All the World’s a Stage: Shakespeare and Taiwan

The following review appeared in today’s Taipei Times:

A few years ago, I attended a Shakespeare workshop in Taipei. As someone who only began to appreciate the Bard outside the classroom, I was excited. Several Taiwanese were participating in the four-week course, and I was curious to see what they would make of it.

In the event, one quit after the first week, and others struggled with the language and, I suspect, the historical and cultural background to the soliloquies they chose. The experience got me wondering about Shakespeare\’s supposed universality. In this collection, Alexa Alice Joubin asserts a “deep connection among Asian and Anglophone performances” of Shakespeare. As her research interests included race, gender and identity, it is unsurprising to find these themes featuring prominently.

With women excluded from performing in the early modern era, gender fluidity was built into Shakespeare from the get-go. Prepubescent boys played the female roles, with Shakespeare even cunningly alluding to this through Cleopatra’s lament that future dramatizations of her life will see “Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness/In the posture of a whore.”

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