Deconstructing the Saussurean System of Signification

Miyagi Satoshi and His Mimetic Dramaturgy in Miyagi-Noh Othello

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC)
  • 2 Tokyo University of Economics, Japan
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Shakespeare's Othello has been staged overwhelmingly through the racial relationship between the two protagonists, Othello and Iago, at the expense of another protagonist, Desdemona, partly because of the prominence of racial and military perspectives in European modernity, and partly because of the relatively scarce textual presence of Desdemona. Despite the tremendous efforts and contributions of feminist criticism to rectify the imbalance, this female protagonist has been enclosed in the realm of a patriarchal framework that divides women between ‘chaste wife’ and ‘villainous whore’. Miyagi Satoshi's adaptation and staging of Miyagi-Noh Othello, presented at Shizuoka Arts Theatre in 2018, was a remarkable attempt to address this issue, by transforming the whole play into a memory recollected and enacted by the Ghost of Desdemona, through utilising the Japanese ‘Mugen-Noh’ format. Through his mimetic dramaturgy employing the ‘division of speech and movement’ method, Miyagi succeeded in recovering not only Desdemona's testimonies regarding her affectionate and passionate relationship with Othello but also multiple women's ‘her-stories’ hidden and disregarded by male-centred histories authorised by the Venetian ruling class. The detailed analysis of Miyagi's unique and innovative production will unravel the complicated relationship between actors’ words and their bodies in theatrical productions, as well as offer a fresh insight into the hitherto underrated aspect of Othello as an alternative story of inducing everyone's suffering into spiritual atonement by reviving the love which has always already been present even in a society torn by racism, genderism and militarism.

Contributor Notes

Tomoka Tsukamoto is a theatre critic and a member of IATC (International Association of Theatre Critics). She received her MA in Drama Studies from Nihon University in 1996. Her publications include a book on Miyagi Satoshi's theatre (in Japanese), and most recently an essay on Miyagi's works, ‘“Our Perdita Is Found”: Miyagi Satoshi and Translation in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale’ (co-authored with Ted Motohashi, Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, Vol. 47, No. 2, September 2021, Shakespeare and Translation Special Issue, edited by Jonathan Locke Hart and I-Chun Wang).

Ted Motohashi is Professor of Cultural Studies at the Tokyo University of Economics. He received his D.Phil. in Literature from the University of York, UK in 1995. His publications include several books on drama, cultural and postcolonial studies, and most recently he edited ‘All the World's His Stage’: Asian Interventions in Global Shakespeare with Poonam Trivedi and Paromita Chakravarti (Routledge, 2020). He is a leading translator into Japanese of works by Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, Rey Chow, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky and others.