Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress, Tokyo, 1991ed. by Tetsuo Kishi and Roger Pringle and Stanley Wells (review)
- Comparative Drama
- Western Michigan University
- Volume 29, Number 3, Fall 1995
- pp. 411-413
- Additional Information
Reviews411 tions fails to persuade, and most readers will find the most important "imperial" feature of this book to be the pretty purple binding. LUIS R. GÁMEZ Western Michigan University Tetsuo Kishi, Roger Pringle, and Stanley Wells, eds. Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions: The Selected Proceedings ofthe International Shakespeare Association World Congress, Tokyo, 1991. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994. Pp. 379. As Ruth Nevo remarks, "there are many ways to interpret the topic of . . . Shakespeare and Cultural Traditions—especially the 'and'" (p. 350). The editors of this volume have taken a decidedly pluralistic approach to the topic, conceiving it as a big tent that can accommodate a range of international responses rather than as an occasion for debate on the loaded constituent terms—Shakespeare, culture, tradition—and their interrelations. It is probably significant that the collection is bracketed by papers addressing themes of wonder—Stephen Greenblatt's examination of Macbeth as an attempt "to reenchant the world" (p. 20) and Nevo's study ofthe "uncanny resemblance" (p. 350) between Hamlet and Freud's Rat Man—although the editors are silent on the significance ofthe presentation order. Greenblatt finds that Shakespeare shares some of the disenchanting skepticism of Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, but he argues that "Macbeth manifests a deep, intuitive recognition that the theater and witchcraft are both constructed on the boundary between fantasy and reality" (p. 32). Greenblatt wishes "to resist the recent tendency to conflate, even to collapse into one another, aesthetics, ethics, and politics" (p. 21), and in fact his interest in wonder effectively cordons off an aesthetic realm (ultimately Greenblatt sees Shakespeare "in the position of the witch" [p. 36]), justifying those who see Greenblatt retreating from the ethical and political implications of New Historicism. Nevo's concern with haunting intertextuality deconstructs notions of source and originality while maintaining a traditional psychoanalytical valuation of Freudian influence. She suggests how Hamlet shaped Freud's reading of Rat Man and how our reading of Hamlet is in turn shaped by an awareness of Freud's Rat Man. Nevo claims more widely that "such stereo-scopic scanning of texts across time . . . [provides] an emblem for the formation of cultural tradition" (p. 350). For most North American readers, the real value of this volume will be its pluralizing of the traditions with which Shakespeare interacts, its extension of Shakespeare's relevance across geographical space. So very wide-ranging are the topics considered that the editors have done a disservice in failing to organize the contents explicitly. The twenty-eight papers are presented without rubrics or groupings, and 412Comparative Drama while an implicit order can sometimes be glimpsed, the path from paper to paper sometimes becomes illusory or disappears altogether. Even if most readers will not be proceeding through the papers in the volume seriatim, grouping them into clusters or chapters would have enhanced their interactions and hence have offered a more complex and less dispersive sense of Shakespeare and/in/amid/against/between/through cultural traditions. In what follows I rely on the groupings most obvious to me; other organizational structures would be possible. An especially strong and intriguing set of papers explores connections between Japanese dramatic traditions and Shakespeare. Takashi Sasayama's comparison ofShakespearean tragedy with Japan's Bunraku or puppet theater, particularly the work of Monzaemon Chikamatsu, challenges readers to consider from a fresh perspective such large issues as dramatic use of narration and the arousal of emotion. The reliance on narration in traditional drama in Japanese is discussed by Toshihuko Shibata as well—along with taking note of the emotional reserve of the Japanese people. Different cultural traditions have produced "different assumptions about theater": "on the one hand the Japanese feel wonder at the infinite variety of voices in the plays, and on the other they are deeply moved when they encounter certain dramatic effects produced by the reticent and modest attitude of a character" (pp. 216-17). More specifically , Tetsuo Kishi explains why Japanese linguistic principles can mute the effect of Othello's suicide when the play is performed in translation and why the complexities of personal pronoun selection complicate the translator's task. For example, the choices of first and second person...