Reponse paper to Anthropology Editions Essay #7: Shakespeare in the Bush

Essay by kaffeneUniversity, Bachelor'sA, December 2006

download word file, 2 pages 1.0

Significant Concept: Bohannan's article touches on a subject that is central to cultural anthropology, namely, one researcher taking advantage of appeared to be an opportunity to test her theory of comparative perspective out in the African bush. Specifically, Bohannan wanted to read Shakespeare to the natives to ascertain whether the "general plot and motivation of the greater tragedies would always be clear." As the indigenous peoples' reaction to Hamlet illustrates, this is not the case. Instead, the telling of the classic story allows a glimpse at how easily one can allow ethnocentric ideas to enter into - if not out and out define - expectations about how a given set of people ought to react to a literary piece, work of art, or sample of music. The African tribal members interjected and provided commentary about the plot as it was being described by Bonhannan, asking questions and seeking clarification about nuances that would likely escape the attention of a Western reader.

"Hamlet was a fool not to go to one skilled in reading omens and divining the truth in the first place," one tribal man offered up after hearing of the first ghostly visit. He continued, "[I]f there had been witchcraft in [Hamlet's father's death] then Hamlet could have called the elders to settle the matter" (49). From this, one begins to understand how significant a part of a given culture norms and values are, and how they respectively provide an element of necessary context for interpreting the actions of other people and defining societal priorities in light of what Bailey & People often refer to as the human variation between cultures. From the seemingly universal notion of how people ought to act in a given to the symbols used in Shakespeare's work, Bohannan's article reinforces the key...