Brief encounters

Michael Chekhov and Shakespeare

Authored by: Laurence Senelick

The Routledge Companion to Michael Chekhov

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415710183
eBook ISBN: 9781315716398
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506867


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Russians under the Empire saw Shakespeare through a glass darkly. Misleading translations and adaptations, German philosophy and pedantry, and the tours of barnstorming tragedians resulted in a skewed view of the English writer. Although lip service was paid to his greatness as a playwright, barely a dozen of his plays were fixtures in the Russian repertoire. Of the tragedies, Hamlet was most frequently performed, with Othello and King Lear not far behind. Of the comedies, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado about Nothing, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice appeared on state-subsidized stages, but rarely elsewhere. The occasional production of Richard III or The Tempest or Midsummer Summer Night’s Dream might be mounted as a novelty, but had no shelf life. The motive force behind the staging of Shakespeare was usually an actor’s desire to sink his teeth into a juicy role (Alekseyev 1965).

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