Shakespeare’s drama Romeo and Juliet is often taught to ninth graders in US high schools. Other Shakespeare plays are studied at other grade levels and in college.
However, you may be surprised to discover Shakespeare is probably more popular in China since his work is taught in most Chinese universities, both in English and in Chinese, and Shakespearean texts are easily available in China in both languages.
When Mao ruled China (1949 to 1976), Shakespeare was banned as was Aristotle and other Western philosophers. Mao died in 1976, and that ban was lifted in 1978.
In fact, according to Cheng Zhaoxiang, the author of Teaching Shakespeare in China, “It is no exaggeration to say that every educated Chinese knows something about Shakespeare.”
However, when produced in China on stage, the plot may not stay true to the original Shakespeare.
Writing for the The People’s Republic of Shakespeare, Adventures in Chinese Research, Meammi says, “My interest in this topic started when I noticed that many of the Romeo and Juliets performed in China are either parodies or rewrites where one of the lovers survives in the end.
“China has their own pair of star-crossed lovers (The Peony Pavilion – 1598 AD), who tragically die for love and their plight is described in a much more mournful tone than Shakespeare’s version.
“Some Chinese theater companies state in interviews that their audiences have too much sadness in their lives so Romeo just can’t die in the end of their performance.”
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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