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A book about how Shakespeare became fascinated with the world, and how the world became fascinated with Shakespeare
Ranging ambitiously across four continents and four hundred years, Worlds Elsewhere is an eye-opening account of how Shakespeare went global. Seizing inspiration from the playwright’s own fascination with travel, foreignness, and distant worlds—worlds Shakespeare never himself explored—Andrew Dickson takes us on an extraordinary journey: from Hamlet performed by English actors tramping through the Baltic states in the early sixteen hundreds to the skyscrapers of twenty-first-century Beijing and Shanghai, where “Shashibiya” survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution to become a revered Chinese author.
En route, Dickson traces Nazi Germany’s strange love affair with, and attempted nationalization of, the Bard, and delves deep into the history of Bollywood, where Shakespearean stories helped give birth to Indian cinema. In Johannesburg, we discover how Shakespeare was enlisted in the fight to end apartheid. In nineteenth-century California, we encounter shoestring performances of Richard III and Othello in the dusty mining camps and saloon bars of the Gold Rush.
No other writer’s work has been performed, translated, adapted, and altered in such a remarkable variety of cultures and languages. Both a cultural history and a literary travelogue, Worlds Elsewhere is an attempt to understand how Shakespeare has become the international phenomenon he is—and why.