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The universality of Shakespeare’s genius has successfully communicated itself to the Indian mind since the early decades of the nineteenth century. Going beyond sheer academicism, it has helped to shape a great deal of the modern Indian literatures. Its intimate contact with the popular imagination has had a lasting impact on Indian theatre. Shakespeare took a permanent place in Indian Culture and Indian Society.
Several attempts have been made to deepen this tradition in this country by forming various Shakespeare Societies. Shakespeare Society of Eastern India is an attempt to provide a broad base for all the unrelated and inchoate aspirations, interests and attempts made in this field. Formed in 1984 the Society is comprised of representatives from varied fields such as teachers and students of humanities, journalists, public officials and theatre practitioners and enthusiasts among others. The Society proliferated as it spread to other fields of literary and cultural activities. The society holds regular seminars, symposia and workshops not only on Shakespeare but on Rabinranath and other writers from both India and abroad. It has been at the forefront to promote and present for mass audiences folk culture and performances like the famed Chhau dancers from the district of Purulia in West Bengal. In short the Society at present conducts its activities on two levels: (A) academic, and (B) popular. It thus brings together people from varied walks of life under one cultural roof.
Academic activities include national and international seminars and conferences on Shakespeare and Literature in general, helping to print original works on Shakespeare and other Indian and foreign authors, organizing a text library for students and a research library for scholars, panel discussions by specialists etc. Popular activities comprise regular performances of Shakespeare’s plays, film and video shows on subjects related to Shakespeare and literature, exhibitions, debates, musical performances by the Shakespeare Choir, quiz contests, etc.
Enthused and encouraged by its maiden effort at organizing a World Shakespeare Conference in 2000 at Kolkata, the first of its kind in Asia, the Society organized four successive World Shakespeare Conferences in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Each of the conferences saw more than 400 delegates from India and abroad. Outstanding Shakespeare scholars who attended the conferences include Prof. Holger Klein and Dr. Manfred Draudt (Austria), Dr. Bashabi Fraser (Scotland), Dr. Robert Meagher, Dr. Brian Russo, Prof. Sheila Cavanagh, Dr. Catherine Heinze, Prof. Todd Landon Barnes, Dr. Brian Reynolds, Dr. Robert Zaller (all from USA), Dr. Jeremy Roe (UK), Dr. Antony Johae (Kuwait), Dr. Jerome Mandel (Israel), Dr. Sergio Amigo (Argentina), Prof. Hyun Ju Riu (Korea), Dr. Krystyna Kujawinska (Poland), Dr. Cornelia Ilie (Sweden), Ms. Lili Bita (Greece) Dr. K.R. Rahman (Bangladesh), Dr. R.K. Dhawan (Delhi), Dr. M.V. Rajakumar (Vishakhapatnam), Dr. Collin O’Brien (Orissa), Dr. Pona Mohanta (Assam), Dr. R.N. Rai (Uttar Pradesh), Dr. R.S. Parvati (Tamil Nadu), Dr. P. Kacchhwe (Bihar), Dr. Nandita Mahapatra (Orissa), Dr. Mehru M. Major (Maharashtra), Dr. D. Seenisami (Tamil Nadu), Prof. Shabina Nishat Omar (West Bengal), Dr. Apara Tiwari (Madhya Pradesh) et al
Besides the World Shakespeare Conferences in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 Shakespeare Society of Eastern India organized several National and International Seminars, Workshops and Symposia.