The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0542 Thursday, 25 March 1999.
Date: Thursday, 25 Mar 1999 17:01:07 +0800
Subject: Shakespeare, Kane and me....er...us
Dear Shakespeare comrades;
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am teaching in Beijing, China. This is
an interesting experience in many ways - not least of which is being
forced to look at (and explain) my home culture and cultural artifacts
and traditions to students who are alternately baffled and fascinated by
Western (especially American) culture.
One recent example is a film class trying to make sense of "Citizen
Kane." This film is perceived as the ultimate expression of American
individualism. The Chinese view of this film is that Kane represents
near pure self-obsession and expression. Their evidence? Through-out the
movie there is a constant emphasis on "Me" and "I" while the word "we"
virtually never occurs. The Chinese value community, family and
nationhood - the sense of "we" or "us" is central to their outlook and
interpretation of everything. The American focus on the individual both
fascinates and horrifies them - they see is as delicious yet terrifying.
I usually think of "Citizen Kane" as very Shakespearean - yet now I see
it as very American. Does anyone know of any research into the
individual or "corporate" assumptions inherent in Shakespeare's plays?
Would it be fair to say that the tragedies (at least) pit the individual
against the community? To what end?
Macbeth strikes me as perhaps most "Kane-like" (in the sense of
individual pursuit of power at any cost to the community) - any other
thoughts on this?
Also, rumor has it that "Shakespeare in Love" will soon hit the streets
here in China on DVD. Should I grab a few extra copies (at about $3.00
plus a dollar or two for shipping).