Shakespeare and Tragedy in South Africa: From Black Hamlet to A Dream Deferred

  • D Roux


This article starts with a somewhat naive question: what drives an identification with tragedy – and  Shakespeare‟s tragedies in particular – in the context of South African politics? The first part of the article  relates to the cultural dialectics of tragedy as a genre, its journeys across time and space as it is reworked to  serve different purposes, to constitute distinct publics and to enframe new social and historical realities. The  second part presents a case study: Mark Gevisser‟s biography of Thabo Mbeki, A Dream Deferred, which  presents Mbeki as a Coriolanus-like figure. This aspect of the book has drawn criticism from South African commentators. The article considers Gevisser‟s construction of a tragic narrative architecture around the putative sympathy between a politician and a literary character. Finally, it offers a reading of Coriolanus as a  tragedy that speaks to the very crisis of interpretation that is provoked by the itinerant, labile condition of the genre of tragedy itself.

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eISSN: 1011-582X