Shakespeare in the bush

I'm currently working on a story to read at Tight Lip on the 19th.  As background I flicked through Pierre Bayard's fantastic text How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read.  It's as good as I remember, and this time I decided to follow-up one its references, Shakespeare in the Bush.  This essay describes Laura Bohannan's disastrous attempt to tell the story of Hamlet to a tribe she was studying.

Bohannon starts out convinced that human nature is similar enough around the world that the  great tragedies should be possible for anyone to follow.  This doesn't turn out to be the case:

"The old man made soothing noises and himself poured me some more beer. 
"You tell the story well, and we are listening.  But it is clear that
the elders of your country have never told you what the story really
means.  No, don't interrupt!  We believe you when you say your marriage
customs are different, or your clothes and weapons.  but people are the
same everywhere; therefore, there are always witches and it is we, the
elders, who know how witches work.

The essay, with it's improvised retelling of Hamlet, is very funny while raising some fascinating questions.

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5 thoughts on “Shakespeare in the bush”

  1. Whereas your comments aren’t funny and don’t raise any questions. It’s as if you were struck down dead after that last sentence. Where’s the rest, where you say various interesting and intelligent things about Bohannon’s piece or the situation she found herself in?

  2. Marcel –
    Thanks for reading the blog and leaving a comment. daveph’s comment was interesting, relevant and funny to me. I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate the comment in the same way.
    But at the same time: where’s the rest of your comment: *your* interesting and intelligent observations on Bohannon, daveph’s post or my post (intended as little more than a signpost for people who read the blog who’d love the Bohannon piece).
    I appreciate your following the link, and leaving a comment. If you’d like to have a dialogue about Bohannon (or Bayard, which I could talk for hours about) then I’d be happy to do so.

  3. “daveph’s comment was interesting, relevant and funny to me. I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate the comment in the same way.”
    I wasn’t talking about daveph’s comment, I was talking about yours, where you say “The essay, with it’s improvised retelling of Hamlet, is very *funny* while raising some fascinating *questions*”. Duh.

  4. Marcel –
    Sorry about that – I didn’t read your comment carefully enough. Thank you for taking the time to correct me.
    It’s a little strange that this post still gets a couple of hits a week via google. I suspect most of them are from people who wanted to learn more about the Bohannon piece.
    My post was intended to point some friends to the essay who might not know it. It’s strange that it comes so high on google searches for ‘Shakespeare in the bush’. But I will take your suggestion into account and in future, I’try to say something a little more about things I point to.
    Thank you,

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