Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance


Shakespeare, undoubtedly, has been one of the most important Western influences on Malayalam literature. His works have inspired themes of classical art forms like kathakali and popular art forms like kathaprasangam. A secular story telling art form of Kerala, kathaprasangam is a derivative of the classical art form, harikatha. It was widely used to create an interest in modern Malayalam literature and was often used as a vehicle of social, political propaganda. The story is told by a single narrator who masquerades as the characters, and also dons the mantle of an interpreter and a commentator. Thus, there is immense scope for the artist to rewrite, subvert and manipulate the story. The paper explores V. Sambasivan’s adaptation of Othello in kathaprasangam to bring out the transformation the text undergoes to suit the cultural context, the target audience and the time-frame of the performance. The text undergoes alteration at different levels—from English language to Malayalam, from verse to prose, from high culture to popular art. The paper aims at understanding how a story set in a different time and distant place converses with the essential local milieu through selective suppression, adaptation and appropriation.


Shakespeare, adaptation, kathaprasangam, Sambasivan, Othello, Desdemona


Adhikary, Kakali. “Desdemona’s Death in India.” Nara Women’s University Digital Information Repository. http://hdl.handle.net/10935/2984

Das, Sisir Kumar. “Shakespeare in Indian Languages.” India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance. Eds. Poonam Trivedi and Dennis Bartholomeusz. Delhi: Pearson Longman. 2006. 42-64.

George, K.M. Western Influence on Malayalam Language and Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 1972.

Hollindale, Peter. “Othello and Desdemona.” Critical Survey 1.1 Shakespeare (1989). 43-52.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Kolin, Philip C. “Blackness Made Visible: A Survey of Othello in Criticism, Stage, and on Screen.” ed. Philip Kolin. Othello: New Critical Essays. London: Routledge, 2002. 1-18.

Leelakrishnan, Alankode. “Kathaprasangakalayile Sambasivan Yugam.” V Sambasivan: Ente Kathayude Peru. Ed. Sulfikkar. Thrissur: H&C Publishing House. 2011. 57-61.

Loomba, Ania. “‘Local-manufacture made-in-India Othello fellows’: Issues of race, hybridity and location in post-colonial Shakespeares.” Post-colonial Shakespeares. eds. Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin. Taylor and Francis e-library, 2004. 143-163.

Nair, Jayashree Ramakrishnan. “Towards A Malayalee Shakespeare.” Shakespeare in Indian Languages. Ed. D.A. Shankar. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1999. 127-140.

Pillai, Kanikkara M Kumara. “Shakespeare in Malayalam.” Indian Literature. 7:1 (1964): 73-82.

Sambasivan.V. Othello: kathaprasangam. 1964. Devaragam on the Web.Web. 20 November 2013. devaragam.com/vbscript/MusicNew.aspx?MovieId=1805

Shailaja, J. “The Dying Art of Telling a Story.” Sangeet Natak 39:4 (2005): 39-45.

Shakespeare, William. “Othello, the Moor of Venice.” William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. New Delhi: Oxford, 1980. 1114-1154.

Sinfield, Alan. Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading. Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press. 1992. 29-51.

Singh, Jyotsna. “Different Shakespeares: The Bard in Colonial/Postcolonial India.” Theatre Journal, 41:4. 445-458.

Trivedi, Poonam. “Folk Shakespeare: The Performance of Shakespeare in Traditional Indian Theatre Forms.” India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance. eds. Poonam Trivedi and Dennis Bartholomeusz. New Delhi: Pearson Longman, 2006. 152-171.

First Page


Last Page