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Friday, October 2, 2015

Shakespeare Translated?


Should Shakespeare’s plays be translated into clearer English?

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has announced plans to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into a more accessible English, over a three year period.

They have chosen 36 playwrights for the translating of 39 works attributed to Shakespeare.

You can read more about it — here — and here.

Is this a good idea?

A bad idea?

A really horrible idea?

In my humble opinion, I think it’s a good idea.

After all, Shakespeare wrote in Early Modern English — which is a very different language than our Modern English.

I know that Early Modern and Modern English are very close, but there are tremendous differences.

I can’t think of one published edition of Shakespeare’s plays that does not have notes to translate the text.

I recently bought a great new book by David and Ben Crystal, the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary. It is very entertaining and very helpful in understanding what Shakespeare was really saying.



So, if we need dictionaries and notes to understand Shakespeare, then what is wrong with a translation?

Also, there are already translations into plainer Modern English, like the No Fear Shakespeare series, the Bookcaps series, and others.

Are these translations very good? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But at least it gives us another reference point to understand the meaning of what Shakespeare wrote.

When Shakespeare wrote the plays in the first place 400 years ago, he wrote them in the language that was most accessible to the people in his audience. He didn't write them in order to confuse his audience.

So, it makes sense to make Shakespeare’s language more accessible for today’s audience.

I do hope that the playwrights chosen by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival make a great effort to retain the poetry and beauty of Shakespeare’s language.

In making the language more accessible the magic of his words should not be sacrificed.

I am sure that the results will be uneven, but I will happily buy some if not all of the editions if they choose to publish them in book form.

But ultimately, I do think it is a praiseworthy effort on their part.

What do you think?

Cheers,


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