Thursday, October 15, 2015

On Translating Shakespeare

Devil's advocate time here, people.

I've been avoiding all the discussion about Oregon Shakespeare Festival's plan to translate all the works into "contemporary modern English".  The general response seems to have been, "GAH! DON'T TOUCH IT!"

Personally, I agree.  Just...not enough to jump on my blog the very instant the news broke, and start a boycott.

Instead let me ask a question. Haven't the works of Shakespeare already been translated into, well, pretty much every language in existence? Including Klingon and Esperanto?  George R.R. Martin himself hopes that constructed Game of Thrones language "Dothraki" is next.

Did we grab the pitch forks for all those translations as well? Why not? Isn't it the exact same thing?

1 comment:

JM said...

"Haven't the works of Shakespeare already been translated into, well, pretty much every language in existence?"
" Isn't it the exact same thing?"

NO. It's CRAP. The works are already written in English. Any translation worth its salt has attempted to 'translate' as near as possible to the original. Besides, we already have No Fear and Kent Richmond:

"To die, to sleep—

To sleep, perhaps to dream. Yes, that's the snag,

For in that sleep of death, the dreams that come,

When we have slipped free from this mortal net,

Should give us pause. There's that to reckon with,

Which makes us swallow turmoil for so long.

For who would bear the whips and needles of

Our times, the tyrant's wrong, the proud man's scorn,

The pangs of love denied, the law's delay,

The brusque official, and rejection that

The patient and deserving take from lessers

When he himself could settle all accounts

With one thin dagger?
Ahh, pure genius. "Yes that's the snag"...The "brusque official" What hackery. "Translation", if you have the nerve to call it that, distorts the meaning, ruins the rhythms, and bastardizes the verse. I know what they claim:

"By seeking out a diverse set of playwrights (more than half writers of color and more than half women), we hope to bring fresh voices and perspectives to the rigorous work of translation."

Richmond even has the audacity to claim that his "translations" should be done by high schools and supplant Shakespeare. They want to offer the same "suggestion" to schools. Balderdash!

What could OSF possibly be thinking? This looks to me like a money-making project, the same as Richmond's.
How disturbing. Instead on focusing on better ways to teach it, they have to trick it up. Sad.