Turkish Hamlets

Arslan S.

SHAKESPEARE, vol.4, no.2, pp.157-168, 2008 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 4 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/17450910802083468
  • Journal Name: SHAKESPEARE
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.157-168
  • Keywords: Hamlet, Shakespeare, Turkey, adaptation, translation, Turkification, Westernization, secularism, Islamism
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: No


In modern Turkey, Hamlet is a freely adaptable text, a source for multiple translations conveying the complexities of modernization and Westernization in republican Turkey. Its translators include Halide Edip Adivar, a female republican activist of the 1920s; Orhan Burian, a magazine editor and writer of the 1940s; Suut Kemal Yetkin, a republican literary essayist and art historian of the 1940s; Sabahattin Eyuboglu, an academician, documentary director and translator active in the 1950s and 1960s; Can Yucel, an outspoken poet of the 1970s; and Bulent Bozkurt, a contemporary scholar of English literature. The text has also been modified in theatre and film adaptations. In Beklan Algan's play Hamlet 70 ( 1970), Hamlet is a leftist republican revolutionary who fights against imperialist, reactionary, and rightist forces. In a cult film, Intikam Melegi: Kadin Hamlet ( The Angel of Vengeance, Female Hamlet, 1976) by Metin Erksan, Hamlet is portrayed as a modern female, the murder occurs on screen, and this failed "art film'' turns into a "surrealist'' melodrama. Acomic version by Mujdat Gezen, Hamlet Efendi ( 1995), depicts a traditional theatre troupe that attempts to accommodate the republican Westernization project by changing their repertoire. Finally, Semih Celenk's 2004 adaptation Hamlet Renkli Turkce ( Hamlet in Colour in Turkish) brings together Shakespearean characters with those of traditional Turkish theatre in a comedy of cultural encounters. The manipulations of each rendition of the play expose various aspects of "Turkification'' involving elements from the republican project and its culture of opposition, often aligned with a rift between secularism and Islamism. This paper explores how Turkish Hamlets demonstrate the versatility of the play in addressing the traumas of cultural change, translation, and transformation; how Hamlet is portrayed as an ideal figure epitomizing the Westernizers' model hero; and how the history of modern Turkey coincides with these different renderings.