An East-west Contemplation: Adapting Shakespearean Plays to Cantonese Opera


Several attempts of having some well-known Shakespearean plays being adapted into Cantonese opera performances were seen over the last decade. The reason of this lies in the development of purely traditional Chinese art forms into an East-meets-West component for aesthetic sublimation. There are various aspects in common or in diversity pertaining to the form of expressions across performances, and the ways of dealing with drama dialogues and poetic rhetoric, not to mention the cultural concerns in mediating between the Western and Chinese genres. Drama and performances are somehow meticulously knitted with lyrical representations of poetry; poetry in turn conforms well to the dialogue-lyric-laden scenario of plays and operas. It is, therefore, inspiring to scrutinize the threefold relationship amongst the specific poetic structure, rhetorical features and their cultural implications when they are seen in these performable genres during the process of adaptation. These components are closely interlinked with, and are usually experiencing strong impacts towards each other. In reality, popular Shakespearean plays like Macbeth and Hamlet have been reformatted and restored as localized Cantonese opera titles (in 2012 and 2015 respectively), resulting from a breakaway of territorial and literary restrictions, and a merging of Eastern and Western essentials to supplement the original taste of these performances. For Chinese performance goers who are also familiar with English literary masterpieces, this creation subsequently transforms their knowledge. In spite of some criticisms received for such adaptations for being “something in-between”, it is still worthy of sensible discussions about the value of their existence.

Author Information
Kar Yue Chan, The Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2020
Stream: Literature

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Posted by amp21