Goldsmiths, University of London, 2022
This thesis explores the mechanism of cultural translations of Shakespeare’s plays, which have been frequently performed in Korea and Japan from 2000 to 2014. I particularly focus on the theatrical aesthetic of performers’ bodies to investigate how modern Korean and Japanese directors perceive their own cultural and social contexts as well as Shakespeare’s text. Rather than emphasising the theatrical effect of Shakespeare’s poetic language, modern Korean and Japanese directors have been more concerned with constructing the presence of the actor/character for the history of a theatrical aesthetic emphasising performers’ physical sensibility. In this context, as a symbolic form, the performers’ bodies allow us to re-examine the value of traditional practice and the notion of cultural identity while exploring new ways of performing Shakespeare in line with contemporary audience expectations. Historically, Korea and Japan share several critical moments in adapting Shakespeare from its translation during the period of Japanese colonisation to the dynamic changes of theatre forms and acting styles influenced by avant-garde movements. In many ways, however, Korean and Japanese directors have pursued different approaches in performing Shakespeare based on their indigenous theatrical conventions and cultural contexts. By examining the performers’ physical presentation in eight productions of Shakespeare’s two comedies – A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night – in Korea and Japan, this thesis attempts to deal with two main subjects: the cultural psychology that motivates the directors to portray supernatural aspects of human life; and the concept of gender and sexuality by studying performers’ physical expressions and their semiotic meanings in relation to particular cultural contexts. Through a comparative study between Korean and Japanese productions, this thesis shows how these subjects are explored by each director, looking at the cultural meanings behind their different attitudes and vision in adapting Shakespeare’s plays for a modern theatre.