Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

This Is, and Is Not, Shakespeare: A Japanese-Korean Transformation of Othello

Emi Hamana

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to address the critical impact of local Shakespeare on global Shakespeare by examining a Japanese-Korean adaptation of Othello. Incorporating elements of Korean shamanistic ritual and elements from Japanese noh to create a new reading of Shakespeare’s play with its special concern with Desdemona’s soul, the two theatres interact powerfully with each other. Local Shakespeare functions as a cultural catalyst for the two nations vexed with historical problems. By translating and relocating Shakespeare’s Othello in East Asia, the adaptation succeeds in recreating Shakespeare’s play for contemporary local audiences. In considering the adaptation, this paper explores the vital importance of local Shakespeare and local knowledge for the sake of global Shakespeare as a critical potential. The adaptation might evoke a divided response among a non-local audience. While on the one hand, it attempts to create an ‘original’ production of the Shakespeare play through employing the two Asian cultures, on the other, it employs the Shakespeare play as a conduit for their cultural exchange. This is, and is not, Shakespeare. The paper finally suggests that for all this ambivalence, the adaptation shows some respectful, if unfamiliar, feelings that could be shared by many people around the globe.

Keywords

Shakespeare, William; Theatre; Othello; Adaptation; Japan; Korea



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2012.25.14

Copyright (c) 2012 Emi Hamana

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