Seeing Shakespeare: Narco narratives and neocolonial appropriations of Macbeth in the US–Mexico Borderlands

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This essay examines the racializing logics and consequences of drawing analogies between the works of William Shakespeare and the devastatingly violent realities of the drug trade in the Americas. The particular prominence of Macbeth in the wide range of Shakespearean invocations and appropriations in contemporary US narratives about narcotrafficking cannot be attributed simply to the fact that it is a tale of bloody ambition. Rather, the repeated mapping of a play that comes to its conclusion with an English military invasion of its “barbarous” Scottish neighbors onto the US–Mexico Borderlands speaks to much deeper histories of colonial conquest and to neocolonial interventionist policies and actions of the present. The essay concludes by turning to two recent instances in which theater artists have translated and significantly revised Macbeth in order to reframe dominant narratives about narcotrafficking, racial supremacy, and the border. These productions demonstrate the disruptive and transformative potential of Shakespearean appropriations that resist neocolonial power structures and ideologies.





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