Shakespeare in the World : Cross-Cultural Adaptation in Europe and Colonial India, 1850-1900 book cover
1st Edition

Shakespeare in the World
Cross-Cultural Adaptation in Europe and Colonial India, 1850-1900

ISBN 9780367568863
Published October 16, 2020 by Routledge
263 Pages

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Book Description

Shakespeare in the World traces the reception histories and adaptations of Shakespeare in the nineteenth century, when his works became well-known to non-Anglophone communities in both Europe and colonial India. Sen provides thorough and searching examinations of nineteenth-century theatrical, operatic, novelistic, and prose adaptations that are still read and performed, in order to argue that, crucial to the transmission and appeal of Shakespeare’s plays were the adaptations they generated in a wide range of media. These adaptations, in turn, made the absorption of the plays into different "national" cultural traditions possible, contributing to the development of "nationalist cosmopolitanisms" in the receiving cultures. Sen challenges the customary reading of Shakespeare reception in terms of "hegemony" and "mimicry," showing instead important parallels in the practices of Shakespeare adaptation in Europe and colonial India. Shakespeare in the World strikes a fine balance between the Bard’s iconicity and his colonial and post-colonial afterlives, and is an important contribution to Shakespeare studies.

Table of Contents

List of Musical Examples


Preliminary Notes


Shakespeare’s Reception in Non-Anglophone Cultures: Analytical Paradigms

 Theorising Shakespeare Reception Relationally

Shakespeare and “Nationalist Cosmopolitanism”

Adaptation Theory and Cross-Cultural Receptions of Shakespeare

The Case Studies: Patterns and Interconnections


1 Shakespeare Reception in France: Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet and Its Intertexts


Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Texts and Performances up to the Nineteenth Century

Hamlet in France: From Ducis to Dumas and Meurice

Thomas’s Hamlet as Opera Lyrique

The Operatic Ophélie

The Afterlife of Thomas’s Hamlet

2 Nationalism and Aesthetic Self-Fashioning: Giuseppe

Verdi’s Otello


Jealousy and Vengeance in Othello and Otello (i): Racial Discourses

Jealousy and Vengeance in Othello and Otello (ii): Religious Discourses

Jealousy and Vengeance in Othello and Otello (iii): The Pressures of Patriarchy

Verdi’s Musical Choices and the Subversion of Racial Stereotypes regarding Jealousy



3 Challenging the Civilising Mission: Responses to The Tempest by Bankimchandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore


Bankim and Bengali Literature After 1857

Bankim’s Life and Literary Career

Kapālakunḍalā: Plot and Intertexts

The Tempest, Kapālakunḍalā, and Women in Nineteenth-Century Bengal (i): A Historical Perspective

The Tempest, Kapālakunḍalā, and Women in Nineteenth-Century Bengal (ii): A Symbolic Perspective

Bankim, Tagore, and the Reception History of The Tempest

4 Two Contrasting Cases of Transculturation of Shakespeare From Nineteenth-Century Bengal: Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar’s Bhrāntivilās and Girishchandra Ghosh’s Macbeth


Part I: Vidyasagar’s Bhrāntivilās

Life and Times of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

Rereading The Comedy of Errors: Bhrāntivilās and Its Intertexts

Bhrāntivilās and Feminist Readings of Errors

Part II: Girishchandra Ghosh’s Macbeth

The Life and Career of Girishchandra Ghosh

Girishchandra Ghosh’s Macbeth: A Case of Colonial Mimicry?




Adaptation Studies: Synchronic and Diachronic Approaches

Nationalist Cosmopolitanism and Post-Colonial Mimicry

Cross-Cultural Shakespeare and New Analytical Frameworks

Appendix 1 “Imitation”

Appendix 2 “Śakuntalā, Miranda, and Desdemona”



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Suddhaseel Sen is Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Bombay. He has a PhD in English (Collaborative Programme in South Asian Studies) from the University of Toronto and a second PhD in Musicology from Stanford University. Sen has been a Research Fellow for the Balzan Research Project, Towards a Global History of Music, directed by Reinhard Strohm. His publications include essays on Shakespeare adaptations; cross-cultural exchanges between Indian and British musicians; Richard Wagner and German Orientalism; nineteenth-century Bengali literature and culture; and films by Satyajit Ray and Vishal Bhardwaj, among others.


“This comparative and interdisciplinary study of the historical spread of

Shakespeare among non-Anglophone nations in Europe and India sheds

important new light on individual novelistic, operatic, and dramatic adaptations,

while at the same time both theorising a major revision to postcolonial thinking

and offering a new vision for Shakespeare studies. Sen’s concept of ‘performative

transculturation’ allows for a welcome and more encompassing vision of artistic

innovation over time and across cultures. He complicates simple binaries,

especially of European/Indian acceptance or rejection of Western culture/

Shakespeare, revealing instead the rich middle ground in between these extremes

of reception. In the process, Sen’s innovative ‘relational’ approach to reading

cross-cultural adaptations also makes a major contribution to adaptation theory.”

Linda Hutcheon

University Professor Emeritus, English

and Comparative Literature

University of Toronto


Shakespeare in the World is a notable contribution to Shakespeare studies in

general, and the study of Shakespeare in non-Anglophone, non-Western, post/

colonial locations in particular, because it traces the afterlife of Shakespeare’s

plays in the genres of drama/theatre and opera in Indian as well as European

languages. In his immersive use of adaptation studies for this purpose,

Suddhaseel Sen effectively deconstructs the paradigms of ‘hegemony,’ ‘conquest,’

‘subalternity,’ ‘subjection,’ ‘mimicry,’ and ‘vernacular’ cultural expression that

have dominated the study of colonial power relations, the presence of English, and

the dissemination of the English literary canon in India. He then offers counterconcepts

such as ‘nationalist cosmopolitanisms,’ ‘performative transculturation,’

‘artistic self-fashioning,’ and ‘epistemic decolonisation’ to construct and present

an alternative narrative of cultural relations. These moves imply a refreshing

restoration of agency to the colonial subject, and a recognition of multiple layers

of complexity in the reception and absorption of a ‘universal’ figure such as


Aparna Dharwadker

Professor of English and Interdisciplinary

Theatre Studies

University of Wisconsin-Madison