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Institut für Theaterwissenschaft

„The time is out of joint“ (Hamlet 1.5.188) – Hamlet in former Yugoslavia from 1945 to the present

As in many European countries, Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an important part of the cultural repertoire in former Yugoslavia. Not only was Hamlet performed almost every year, the plot was also well adapted within the political context. Following Ernst Cassirer and Aby Warburg’s understanding of culture as a dynamic semiotic web, every staging and adaptation of the canonical text enables a new exploration of the play's conflicts. Thus, Hamlet is understood as an immediate expression of the cultural and political context as well as a medium for re-negotiating different cultural questions.

In my Ph. D. project I will investigate the ways of representing political and social changes in performances in general, and concentrate particularly on plays with a metatheatrical reference to Hamlet as well as on film adaptations of Shakespeare’s tragedy form 1945 to the present. Well known examples of such political adaptations are Ivo Brešan’s Predstava Hamleta u selu Mrduša Donja (1965) and Slobodan Šnajder’s Gamllet (1987). For my analysis, the concept of collective identity (Brubaker, Anderson) and cultural memory (Assmann) will be of prime importance.

In order to analyse the cultural changes, the Ph.D. project poses the central question, how theatre constructs collective identity. This question shall be addressed by analysing five central images of the play: the specter, the Mousetrap, Fortinbras, Ophelia and the Skull-Scene. This doctoral thesis, thus, aims at analyzing the mobility of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a specific cultural and historical context, while at the same time it explores how theatre brings a new perspective on the history of this region.

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