In this article I will investigate why Shakespeare’s plays are sites of translationadaptation-appropriation par excellence for memetic propagation within and across cultures. I will explore one of Shakespeare’s most famous and beloved works, as well as one of his most adapted, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and refer to a number of adaptations, appropriations, variations or even evolutionary mutations, as one might call them in the terminology of gene and meme theory. What I am principally interested in, for the purpose of this article, is the question of relevance and applicability of memetic concepts to Shakespeare, himself one of the most significant cultural phenomena of the last 500 years. As arguably the most influential adapting and subsequently adapted author of all time, Shakespeare is ideal for the purposes of the present study. The sheer popularity, regularity of performance and cultural continuity of A Midsummer Night’s Dream makes it, along with Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, highly representative in its universality. I will refer to a number of diachronic appropriations and adaptations, including Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Benjamin Britten’s more faithful operatic version of the play and George Balanchine’s sumptuous 1962 ballet version based on Mendelssohn’s famous score. I will also discuss the current vogue for Asian adaptations of Shakespeare with a number of examples, focusing especially on Jung Ung Yang’s recent appropriation of Shakespeare’s Dream into a traditional Korean theatrical idiom for Seoul-based Yohangza Theatre Company.
© 2008 Intellect Ltd.
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