The Political Hamlet According to Jan Kott and Jerzy Grotowski


  • Wanda Świątkowska Jagiellonian University in Cracow



William Shakespeare, Stanisław Wyspiański, Jerzy Grotowski, Jan Kott, Hamlet, Hamlet Study, Polish Thaw of 1956, March 1968, politics


The article presents political interpretations of Hamlet in Poland in the turbulent period of politcal changes between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. The author discusses the relationships between Shakespeare’s tragedy and Polish political context as well as the influence of audience expectations in the specific interpretations. The selected performances are: Hamlet by Roman Zawistowski (at the Old Theatre in Cracow 1956) and Hamlet Study by Jerzy Grotowski (at the Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows in Opole 1964). They both were hugely influenced by major commentators of Hamlet, i.e. Stanisław Wyspiański and Jan Kott. The author argues that up-to-date readings of Hamlet, which started with Wyspiański’s study in 1905, flourished in the mid-1950s and mid-1960s when concerning specific political events: the Polish Thaw of 1956 and March 1968, when the Jews were expelled from Poland. Thus Hamlet of that time was updated and must be seen through the prism of political events.


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Author Biography

Wanda Świątkowska, Jagiellonian University in Cracow

Wanda Świątkowska is Assistant Professor at the Chair in Performance Studies at Jagiellonian University in Cracow. She is the author of Hamlets by Jerzy Grotowski (Instytut im. Jerzego Grotowskiego, 2016) and The Prince. Hamlet by Juliusz Osterwa (Księgarnia Akademicka, 2009), she is co-editor of: Theater Crafts. Ethos – Professions – Matter (with Agata Dąbek, 2015), Performance, Performativity, Performer. Definitions and Critical Analysis (with Ewa Bal, 2013), Słowacki / Grotowski. Recontextualizations (with Dariusz Kosiński, 2010) and bilingual editionof Poland. Culture. Ukraine: Lectures about the Theater (with Hanna Wesełowska,2010). She is a member of editorial board of Performer (an online research journal published by the Grotowski Institute) and also a member of The Polish Society for Theatre Research. Her field of study is the history of Polish and European theater, with a special emphasis on the history of Reduta Theater by Juliusz Osterwa and the Laboratory Theater by Jerzy Grotowski. Her current research interests include the reception of Hamlet in Polish culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


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How to Cite

Świątkowska, W. (2018). The Political Hamlet According to Jan Kott and Jerzy Grotowski. Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance, 17(32), 61–68.




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