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Shakespeare and Chinese Drama Stage

Updated: 2014-12-02 10:21:16

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Shakespeare had extensive and profound influence upon Chinese dramas. His name first came toChinawith the missionaries in the mid-19th century. Later on, Yan Fu, Liang Qichao and Lu Xun also mentioned Shakespeare in their works. Shakespeare's first work known to the Chinese was the translated edition ofTales from Shakespeareby Charles Lamb. People in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) put forward the idea to attach importance to tragedy, and this was partly based on Shakespeare's tragedies.

The Chinese versions of Shakespeare's works began withHamletby Tian Han in 1921, and by the year 1949, there were up to 30 versions. Cao Weifeng planned to translate the corpora of Shakespeare but finally only finished 21 works. At the same time, Zhu Shenghao kept on this cause in spite of his extremely difficult conditions, and finally interpreted 27 operas before he died of disease. After the founding of the People's Republic ofChina, Shakespeare gained increasing popularity inChina. His works, especially the translatededitions, and works about him were studied in the classroom of opera universities as well as the academia and opera circle. With Zhu Wenhao's the complementary version of four posthumous manuscripts in 1954,A collection of Shakespeare operas,which had a total of 12 volumes with 31 operas, was published. In 1978, after comprehensive revision and a supplement of six historical operas, sonnets and other poems,Complete Works of Shakespearewas published with eleven volumes altogether, which was regarded as an important gift for the 400 anniversary of Shakespeare's birthday.

In 1889 and 1902, students inShanghaibegan to put Shakespeare's stories likeThe Merchant of Veniceon the stage. In 1911,OthelloandThe Lawyeresswere performed inShanghai. In 1913,The Quislingwas written according toHamlet(some said it wasMacbeth) to denounce the coronation of Yuan Shikai. Around May the Fourth Movement, a batch of adaptations of Shakespeare's operas appeared, but the content was not in line with the original works. In 1921, the Youth League of Beijing Yanjing UniversitystagedTwelfth Nightin the hall of Beijing Union Hospital and was quite well received. In the 1930s, with the appearance of translated editions, some of the amateur as well as professional troupes andNanjingNationalOperaSchoolsuccessively performed Shakespeare's works. In the 1940s, other genres of drama began to perform Shakespeare's works.

-- The Shakespeare's Theatre Festival in 1986

Thirteen dramas includingThe Merchant ofVenice, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear andOthello, etc., had been performed acrossChinasince 1949. From 1983 to 1985, The Shakespeare Research Center was established in the Central Academy of Drama, and Shakespeare Seminars were also founded inShanghaiandJilinProvince. In April 1986,the first Chinese Shakespeare's Theatre Festival was held simultaneously inShanghaiandBeijingand 28 operas were performed, among which 7 were in different forms of drama and opera. This festival had positive effects on introducing Shakespeare's works, promoting Chinese opera creation and theatric art, and improving the appreciation level of the audience.

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