Abstract

This article is a comparative study of the thirteen-century Chinese revenge drama The Orphan of Zhao and its European adaptations from the eighteenth century to the present. Generally considered one of China's great tragedies and the first Chinese dramatic work introduced to Europe, this play makes a good case study as intercultural theater. Unlike the earlier studies which emphasized Chinese influence on European drama, this study examines how European adapters tried to remake the Chinese play to conform to Western criteria of drama, such as the three unities. It also discusses how the dramatic actions in William Hatchett's and Arthur Murphy's adaptations reflected the conditions of England rather than China, and how Voltaire appropriated the Chinese play to articulate his ideas of European Enlightenment. In contrast to the Eurocentric eighteenth-century adaptations, the 2012 production by the Royal Shakespeare Company represents a changing European attitude toward Chinese drama and a new direction in intercultural theater. This study provides a history of cultural exchanges between East and West through a systematic analysis of transnational transmissions of an important Chinese play.

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