To Love or Not to Be: Janek Ledecký’s Musical Hamlet and Shakespeare Negotiations in Korea

Yeeyon Im

Abstract


Popular Entertainment Studies, Vol. 7, Issue 1-2, pp. 75-92 ISSN 1837-9303 © 2016 The Author. Published by the School of
Creative Arts, Faculty of Education & Arts, The University of Newcastle, Australia.
To Love or Not to Be: Janek Ledecký’s Musical Hamlet and Shakespeare Negotiations in Korea
Janek Ledecký’s Musical Hamlet is a significant addition to Shakespeare’s musicology that deserves scholarly attention. This Czech-originated musical, which ran worldwide from 1999 to 2012, is a rare version of the play that successfully accommodates the tragic in a commercial musical form. This article examines the birth of Musical Hamlet as tragic melodrama in relation to the rise of the mega-musical. After a brief description of how it is adapted into a tragic romance, it considers Shakespeare’s relation to popular culture, particularly in the South Korean context, examining the production, marketing and reception of Musical Hamlet in Seoul. The four revivals of Musical Hamlet in Korea record a process of careful negotiations between Shakespeare and the theatre market to produce a middlebrow cultural entertainment. Shakespeare’s dwindling share in the negotiations demonstrates the dominance of late capitalist nobrow over residual high art in the cultural geography of South Korea.




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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303