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Suddhaseel Sen

A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Graduate Department of English and the Collaborative Program in South Asian


University of Toronto

© Copyright by Suddhaseel Sen (2010)


Suddhaseel Sen Doctor of Philosophy Graduate Department of English and the Collaborative Program in South Asian Studies University of Toronto ABSTRACT This study considers the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted in crosscultural contexts from the nineteenth century to the present, specifically in Europe and India, through the media of opera and film. I bring into dialogue reception theory, adaptation studies, Shakespeare scholarship, musicology, film studies, and postcolonial theory in order to examine the mechanisms of Shakespeare’s reception in these two culturally diverse regions of the globe, and argue that there are significant parallels between European and Indian adaptations of Shakespeare. Despite the different cultural and political histories of the two regions, Shakespeare’s plays reached out to local audiences only when they were modified in order to make them relevant to the cultural and ideological concerns of the new audiences that were far removed from Shakespeare’s own. Moving away from understanding Shakespeare’s reception either in terms of the dramatist’s “universal appeal” or in terms of colonial instrumentality, as has usually been the case, I argue that such predetermined critical paradigms take away from what in Shakespeare various cultures have found truly valuable, truly affective. Moreover, I argue that the degree of transculturation, both with European and Indian adaptations, is greater when Shakespeare is adapted in media that involves performance, than when he is adapted in a purely verbal medium, such as translations. This process of indigenization through performance, one that I have termed “performative ii transculturation,” has opened up fresh avenues of cross-cultural exchange over the ages. The works I examine in detail are Ambroise Thomas’ opera Hamlet, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Otello, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar’s Bhrantibilash, a prose adaptation of The Comedy of Errors, and Vishal Bhardwaj’s films Maqbool and Omkara, based on Macbeth and Othello respectively.

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It was possible to work on my thesis because of a number of fellowships, awards, and travel grants – the Paul Foundation Award (India) for doctoral studies abroad, the University of Toronto Fellowship and Teaching Assistantship, Massey College Junior Fellowship, Sir Val Duncan Award (awarded by the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto), George C. Metcalf Research Grant (Victoria College of the University of Toronto), School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Travel Grant, University of Toronto Department of English Travel Grant, and the Massey College Travel Grant. I am deeply thankful to all these funding bodies, whose timely financial support made my research possible. I am also very grateful to the staff of the Toronto Public Library and libraries at the University of Toronto where I did most of my research work: Robarts (in particular, their interlibrary and audiovisual sections), St. Michael’s College, the Faculty of Music and, especially, Victoria College, where much of my thesis was written over succeeding summers.

I cannot express in words how supportive my supervisory committee has been over the entire duration of my doctoral work. No sooner did I arrive in Toronto than I heard unanimous praise from all about the legendary scholarship, generosity, promptness, and support provided by Linda Hutcheon to all her students. As my dissertation supervisor, she was exemplary in her intellectual engagement and the personal encouragement she provided without fail all throughout these years. She is the kind of supervisor “as dreams are made on,” and it has been my privilege to learn from her what a difference it can make if one’s supervisor is intellectually stimulating, professionally supportive, and unfailingly kind. I am also immensely thankful to Jill Levenson, whose critical acuity and constant encouragement made it a pleasure for me to learn from her and benefit from her advice. Equally, Caryl Clark

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been enriched in countless ways because of her feedback. They have also helped me, especially during my applications for travel and research grants, with a readiness and a sense of responsibility that taught me the myriad ways in which mentors can make a difference in the lives of their students. I am also very grateful to Lynne Magnusson, Deidre Lynch, and especially Daniel Fischlin, my external examiner, for their detailed feedback, and for questions and suggestions that have helped me conceive of new projects evolving from my dissertation.

I have benefited immensely from the inputs of some other leading academicians and scholars during the course of my work on this dissertation: Sukanta Chaudhuri, Poonam Trivedi, and Kathryn Hansen for my work on Shakespeare in India; Roger Parker for my chapter on Verdi; and Jean Chothia for the introductory chapter. Many thanks are also due to Michael Hutcheon, Donna Orwin, Chelva Kanaganayakam, Neil ten Kortenaar, John D.

Baird, and Mark Crimmins from the University of Toronto; Amlan Das Gupta, Supriya Chaudhuri, Malabika Sarkar, Indrani Halder, Swapan Chakravorty, Nilanjana Deb, and Abhijit Gupta from Jadavpur University; Sudeshna Chakraborty, who taught me and my fellow classmates how to read and love Shakespeare in school; Abraham Mazumder and Anita Hazra, whose wonderful teaching gifts made me fall in love with Western music;

Gaurab Gupta for helping me in countless ways during my application process for doctoral studies abroad; Kishore Chatterjee, Aveek Sen, Indranil Poddar, and Satyabrata Datta for providing me much-needed recordings, librettos, and critical material when I was in India preparing my dissertation proposal; and Kajari Biswas for introducing me to the Shakespeare adaptations of Vishal Bhardwaj. Kathleen and Joseph O’Connell were instrumental in

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brought to fruition a series of concerts related to my article: their collective support helped me to find a much-desired creative outlet for my academic work. My friends in Toronto, both within and outside the department, provided a solid bedrock of support: Pooja and Tarun, Rajit and Anjali, Sangram and Mahuya, Subrata and Jayashree, Jayita and Abhijit, Monali and Debesh, Srabani and Subho, Prasad and Shiela, Anindo, and Ghalib, I am truly thankful to all of you! A very special note of thanks to Alexander Rapoport, who not only let me audit

his highly engaging classes at the Faculty of Music, but also became a much-loved mentor:

he opened up several opportunities for creative work as a musician, and I shall always remember with special pleasure our discussions on life, music, and literature.

I am also immensely indebted to two people who, alas, are no more with us. Douglas Brooks, who accepted an abridged version of my chapter on Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet for publication in the Shakespeare Yearbook, shared my love for music, Shakespeare, and languages, and has been, so far, the only Shakespeare scholar with whom I could discuss Renaissance polyphony as well as aspects of editing Shakespeare in Hindi. Jiří Smrz, a dear friend whose knowledge of nineteenth-century opera and vocal music was second to none, made his rare collection of recordings freely available to me, including several that are not to be found in any university library in North America. A number of projects, such as studies of Shakespeare operas by Hermann Goetz and Zdeněk Fibich, which we planned to collaborate on, had to be abandoned due to his death, which was as sudden and untimely as Douglas’s, and I deeply miss them in this moment of happiness.

A special thank-you goes to my family. My aunt and her family in Seattle have constantly stayed in touch and provided emotional support. With her vast intellectual breadth

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transformed my academic and personal life since our first meeting six years ago. Her parents, too, have been wonderfully supportive, and I have been delighted by their good cheer, kindness and concern for both of us. My most abiding thanks go to Ma and Baba, who passed on their deep love for cinema, literature and, above all, music, to me. Unlike many other middle-class Indian parents, they encouraged me to pursue my interests, even if that involved taking risks, and have unfailingly supported me all through, whether it is with books and recordings, lessons in music and languages, or tickets to concerts and film screenings. Like Anu, they have enthusiastically read my entire dissertation, and have successfully tracked and sent me research material from India when I had given up all hope. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I dedicate this work to my wife and to my parents, without whom this dissertation would not have been possible.

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Sweet Swan of Avon, what a sight it were To see thee in our waters yet appear...

- Ben Jonson1 The reason why classic plays should have survived is that people have been exploiting them or even abusing them.... [T]he exploitation of it has secured classic drama a foothold, as only what stimulates people may endure.

- Bertolt Brecht2 Shakespeare, the quintessential English poet and dramatist, has been read, acted, translated, adapted, and alluded to so often, and in so many different cultures, that his global reach is now generally assumed to be greater than that of any other author.3 Ben Jonson seems to have anticipated the dual nature of the posthumous reputation of his famous fellow dramatist in his poem, “To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author, Mr.

William Shakespeare” which appeared in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works:

Shakespeare is both England’s most celebrated poet (as the quotation above implies) and, as the same poem states, “he was not of an age, but for all time” (l.43). Jonson’s words have been taken to imply Shakespeare’s transcendence in both historical and cultural terms: indeed, these latter words seem true to the point of being a cliché in the present day. As Gary Taylor has observed, “Shakespeare provides the best specimen in English, “To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare: And What He Hath Left Us” (1623), l. 71-2.

“Was die klassischen Stücke am Leben erhält, ist der Gebrauch, der von ihnen gemacht wird, selbst wenn es Miβbrauch ist.... Kurz, das Verkommen bekommt den klassischen Stücken, da nur lebt, was belebt” (Brecht 335-36; trans. and qtd. in Lin 18).

For a succinct overview of the many assumptions and misconceptions regarding Shakespeare’s global reputation, see Hawkes, “Shakespeare’s Afterlife” 571-81.

one of the best specimens in any language, for investigating the mechanisms of cultural renown” (5).

A closer reading of Jonson’s line, however, suggests that several assumptions are being tacitly made here. Jonson clearly saw Shakespeare as a dramatist of timeless significance, but in an age when England was just beginning its colonial exploits, could Jonson have also thought of Shakespeare’s work as something that could also transcend cultural differences? Could Jonson have also anticipated the rapid change in theatrical practices or changes of literary fashion, and its implications for Shakespeare’s posthumous reputation? If he did, would he have still regarded Shakespeare as the most universal among dramatists? Moreover, if Shakespeare’s plays are the classics among classics, do they, by the same token, get subjected to the “exploitation” or “abuse” that, according to Brecht, ensures the survival of classic plays? Is it Shakespeare’s work that people across the world get to know, or rather his name and aura? If Shakespeare’s plays have found worldwide audiences purely on their own merit, what is it about them that stimulates people all over the world? Is it their beauty of language, their plots, their themes, their stageworthiness, their adaptability, their cultural capital, or any combination of these factors that ensures their survival? Or are Shakespeare’s posthumous relevance and reputation inextricably tied to British imperialism, the emergence of English as the global lingua franca, and Shakespeare’s pre-eminence within the English literary canon?

If we assume that all these factors have their roles to play in ensuring Shakespeare’s posthumous reputation, then any study of Shakespeare’s reception across cultures should focus on, first, the ways in which Shakespeare’s reception has spread and second, on the outcomes of his reception in any given culture – in short, on the processes and the products of Shakespeare’s reception.4 Other approaches have emerged from the comfort zones of simpler (and more familiar) metanarratives. As Dennis Kennedy has pointed out, bardolatry, the canonization of Shakespeare as England’s greatest literary icon, has led some Anglophone critics to look upon Shakespeare’s popularity in other countries as an example of his “universal appeal” (2). Such critics have generally focused not on the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays have been recast over the ages, but on either the closeness of an adaptation to Shakespeare’s original,5 or as Edward Pechter puts it, “the consistency of the response record” to Shakespeare (8; emphasis in the original). On the other hand, non-Anglophone critics such as Gauri Viswanathan have shown the imbrications of colonial rule, English education in the colonies, and the ways in which Shakespeare was used in the colonies as an important tool of cultural hegemony.

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