On the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, New Yorker writers share their experiences of reading, watching, studying, performing, memorizing, and falling in love with the work of the Bard

From The New Yorker:

TNY-Enounters-With-ShakespearElif Batuman: One of my most memorable encounters with Shakespeare took place in the Taurus Mountains, in 2012, where I was reporting a story about the Arslanköy Women’s Theatre Group, a rural Turkish theatre company, founded in 2000 by Ümmiye Koçak, a forty-four-year-old farmworker with a primary-school education. Koçak wrote most of the group’s plays herself—they were about village life—but she was also really proud of having once played the title role in her own adaptation of “Hamlet,” titled “Hamit,” in 2009. Hugely popular in the village of Arslanköy, “Hamit” went on to tour several Turkish cities. They staged the graveyard scene using pumpkins for skulls. The women still talked about “Hamlet” all the time—about what Hamlet’s problem had been.

Anyway, one night, after I had been hanging out with Koçak and the village women, who were shooting their first feature-length movie (based on a script by Koçak), I drove back to the hotel where I was staying, in the nearby city of Mersin. It was a weirdly fancy hotel, with a glass globe on the ceiling that could light up in all different colors—you controlled it with a remote control. It could change to something like thirty-six different colors, and there was a strobe function. I remember lying on the bed under pulsing disco lights, eating a fruit basket that someone had sent to my room by mistake, and buying “Hamlet” on my Kindle, just to see what in there had been so captivating to the village women.

To be honest, a tiny part of me had worried that they were only (“only”) excited about “Hamlet” because it was famous, and Western, and the very opposite of what people in their village thought that they, Turkish peasant women, were capable of. But when I reread “Hamlet” after spending a few days with the women, and read some of the other plays that Koçak had written, it was immediately clear what had resonated for them.

More here.