Shakespeare in the Bush By: Laura Bohannan MAIN POINTS: Laura Bohannan travels on her second trip to live amongst the Tiv people in West Africa. Her friend gives her the book Hamlet to ready and Laura pronounces this in belief that Americans as well as everyone else could easily understand the general idea of the story Hamlet and be able to retain the plot and motivation of the tragedy: I protested that human nature is pretty much the same the whole world over; at least the general plot and motivation of the greater tragedies would always be cleareverywherealthough some details of custom might have to be explained and difficulties of translation might produce other slight changes. To end an argument we could not conclude, my friend gave me a copy of Hamlet to study in the African bush: it would, he hoped, lift my mind above its primitive surroundings, and possibly I might, by prolonged meditation, achieve the grace of correct interpretation. Laura told the story of Hamlet to the Tiv people, in belief that she could now prove her point that universally, people would understand this story no matter what their culture was: Ah, said the old man. Tell us. I protested that I was not a storyteller. Storytelling is a skilled art among them; their standards are high, and the audiences criticaland vocal in their criticism. I protested in vain. This morning they wanted to hear a story while they drank. They threatened to tell me no more stories until I told them one of mine. Finally, the old man promised that no one would criticize my style, for we know you are struggling with our language. But, put in one of the elders, you must explain what we do not understand, as we do when we tell you our stories. Realizing that here was my chance to prove Hamlet universally intelligible, I agreed. As Laura tells the story of Hamlet to the Tiv people, she is constantly interupted and questioned about the actions of Hamlet and other characters. The Tiv people do not believe it is possible for some situations to occur and they consequentially alter the story to their own customs and beliefs. Examples of alterations made in the story: Death of the chief turned into --- Witch craft
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