Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Note: The People's Bard

Pellegrini, Nancy. The People's Bard: How China Made Shakespeare its Own. New York: Penguin, 2017.

I have time for just a quick few words on what turned out to be a very disappointing book—or pamphlet, really.

A book with the title The People's Bard: How China Made Shakespeare its Own should do what its title sets out to do. Instead, we are presented with a basic plot summary of Shakespeare in China. The introduction indicates that the book is for non-academics, but the book it largely rehashes, Alexander C. Y. Huang's Chinese Shakespeares: Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange (for which, q.v.), is entirely accessible by the general reader even though it also has an immense weight of scholarship behind it.

The book also cycles through the same material multiple times. We think a subject has been covered, but it comes back again—but without additional depth or much in the way of alternate angles on the material.

Here are a couple sample pages. In the first, we glimpse a bit of Shakespeare under Mao:




That's interesting and good, but it's all covered by Huang in a much more satisfactory manner.

The second sample is better, providing some examples of modern productions of Shakespeare in China and pointing toward the reason for interest in Shakespeare in China—his complexity in characterization.



Again, that's good material, but Huang does it better, more thoroughly, with more analysis, and with the same level of readability.

Click below and to the left to purchase the book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).
Better yet, click below and to the right to purchase Huang's book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

 

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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