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October 27, 2005

Shakespeare in the Bush

"I told you that if we k new more about Europeans, we would find they really were very like us. In our our country also," he added to me, "the younger brother marries the elder brother's widow and becomes the father of his children."

This line caught my attention more than any other. It proved his English friend right. Different cultures cannot, in fact, interpret Shakespeare properly. It's a matter of context.

After hearing what would be considered a Eurpoean faux pax, committed by Claudius, the tribe affirms his actions as right. With this misunderstanding of culture, how then can the rest of the play make sense. Without thinking of it any further, they will dismiss Hamlet as crazy for no reason. The play takes on an entirely different meaning. The cultural differences are too great, and the interpretation too choppy for the elder's to understand the story. They are unable to read between the lines.

While an african tribe may not be able to understand contextual clues due to culture, differences in the English and American Cultures are not quite so dramatic. I think that Americans can probably understand Shakespeare just as well as any Englishman, as long as they know the basic history and culture of 15th century England.

Posted by DavidDenninger at October 27, 2005 11:22 PM

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