BOHANNAN SHAKESPEARE IN THE BUSH PDF

Just before leaving Oxford Laura has a discussion with a friend who claims that Americans often don’t understand the true meaning of. “Shakespeare in the Bush” by Laura Bohannan can be used as an introduction to the concept of culture, moral universals, human nature, and anthropology. Laura Bohannan’s article in Natural History, Shakespeare in the Bush introduces anthropology to a broad audience through a retelling of Hamlet.

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He was, after all, a very English poet, and one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular. 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 clear—everywhere—although some details of custom might have to be explained and difficulties of translation might produce other slight changes.

Summary of Shakespeare in the bush | Nannahauge’s Blog

To end an argument we could not conclude, my friend gave me a copy of Hamlet to study in the African bush: It was my second field trip to that African tribe, and I thought myself ready to live in one of its remote sections—an area difficult to cross even on foot.

I eventually settled on the hillock of a very knowledgeable old man, the head of a homestead of some hundred and forty people, all of whom were either his close relatives or their wives and children. Like the other elders of the vicinity, the old man spent most of his time performing ceremonies seldom seen these days in the more accessible parts of the tribe. Soon there would be three months of enforced isolation and shakespfare, between the harvest that takes place just before the rising of the swamps tbe the clearing of new farms when the water goes down.

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Shakespeare in the Bush

Then, I thought, they would have even more time to perform ceremonies and explain them to me. I was quite mistaken. Most of the ceremonies demanded the presence of elders from several homesteads.

As the swamps rose, the old men found it too difficult to walk from one homestead to the next, and the ceremonies gradually ceased. As the swamps rose even higher, all activities but one came to an end. The women brewed th from maize and millet. Men, women, and children sat on their hillocks and drank it. People began to drink at dawn. By midmorning the whole homestead was singing, dancing, and drumming.

When it rained, people had to sit inside their huts: In any case, by noon or before, I either had to join the party or retire to my own hut and my books. Come, drink with us. Before the end of the second month, grace descended on me. I was quite sure that Hamlet had only one possible interpretation, and that one universally obvious.

Early every morning, in the hope of having some serious talk before the beer party, I used to call on the old man at his reception hut—a circle of posts supporting a thatched roof shakespdare a low mud wall to keep out wind and rain.

One day I crawled through the low doorway and found most of the men of the homestead sitting huddled in shakespearw ragged cloths on stools, low plank beds, and reclining shakespeeare, warming themselves against the chill of the rain shakespeeare a smoky fire.

In the center were three pots of beer. The party had started. The old man greeted me cordially. Then I poured some more into the same gourd for the man second in seniority to my host before I handed my calabash over shakespeae a young man for further distribution.

Your tne tell me that when you are not with us, you sit inside your hut looking at a paper. The messenger who brought him letters from the chief used them mainly as a badge of office, for he always knew what was in them and told the old man.

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Personal letters for the few who had relatives in the government or mission stations were kept until someone went to a large market where there was a letter writer and reader. Bojannan my arrival, letters were brought to me to be read. A few men also brought me bride price receipts, privately, with requests to change the figures to a higher sum.

I found moral arguments were of no avail, since in-laws are fair game, and the technical hazards of forgery difficult to explain to an illiterate people. Storytelling is a skilled art among them; their standards are high, and the audiences critical—and 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.

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The old man handed me some more beer to help me on with my storytelling. Men filled their long wooden pipes and knocked coals from the fire to place in the pipe bowls; then, puffing contentedly, they sat back to listen.

One night three men were keeping watch outside the homestead of the great chief, when suddenly they saw the former chief approach them. It was an omen sent by a witch.

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