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Shakespeare in South Africa

Stage Productions during the Apartheid Era


Rohan Quince

In 1946, Prime Minister Jan Smuts was impressed by a Coloured production of The Tempest. In 1971, President C. R. Swart nearly walked out of an Africanized Afrikaans version of King Lear. In 1975, Kwazulu Chief Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi was inspired by a Zulu Macbeth. How did Shakespeare’s plays intersect with South African history during the apartheid era? Rohan Quince briefly traces the theatrical history of Shakespeare in South Africa, focusing mainly on productions between 1946 and 1993, a period that saw first the tightening and finally dissolution of the apartheid system under the Nationalist government. Shakespeare was put to various uses to either endorse or subvert apartheid ideology. In this illuminating study, the author analyzes a number of key productions, placing them in their social, political, and historical contexts.