Shakespeare in Southern Africa

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From Shakespearean singularity to singular Shakespeares: finding new names for will-in-the-world

Chris Thurman


This article reflects on the ways in which much of the terminology that is used to discuss Shakespearean manifestations around the world still operates, implicitly or explicitly, within the constraints of the discourse of universality. If scholars and theatre-makers seek to decolonise Shakespeare, ‘we need new names’ – or perhaps to find new meanings in the language that has previously been employed in the field of Shakespeare studies. The author thus explores the concept of singularity: both the historical relationship between Shakespearean singularity and universality, and the alternative paradigms that are made possible by focusing on ‘singular Shakespeares’ (with a particular emphasis on performance). If Shakespearean singularity pertains to an historical figure, or a body of literature, or a symbol, then singular Shakespeares describe Shakespeare as an experience, a phenomenon or a meaning constituted in the moment of interaction between actor(s) and each audience member. The notion of singular Shakespeares resists the biographical impetus that is ultimately behind the notion of universality; ‘Shakespeare’ is the means and not the end. The article concludes by applying its argument to Coriolanus in a South African context. Decolonising
AJOL African Journals Online