, Vyacheslav, 52 Moninger, Markus, 173n7 Montag, Dieter, 344 Montaigne, Michel de, 314 Month in the Country, A (Turgenev), 139 Mordvinov, Nikolai, 100 Moreto, Agustin, 105 Morozov, Mikhail M., 96, 100–1, 229 Moskovskii Teatr Dramy, 154nn5, 8 Moscow Art Theatre, 64, 71–2, 88, 96, 105, 119; First Studio and Second Studio, 86, 88, 99, 105 Moscow Drama Theatre, 148 Moscow Institute of Dramatic Art, 101 Moscow State Jewish Theatre (GOSET), 33, 68, 75–6, 79–80 Moscow University, 155n11 Mother, The (Mat) (Gorkii), 142 Mother Courage (Mutter Courage) (Brecht), 159 Mousetrap, The (Troupe 31), 198n7 Mühe, Ulrich, 193–4 Muka ovský, Jan, 217 Müller, Gerda, 180 Müller, Heiner, 168–9, 172, 188, 192–4, 196, 199n17, 199–200n19, 200n20, 334 Muschg, Walter, 165, 198n2 Myszkowski, Francisczek, 232

Nánay, István, 257 Napoleonic Wars, 122 NARKOMPROS, Theatrical Section of, 85 Nashi dni, 130–1 Nathan the Wise (Lessing), 179 National Television University, 272 National Theatre (Czechoslovakia), 218 National Theatre (Hungary), 260, 262–3 National Theatre (Latvia), 42–3, 45–6, 49, 54 Nationaltheater (Weimar), 331–41 Native American, 310–12 Naturalism, 73–4 Naumann, Anna, 189, 199n16 Nazar Stodolia, 132 Nazi, 52, 125–8, 133, 151, 160, 180 Nazism, 125–7, 129, 133n4, 180, 231–2, 234 Neely, Carol Thomas, 353, 358–9 Nels, Sofia, 89, 97, 100 Németh, Antal, 246, 247–8, 260 Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vladimir, 60–1, 64, 78, 121, 143 Népszabadság, 252–3 New Culture Movement (China), 270 Newlin, Jeanne T., 8 Newton, Isaac, 18 Nicholas II, 38, 40 Nijinska, Bronislava, 21 Nijinsky, Vaclav, 21 Nikoliukin, Alexandr, 94 Nimchuk, Ivan, 126–7, 129, 131 Nixon, Rob, 308 N ssig, Manfred, 199n9 O’Casey, Sean, 159, 205 O’Connor, Marion F., 353



October (Eisenstein), 91 October Revolution (Odessa), 93 ‘Of Cannibals’ (Montaigne), 314 Okhlopkov, Nikolai, 136, 139–54, 154nn1, 8, 154–5n9, 155n11 Olesha, Iurii, 95 Olsewska, Izabella, 232 On the Repertoire of Dramatic Theatres and Measures for Their Improvement, 143 Open Door Policy, 271 Optimistic Tragedy (Optimisticheskaia tragediia) (Vishnevskii), 159 Oravecz, Imre, 261 Orlitskii, Iurii, 32 Orwell, George, 208, 217, 220, 223–4 Osborne, John, 158 Osipov, K., 122 Ostrovskii, Alexandr, 85, 90–1, 101n1, 148 Ostrovskii, Sergei, 141 Ostuzhev, Alexandr, 68, 70–2 Oszter, Sándor, 262 Otra Tempestad (Carrio), 307, 317–24, 352 Otwinowski, S., 234, 243n5 Our Days (Nashi dni), 131 Ozols, Alberts, 46 Padomju Jaunatne, 52 Palitzsch, Peter, 167, 173n5 Palladio, Andrea, 61 Pan-German Cultural Congress, First, 179 Papernii, Vladimir, 61, 68, 81n3 Parfenov, Alexandr, 8 Parkin, Frank, 356, 372 Parta Brusi e Karhana (Grinder Kurhan’s Brigade) (Kana), 229

Partisans in the Steppes of Ukraine (Korniichuk), 122–3 Pasternak, Boris, 108, 117, 121, 129, 148 Pazdrii, Bohdan, 131, 133n2 Peden, Margaret, Sayers, 309 Pennsylvania State University, The, 198 Pestovskii, Victor, 94, 107 Petersohn, Roland, 169, 199–200n19 Petrovskii, Andrei, 86 Pfister, Manfred, 198n2 Picasso, Pablo, 23, 28 Pimenov, Vladimir, 143, 148, 154–5n9 Piñera, Virgilio, 324–5n1 Pinter, Harold, 158, 167 Piotrovskii, Adrian, 106 Pipes, Richard, 34n1 Piscator, Erwin, 68 Pissemskii, Fyodor Andreevich, 216 Planchon, Roger, 169 Platonov, Andrei, 62 Pleasures of Exile, The (Lamming), 313 Plebejer proben den Aufstand, Die (Plebians Rehearse the Uprising) (Grass), 160 Plensners, Aleksandrs, 51 Pluchek, V., 154n3 Poetics of Primitive Accumulation, The (Halpern), 361 Pogány, Judit, 259 Pogodin, Nikolai, 57, 63, 142–3 Polish Theatre Convention (1949), 228 Political Shakespeare (Dollimore), 352 Pomianowski, J., 244 Popov, Aleksei, 63–5, 67, 81n5, 93–7, 99, 100–1, 107–8, 112–13 Popova, Anna, 67 Posudovskii, Pavlo, 123

Index 393 Pototskaia, Anastasiia Pavlovna, 82n14 Potter, David M., 367n2 Power of Forms in the English Renaissance, The (Greenblatt), 358 Powszechny Theatre (Warsaw), 235–6, 241 Prague Spring, 189, 217 Pravda, 74, 105 Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, 136 Price, Lawrence Marsden, 166 Princess Turandot (Vakhtangov), 93 Professional Correctness (Fish), 363–4 Prokofiev, Sergei, 63 Prolektor (pseud.) Shatulskyi, 23 Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization (Psychologie de la Colonisation) (Mannoni), 308 Prosser, Eleanor, 292, 302 Pryhodii, Mykhailo, 34n3 Przybo Julia, 31 Przybylski, Jerzy, 238 Pushkin, Aleksandr, 22, 59, 71, 108 Pylypenko, Natalia, 20, 27 Pyman, Avril, 10n1 Pysarevskyi, O., 32 Radek, Karl, 69, 72 Radlov, Sergei, 58, 63, 72–7, 80, 81n10, 82nn13, 15, 106 Radlova, Anna, 69, 70, 72–4 Rainis, J nis, 38–9, 41, 43, 49, 54 Rajhona, Adám, 258 Raun, Toivo U., 42 Razumovskii, A., 122 Realistic Theatre, 142 Red Army Theatre, 112 Red Roses for Me (O’Casey), 205 Reinhardt, Max, 18, 30, 90, 172

Renan, Ernest, 310 Repertory Index: A List of Works Permitted and Forbidden for Performance on the Stage, The, 31 Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The (Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui) (Brecht), 159 Retamar, Roberto Fernández, 307, 311–13, 315–19, 324, 325nn2, 3, 4, 325–6n6 Return from the K rm sse (Breughel), 96 Revenge of the Prince, 289, 291, 293–4, 297 Revolution, The, 16, 33–4, 34n3, 85–6, 153 Revolution (Cuba), 316, 325 Revolution (March 1917), 2, 13–15 Revolution (1905), 14, 17, 38–9, 43 Revolution (October 1917), 2, 13, 15, 90–1 Revolution, Twentieth Anniversary of (1937), 93 Revolutionary Model Plays, 278 Revutsky, Valerian, 123, 126 Ribbentrop, Joachim von, 52 Rideg, Gábor, 257, 269 R ga Dailes Theatre (R ga Art Theatre), 50–1, 53 R ga Russian Theatre, 49, 82n15 R gas Latviešu Theatre (Riga Latvian Theatre), 39, 43, 45, 47–9 Rijn, Rembrandt van, 22 Rischbieter, Henning, 169, 173n9 Rite of Spring (Stravinsky), 21 Ritzi, Rupert, 185 Robak, T., 234, 244 Robbers, The (Schiller), 70 Robin, Régine, 36 Rode-Ebeling, Herman, 46, 48



Rödel, Fritz, 199n9 Rodó, José Henrique, 308–11 Rolland, Romain, 148, 231 Romeo and Juliet (ballet) (Prokofiev and Radlov), 63 Roper, Derek, 226n1 Rothert, Jürgen, 338, 344 Roundheads and Peakheads (Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe) (Brecht), 159 Rowe, Eleanor, 121 Royal Shakespeare Company, 251 Rudnitskii, Konstantin, 16, 72, 81n7, 153 Rudnytskii, Mykhailo, 129 Rudolph, Johanna, 165–6 Rudolph II, 220 Rulin, Petro, 31–2 Russian-German Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 44 Russian People, The (Simonov), 123, 132 Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR), 120–1 Ruszt, József, 255–60 Ryan, Kiernan, 346, 367n5 Ryndin, Vadim F., 136–40, 143, 154n2 St Petersburg University, 68 Salinger, Leo, 347n2 Salvini, Tommaso, 70 Samarin, Roman, 10n1, 33, 94 Samoilov, Evgenii, 153 Samoilov, V., 140 Sancong Síde, 294 Sarlai, Imre, 262 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 158, 259 Savina, M.G., 85

Schaller, Rudolf, 171, 186 Schiller, Friedrich von, 16–17, 57, 61, 70, 165, 182, 332 Schlegel, Friedrich von, 127, 171, 280, 296–8 Schlösser, Anselm, 331 Schmitt, Saladin, 160 Schröder, Friedrich Ludwig, 165, 343 Schweikart, Hans, 160 Scofield, Paul, 153 Scriabin, Alexandr, 22 Second Reich, 166 Second World War, 6, 59, 85, 112, 117, 119, 125, 179, 237, 358 Selected Readings from Mao Zedong’s Works (Mao), 300n3 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung (Mao), 300n2 Sellner, Gustav Rudolf, 160 Semper Opera (Germany), 192 Serafimovich, Alexandr, 142 Seven Against Thebes (Aeschylus), 324–5n1 Shakespeare, a Marxist Interpretation (Smirnov), 90 Shakespeare among the Moderns (Halpern), 361 Shakespeare Association of America, 359–65 Shakespeare Conference (Moscow 1935), 73 Shakespeare und der deutsche Geist (Shakespeare and the German Spirit), 164 Shakespeare Jahrbuch (East), 171 Shakespeare und die Macht der Mimesis (Weimann), 199n18 Shakespeare Our Contemporary (Kott), 182

Index 395 Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology (Howard and O’Connor), 353 Shakespeare Survey, 187 Shakespeare und die Tradition des Volks-Theaters (Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater) (Weimann), 187, 334 Shakespeare and the Worlds of Communism Symposium, 198 Shakespearean Criticism in China (Meng), 280 Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (London), 318 ‘Shakespeare’s Life and His Major Works’ (Yang), 301n5 Shakespeare’s Memory (Stein), 168 Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Tu), 270 Shakespeare’s Talking Animals: Language in Drama and Society (Hawkes), 341 Shanghai Drama Company of Film Actors, 277 Shanghai Drama Institute, 277–8 Shanghai Film Drama Troupe, 277 Shanghai Film School, 277 Shanghai Shakespeare Festival, 289, 291, 293, 297 Shanghai Theatre Academy, 279 Shanor, Donald R., 121 Shasharovska, Eliza, 133n2 Shashibiya Beiju Sizhong (Zhilm), 301n6 Shatulskyi, Matvii, 23 Shaw, George Bernard, 17, 19 Shcherbyna, Volodymyr, 33 Shelest, Iulii, 33 Shershow, Scott Cutler, 349, 354–7, 363

Shevchenko, Taras, 22 Shevchenko State Theatre Museum, 24, 27 Shifrin, N.A., 87, 97–8, 112 Shtein, A.P. 147, 153 Shubinskii, N.P., 101n2 Shurbanov, Alexander, 347n1 Shvarts, Evgenii, 99 Siar, David, 360, 362–3 Siegel, Paul N., 368n8 Simon, Ferenc Gy, 254 Simonov, Ruben, 106, 123 Siniavskii, Andrei, 120 Skrypnyk, Mykola, 31 Skuszanka, Krystyna, 228–40, 242–3, 243n3 Smi g‘ is, Eduards, 50–1, 53 Smirnov, A.A., 90, 94, 140 Smith, David Nichol, 343 Smith, Marshall, 365 Smyshlaev, Valentin, 86, 88 Socialism, 45, 246–68 passim, 270–82 passim Socialist Realism, 62, 160, 251 Socialist Union Party, 163 Socialist Unity Party (East Germany), 178 Sokolov, V.A., 86 Sokolova, Boika, 226n1, 347n1 Solidarity movement (Poland), 242 Soloviov, Vladimir, 122 Soloviova, Inna, 62, 154n3 Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr, 81n2 Sombart, Werner, 367n2 Sonnemann, Emmie, 198n5 Sonnets (Shakespeare), 270, 275 Sophocles, 17 Sorge, Thomas, 172, 186–7 Southampton, Earl of, 247



Soviet Communist Party, Twentieth Congress of (1956), 230 Soviet Latvian Workers’ Theatre, 49 ‘Soviet style,’ 34 Soviet Writers, First Congress of (1934), 13, 32, 56–7, 60, 81n1, 196, 213 Soviet Writers, Union of, 121 Soviet Youth, 44 Sovremennik (Contemporary) Theatre-Studio (Moscow), 154 Spasskii, Iu., 83 Spekke, Arnolds, 45 Spengler, Oswald, 18 Stalin, Iosef, 3, 6, 7, 56–7, 61–2, 66, 72, 74, 89, 92, 96–7, 100, 104, 106, 117, 119–20, 122–4, 132, 133n1, 139–41, 143, 146–50, 178, 243n6 Stalinism, 6, 231–2, 234 Stanislavskii, Konstantin, 32, 60, 62, 69, 78, 81–2n10, 86, 93, 99, 144, 213–14, 277–8, 345 State Education Commission, 217 State Jewish Theatre. See Moscow State Jewish Theatre State Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinematic Arts (Ukraine), 26 State Pushkin Theatre (Petrograd) (formerly Imperial Alexandra Theatre, St Petersburg), 85 Steiger, Klaus Peter, 198n2, 199n8 Stein, A., 112 Stein, Katarina, 199n12 Stein, Peter, 168 Steiner, George, 346 Stellmacher, Wolfgang, 166 Stites, Richard, 33, 34n1, 40, 92, 125–6 Stolypin, Piotr, 40 Stötter, Antje, 336, 338, 340, 342, 344

Stravinsky, Igor, 21 Strehler, Giorgio, 168 St ibrný, Zden k, 8–9 Strife (Galsworthy), 19 Stroux, Karl-Heinz, 160 Struve, Gleb, 122 Stu ka, P teris, 43 Students, 53 Sundukian Theatre (Armenia), 124 Sun Zhijun, 291 Suvorov the Commander (Bekhterov and Razumovskii), 122 Symbolists, 151 Szakács, Eszter, 256 Szaniecki, Tadeusz, 232 Székely, Gábor, 260–4, 266 Székely, György, 247–8, 254 Szigligeti Theatre (Hungary), 264–5, 267 Tahi-Tóth, László, 250 Tairov, Alexandr, 86, 117, 142, 154n7 Takács, István, 263 ‘Talk to Music Workers’ (Mao), 301n4 Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art (Mao), 213, 283–4, 288, 300n2, 301n4, 352 Tamerlane (Marlowe), 96–7 Taming of the Shrew, The (Deinhardstein), 47 Taoism, 287 Tao Siyan, 292, 302 Tarján, Tamás, 261–2 Tarnavskii, Ostap, 135 Taylor, Brandon 10n3 Taylor, Gary, 359 Taylor, Richard, 10n5 Teatr (Moscow), 140, 148–9, 153 Teatr (Warsaw), 230

Index 397 Teatro Buendía (Cuba), 307, 318 Teatro Escambray (Cuba), 318 Teatro Estudio (Cuba), 318 Teatro YaYa (Cuba), 318 Tenschert, Joachim, 160 Theater heute, 169, 173n2 Theater der Zeit, 161, 173n8, 182 Theatre, The, 70 Théâtre de l’Est (Paris), 163 Theatre of the Far East (Moscow), 95 Theatre at Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz, Germany), 182, 185, 205–6 Théâtre des Nations, Bochum Schauspielhaus at (Paris), 246 Theatre of the October Revolution (Odessa), 93 Theatre of the Revolution (Moscow), 63, 107, 142 Theatre of Tragedy (Petrograd), 16 Theatre Union of Russia, Shakespearean Department, 58 Theatre in der Zeitenwende (Mittenzwei), 162 Theatrum Gedanense Foundation, 242 Theile, Wolfhard, 186 Theses about Theatre Criticism (Central Committee of the Communist Party), 29 31 Third Reich, 51, 158, 166 Thomas, Brook, 353–4, 367n5, 373 Thunderstorm (Groza) (Ostrovskii), 148 Tian Hua, 277 Timoszewicz, J., 230, 232 Tieck, Ludwig, 113, 127, 171 Tiffin, Helen, 314, 319, 326n7 Tillyard, E.M.W., 247 Titoism, 237

Tkacz, Virlana, 23 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 367n2 Tofolutti, Ezio, 189 Tolstoi, Leo, 16, 108 Topolnicka, A., 239, 245 Touraine, Alain, 365 Towards a World Commune, 68 Trabskii, A.Ia., 88 Tree, Herbert Beerbohm, 112 Treugutt, S., 231, 237, 239 Triana, José, 324–5n1 Trommler, Frank, 198n Trotskii, Leon, 91, 109 Troupe 31, 198n7 Trow, Martin, 365 Tscholokowa, Ginka, 199n17 Tu An, 270 Turgenev, Ivan, 139, 146 Turkevych, Lev, 133n2 Turner, Frederick Jackson, 367n2 Turner, John, 353 Turovskaia, Maia, 63, 65–7 Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (1956), 230 Tynan, Kenneth, 153 Tyshler, Alexandr, 76 Udvaros, Dorottya, 265 Ukraine Central Committee of the Communist Party, 29 Ukrainka, Lesia, 22 Ulanova, Galina, 63 Ulbricht, Walter, 181, 188 Ullrich, Peter, 183, 196, 198n2, 200n20 Ulmanis, K rlis, 46, 50–1 Une tempête (Césaire), 313 Union of Cuban Artists, 311 Union of Soviet Writers, 121 Urfaust (Goethe), 333



Urnov, M., 155n11 Vakhtangov, Evgenii, 86, 93, 99, 100 Vakhtangov Theatre (Moscow), 89, 100, 104–6, 136, 142 Van Gogh, Vincent, 22 Vasylko, Vasyl, 19–20, 28, 75 Vaughan, Alden T., 309, 314–15, 325n5, 327 Vaughan, Virginia Mason, 309, 314–15, 325n5, 327 Vega, Lope de, 105–6, 229 Veinbergs, Friedrich, 47–8 Velekhova, Nina, 154n1 Velenczey, István, 262 Veronese, Paolo, 22 Versailles, Treaty of, 44 Vértessy, Péter, 266, 269 Vickers, Brian, 367n5, 368n8 Vilsons, A., 39–41, 49, 51 Vishnevskii, Vsevolod E., 62, 159 Vitrina, La, 318 Volkonskii, Nikolai, 82n13 Volksbühne (Berlin), 190, 199n17, 334, 336, 338, 340, 342, 344 von Geldern, James, 30, 34n1 von Laue, Angela, 10n6 Von Laue, Theodore H., 10n6 Vsesoiuzna konsolidatsiia literatur, 34n3 Vynnychenko, Volodymyr, 17 Wacquant, Loïc, 354–5 Waiting for Godot (Beckett), 167 Walch, Eve, 171 Wangenheim, Gustav von, 180, 192, 194–5, 197, 198n7 Wang Shuhua, 300n1, 351–2 Wang Yi Qun, 277–8 War of the Roses, The (Barton), 167

Wayne, Don E., 353–4 Wayne, Valerie, 355, 358, 360, 367n5, 368n9 Weber, Carl, 194 Weber, Max, 354 Weigel, Alexander, 178, 183 Weimann, Robert, 169–71, 187–9, 192, 199nn14, 15, 16, 18, 347nn1, 3, 352 Weimar Republic, 179–80 Weimar Shakespeare Society, 162, 182, 346–7, 347n3 Wekwerth, Manfred, 160, 170, 199n15 Wendt, Ernst, 169 Wesker, Arnold, 158 West German Ruhrgebiet, 162 White, Hayden, 369n11 Wicht, Wolfgang, 199n12 Wieland, Christoph, 164, 333 Wiens, Renate, 198n4 Wilde, Oscar, 17 Wilder, Thornton, 158 Wilentz, Sean, 367n2 Williams, Raymond, 354 Williams, Tennessee, 158, 324n1 Wilson, Cecil, 155n10 Wilson, Robert, 171 Wolf, Christa, 206 Wolf, Friedrich, 179, 195–6 Women’s Department of the Communist Party (Zhenotdel/ Zhenskii otdel), 90–2 Wonder, Erich, 200n20 Woodyard, George W., 324–5n1 Workers’ Struggle, The (Str dnieku C nj a), 44 World Shakespeare Congress (West Berlin), 172, 358 Worrall, Nick, 154n1

Index 399 Wróblewski, A., 239 Wu Zhilan, 288, 302 Xu Bin, 272 Yalta Conference (1945), 241, 243 Yang Zhouhan, 286, 288–9, 296, 299– 300, 301n5 York House, 216 Yoruba culture, 317, 319–20 Young Communist League Young Guard, The (Molodaia gvardiia) (Fadeev), 147 Young Theatre (Kyiv), 19, 21 Zadek, Peter, 167–8, 173n6 Zavadskii, Iurii, 99–100 Zawistowski, Roman, 243n3 Zeffirelli, Franco, 169

Zelmatis, 43 Zhang Guohua, 291 Zhang Si Yang, 272 Zhang Xiao Yang, 272, 274–5, 277 Zhao Li, 288–9, 302 Zhao Zhigang, 289, 291, 293, 295, 297 Zhdanov, Andrei, 56, 146 Zhou En-Lai, 277 Zhu Sheng Hao, 270, 277 Zhu Weizhi, 274, 296–9 Zhu Xi Juan, 277–8 Zingerman, Boris, 78, 80 Zolotnitskii, D.I., 63, 69, 72–3 Zorkaia, N., 64–5, 81n5 Zó kiewski, Stefan, 229 Zotova, E.I., 154n1 urkowski, Andrzej, 239–40 Zuskin, Veniamin, 147

This page intentionally left blank

Index of Shakespearean Plays

Antony and Cleopatra, 18, 60, 278 As You Like It, 100, 109–11, 168–9, 173n6, 228, 274, 347n1 Coriolanus, 186, 188, 251, 278, 288 Hamlet, 18, 41, 47, 54, 60–2, 66, 68, 73–4, 78, 119–35 passim, 136–54 passim, 155n10, 156, 158, 160–1, 168, 170, 172, 177–98 passim, 198n2, 199nn15, 16, 17, 19, 200–4 passim, 206–9, 241, 243, 251, 272, 283–302 passim, 320, 322–3, 325n1, 334–5, 337, 339, 345, 347n1, 350 Henry IV, 168, 272 II Henry VI, 273 Henry VIII, 275 Julius Caesar, 39–41, 49–52, 54, 173n6, 251, 278, 288

Macbeth, 16, 18–28, 41, 47, 54, 61–2, 75, 82n11, 158, 181, 205–6, 208, 241, 278, 292, 322 Measure for Measure, 159, 173n6, 228, 230–3, 239, 234, 243 Merchant of Venice, The, 41–2, 84, 173n6, 271–2, 274, 276, 350 Merry Wives of Windsor, The, 54, 84, 94, 272, 350 Midsummer Night’s Dream, A, 18, 41, 84, 112–13, 161, 168, 170, 172, 188, 215, 241, 251 Much Ado about Nothing, 54, 61, 84, 89, 104, 106, 277–8 Othello, 41, 47, 49, 59–62, 68–76, 85, 142, 170, 173n6, 199n17, 209, 278, 289–90

King John, 163 King Lear, 18, 33, 41, 54, 60, 68, 75–80, 82n15, 85, 241, 268, 171, 173n6, 251, 278, 350

Richard II, 181 Richard III, 41, 158–60, 169–70, 173n6, 278 Romeo and Juliet, 18–19, 41, 47, 60–4, 66–8, 70, 81n5, 93, 106, 169, 188, 241, 275–7, 323, 349–50

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 217–19, 220–5, 227

Taming of the Shrew, The, 41–3, 45–7,


Index of Shakespearean Plays

49, 52–3, 61, 84–103 passim, 107–9, 158, 241 Tempest, The, 18, 84, 228, 235–9, 240–1, 283, 305, 314–15, 307–27 passim, 353 Timon of Athens, 18, 160, 164, 272–4 Titus Andronicus, 278–9

Troilus and Cressida, 158, 163, 169, 246–69 passim, 278 Twelfth Night, 18, 54, 84, 105, 160, 168, 170, 199n17, 228, 277 Two Gentlemen of Verona, 54, 278 Winter’s Tale, The, 173n6, 228