This week marks the 400th anniversary of the death of English playwright William Shakespeare, and this observance seems to be garnering even more attention among theater lovers in countries such as Mexico and Brazil than in Britain, the USA or other English-speaking nations. Here are some thoughts on this phenomenon as reported in theguardian.com.
Shakespeare is more popular and better understood in emerging economies such as Mexico, Brazil, India, China, and Turkey than he is in the UK, a new report for the British Council suggests.
A survey of 18,000 people in 15 countries reveals, for example, that 88% of surveyed Mexicans like Shakespeare, compared with only 59% of British people; 84% of Brazilians said they found him relevant to today’s world, compared with 57% in the UK; and 83% of Indians said they understood him, far more than the 58% of Britons.
Overall, Shakespeare’s popularity abroad stands at 65%, compared with 59% in the UK.
The research suggests it is experience of Shakespeare at school which plays the biggest part – studying the original text can put people off for life.
Rosemary Hilhorst, director of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives program, said most Britons were taught Shakespeare in his original English while abroad there were often translations which used a more contemporary, accessible language.
That conclusion would explain why the “do you like Shakespeare” figures are roughly the same among English-speaking countries – USA (63%), Australia (60%) and the UK (59%). In the top five are India (89%), Mexico (88%), Brazil (87%), Turkey (79%) and South Africa (73%).
The two nations with the lowest scores are France (51%), perhaps reflecting Voltaire’s description of Shakespeare’s works as “an enormous dunghill”, and Germany (44%).
Hilhorst said it was important to recognise Shakespeare’s global popularity. “We can often underestimate him,” she said. “It’s Elizabethan, it’s funny costumes, it’s all in the past, but actually the vast majority of education systems around the world do still have Shakespeare on the curriculum.
“People enjoy the stories, they take him seriously and many a politician will quote Shakespeare. We need to realise the fantastic archive we’ve got.”
The report, called All the World’s, was prepared as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme that is taking Shakespeare to more than 140 countries on an unprecedented scale.
The survey also found that Romeo and Juliet were Shakespeare’s best known characters and noted that people enjoyed and understood Shakespeare more when they saw a staged play or a film.
The research was commissioned by the British Council from the market research company YouGov and is one small part of a blizzard of events and performances being staged as part of the celebrations around the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, which reaches a peak this coming Saturday April 23.
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