Take on ‘Hamlet’ exhibits Shakespeare’s cultural versatility

Fig6HamletandGravedigger

by Ashley Tuttle

tuttleas@mnstate.edu

MSUM Eurospring students had the opportunity to attend the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “Hamlet.” The show featured a nearly all-African cast, a notable shift from tradition. Before attending the production, the students were introduced to a long-standing tradition of using Shakespeare’s plays to highlight current events and contemporary cultural or political issues.

This interpretation of the piece successfully integrated two cultures. The theater company respected Shakespeare’s original script and plot, but added an African twist. Hamlet’s theme of power struggle (as well as revenge and allegiance) translated well into the adopted African context.

As someone who has traveled to East Africa and studied numerous sects of African culture, I found the production, punctuated by drums in the background and featuring costumes of colorful, traditional African garb, enlightening.

The production’s cultural overhaul is exemplary of how Shakespeare’s work continues to influence the world, a definite take-away from the Eurospring trip as a whole. 

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