This essay investigates the relationship between intercultural performance and the sociopolitical context of reception by drawing parallels between Tae-sook Han’s 2016 changguk adaptation of her own Lady Macbeth and the recent presidential scandal of South Korea. The discourse of intercultural performance has focused on directorial vision and the political dynamics between the source and target cultures, while the local context of reception and its impact on the overall meaning of the work have relatively been overlooked, particularly from a diachronic perspective. Lady Macbeth revolves around the court physician’s psychotherapy sessions for the eponymous heroine, who is haunted by the memories of her past crimes and eventually choked by guilt. While major critics of the play have interpreted the play as a feminist or humanist drama, the scandal challenges such sympathetic views of the heroine due to the play’s strong evocation of allegations brought against then-President Geun-hye Park and her confidante Soon-sil Choi. Previously understood as a woman or Everyman that the spectators could identify with, now the queen seems to have become a symbol of corruption and immorality. The play’s political subtext is amplified by the play’s changguk form whose satire and traditional music contribute to the audience’s purgation of han. Holding more immediate relevance and broader appeal to the local audience than before, the new version of Lady Macbeth demonstrates how an extraordinary socio-political context can transform an intercultural performance into a national drama for the local audience.


Geun-hye Park, han, intercultural performance, Lady Macbeth, scandal, Sewol, South Korea, Soon-sil Choi, Tae-sook Han

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
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Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
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University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
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Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
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Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
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Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)