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Laura Bohannan and Hamlet

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Laura Bohannan a student at Oxford went to Tiv in West Africa. Before she left, she had a conversation with friend who commented on Americans as "having difficulty with Shakespeare." Even though he was "a very English poet." Bohannan's friend was quoted saying "one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular." Bohannan's main argument was that she knew that human nature was the same everywhere. Everyone acted fairly the same way and understood something because they were human. She took the story of "Hamlet" from her friend to take to the Tiv to achieve the correct interpretation. Bohannan learns from the trip that she was wrong. Human nature is not the same all over. People don't interpret things the same way everywhere. The reason for that is because different cultures have different ethics and therefore interpret things differently. Just because an American thinks that something is bad, such as incest, other cultures might think it is ok and take the whole meaning away from the story. The intent of the story of Hamlet was to portray negatives and positives in the story. The problem was that the Tiv believed that some "bad" things were good and that some things were not true at all such as ghosts that talk. ...read more.

Middle

Hamlet had turned mad. Bohannan thought that the Tiv would understand a person being angry and mad if he couldn't marry Ophelia but she was wrong again. The Tiv thought that Hamlet went mad because of witchcraft and curses. It didn't sound rational to them the idea that a man going crazy for a woman. The Tiv just had different set of beliefs and customs. They couldn't understand something that they had never experienced before. It was like humans understanding four dimensions. The human doesn't have the mental capacity and hasn't seen four dimensions to understand it. Hamlet found out that Claudius did in fact kill his father. He found out from his father's ghost. He went to find Claudius to kill him and thought he was behind a curtain so he stuck the sword in the curtain and found out he had killed Ophelia's father, Polonius! The Tiv thought that no one should try to kill an elder himself. Hamlet should have gone to his father's friends to plot revenge. Ophelia became so disturbed from finding out that her love had killed her father that she drowned herself. ...read more.

Conclusion

They wouldn't understand the story the way Shakespeare viewed it, that's all. They would understand it their own way that still gave them meaning. The story didn't need intelligence to be understood. If the person wanted to really understand the play the way it looked in Shakespeare's eyes, they would have to be Shakespeare, or at least live in the same era, have his same morals, and know of his culture. Bohannan was wrong about humans. Humans aren't all the same. The English language also didn't translate exactly to the Tiv's language. "One could one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular." Bohannan did misunderstand the particular. She didn't understand that culture plays a bigger role in understanding a story than intelligence does. One could say that intelligence is the sign of experience. In that way, both the tiv and Bohannan gained intelligence from the conversation about Hamlet. To finally understand culture, Bohannan would need a storyteller to visit her from a foreign place. She would then see that she was smart and it didn't have anything to do with the fact that she didn't understand the story. She just interpreted the story differently based on her culture. ...read more.

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