(Peter Ford’s article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, 12/5.)
Beijing — When it comes to Great Britain’s soft power armory, William Shakespeare counts as heavy artillery. And London is rolling him out on the far shores of China these days in repeated cannonades.
In Beijing last weekend, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre ended a sold-out China tour of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A Chinese publishing house is now nearly finished compiling the Bard’s works in a scholarly new Mandarin translation. Moreover, the British government has just announced a $2.4 million project to launch a brand new “Collected Works” of Shakespeare translated specifically for today’s Chinese stage.
“Shakespeare is one of our greatest cultural exports, beloved in China as well as here,” British Finance Minister George Osborne said as he announced the new translation grant to the Royal Shakespeare Company in September.
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And that translates into hard cash. “Our culture and heritage is what makes the UK great,” added UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid. “By making them accessible to new audiences abroad it will also help drive more visitors to our shores.”