Global Shakespeares Course Studies the Bard Beyond England

Players in a Shakespeare playTagore Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Chandigarh, India | The Tribune India

Ana Mancebo | Staff Writer

FIU’s Global Shakespeares course shows that Elizabethan classical drama has room for multiculturalism.

First taught by professor Vernon Dickson in the 2017 spring semester, Global Shakespeares explores adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays across many cultures.

Though most classical English literature taught in universities revolves around the cultural contexts of England, Global Shakespeares focuses on how other countries bring the playwright’s work to life and infuse culture into their performances.

“The course grew into an opportunity for students to see Shakespeare as a current, global figure, being used, re-used, played with, studied, and continually recreated throughout the world,” said Dickson.

By expanding the societal lenses through which students view Shakespeare, Global Shakespeares gives students the opportunity to relate to his plays in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have, had they been performed in the context of Elizabethan English traditions.

“It’s different from other English classes I’ve taken in the past because we studied the meaning of the texts as a whole and how they personally related to each of us,” said English major Annabella Baboun, who took the course in the 2023 Spring semester with professor James Sutton.

One performance particularly stirred students’ enthusiasm. An Argentinian adaptation of Twelfth Night sparked debate over what defined a “good adaptation.”

“Many of my classmates strongly disliked it because it wasn’t true to Argentinian culture with the language, outfit, and music choices,” said Baboun.

The course brings to light the importance of critiquing these plays and the societal implications of their reenactments.

With FIU being home to thousands of international students, Dickson hoped to connect students to the global perspectives that the study of Shakespeare’s plays can bring.

“They asked insightful questions, found fascinating articles, shared openly with each other, and actively engaged in the course,” said Dickson when asked about his first time teaching the course.

“It was so rewarding to see students find remarkable new angles into Shakespeare that I hadn’t been aware of.”

Students’ responses to the course were encouraging and it continues being a favorite amongst FIU Shakespeare enthusiasts.

“It truly was a no judgment zone, and I found it very fascinating to study Shakespeare’s influence around the world,” said Baboun. 

“This class has shown me that Shakespeare has a character and message for everyone.”

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