Shakespeare as Cultural Capital: Its Rise, Fall and Renaissance in Elite Education


This essay traces the ways Shakespeare has been shaped in the theater history of a private elite university in the Philippines – and more broadly in the Philippine theater scene -- and how this shaping process, lasting for over a century now, has largely imprisoned Shakespeare, so to speak, within academic walls. Seeing Shakespeare productions as a form of cultural capital, the essay documents how this capital has been formed, sustained, threatened, altered, and restored over time. Locked as part of the academic curriculum, Shakespeare as cultural capital remains confined to schools, with only a few resource-rich universities like the Ateneo de Manila University equipped to mount full-scale Shakespearean productions. And while Shakespeare has also appeared in the repertoire of professional companies, the audiences, by and large, have been students. The Filipinization movement in the 1970s and the 1980s led to an abstinence of Shakespearean productions in English, but as cultural capital, Shakespeare proved resilient enough to resurface on stage in Filipino and on occasion, in other Philippine languages. The linguistic shift did not alter, however, Shakespeare as a form of cultural capital for the educated elite. For this elite, Shakespeare in Filipino or English remains a mark of academic distinction and a resource of symbolic power.

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