Minstrelsy / Jazz / Rap: Shakespearean Legitimation and African-American Culture
Even though, it must be conceded at the start, Shakespeare has made no more than marginal appearances in blues, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop, the potential for their conjunction has had a particular symbolic resonance. Sketching out the history of that conjunction — my purpose here — offers us one way of understanding African American music's pursuit of artistic status and cultural respectability, and in particular a means for reevaluating the hybridizing of Shakespeare and jazz. My argument here will be that mid-century jazz adaptations of Shakespeare serve as an ambivalent middle-term between Shakespearean minstrelsy of the nineteenth century, where the relationship between Shakespeare and African American music was first codified, and contemporary hip-hop, where musicians have reclaimed Shakespeare as a minor yet symbolically significant point of reference for African American music.
Borrowers and Lenders: An Electronic Journal of Shakespearean Appropriation
University of Georgia
"Minstrelsy / Jazz / Rap: Shakespearean Legitimation and African-American Culture." Borrowers and Lenders: An Electronic Journal of Shakespearean Appropriation. Fall 2005. At http://atropos.english.uga.edu/cocoon/borrowers. This essay appears in the inaugural issue of the journal.
© Borrowers and Lenders 2005