SUNY/ Empire State College

Jan Kott, Fifty Years Later: Is Shakespeare Still Our Contemporary?


Jan Kott’s Shakespeare Our Contemporary was published in English translation in 1964, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. This was the same year that Burton’s Broadway Hamlet and Kosintsev’s film adaptation of the same play were provoking critics to ramp up discussion of a reconsidered, reimagined Shakespeare for their own time. It was the year during which Northrop Frye wrote, in A Natural Perspective: The Development of Shakespearean Comedy and Romance, that Shakespeare’s conscious anachronisms “help to universalize a historical period,” with the effect that “the past is blended with the present” (20). It was also—for better or worse—the year that the Beatles enacted the rude mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a BBC television skit.

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