Lithuanian Literature and Shakespeare: Several Cases of Reception


  • Eglė Keturakienė Vilnius University, Kaunas Faculty



Shakespeare, reception theory, Lithuanian literature, distributed personhood, existentialist philosophy, absurd drama


The article is based on the reception theory by Hans Robert Jauss and analyses how Shakespeare’s works were read, evaluated and interpreted in Lithuanian literature in the 19th to 21th centuries. Some traces of Shakespeare’s works might be observed in letters by Povilas Višinskis and Zemaitė where Shakespearean drama is indicated as a canon of writing to be followed. It is interesting to note that Lithuanian exodus drama by Kostas Ostrauskas is based on the correspondence between Višinskis and Zemaitė. The characters of the play introduce the principles of the drama of the absurd. Gell’s concept of distributed personhood offered by S. Greenblatt is very suitable for analysing modern Lithuanian literature that seeks a creative relationship with Shakespeare’s works. The concept maintains that characters of particular dramas can break loose from the defined interpretative framework.

Lithuanian exodus drama reinterprets Shakespeare’s works and characters. The plays by Ostrauskas and Algirdas Landsbergis explore the variety of human existence and language, the absurd character of the artist, meaningless human existence and the critique of totalitarianism. Modern Lithuanian poetry interprets Shakespeare‘s works so that they serve as a way to contemplate the theme of modern writing, meaningless human existence, the tragic destiny of an individual and Lithuania, miserable human nature, the playful nature of literature, the clownish mask of the poet, the existential silence of childhood, the topic of life as a theatrical performance, the everyday experience of modern women in theatre. The most frequently interpreted dramas are Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth – Lithuanian literary imagination inscribed them into the field of existentialist and absurd literature.


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