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Book Reviews - Note de lecture



Quite by accident, because I was looking for something else (as usual), I happened to stumble, a couple of weeks ago, on a series of Shakespeare's "translations" which, to my astonshiment, I found absolutely unbelievable, yet so well done that I bought three and will go back to pick a least three more. Translations ? I should have said "adaptations", the way our own Fawzi Malhasti "tradapts" English poems into French, except that, in this case, Shakespeare is "tradapted" into what the editors call "Plain English". - Here, let me give you an example (from King Lear) :

Shakespeare :

"Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.

Tradaptation :

"Then that’s the way it’ll be.
The truth will be all the inheritance you get.
I swear by the sacred sun, by the mysterious moon,
And by all the planets that rule our lives,
Tthat I disown you now as my daughter.
As of now, there are no family ties between us,
A nd I consider you a stranger to me.
Foreign savages who eat their own children for dinner
Will be as close to my heart
As you, ex-daughter of mine

(Act 1, scene 1)

An a second taken from the famous opening of Richard III :

Shakespeare :

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments...

Tradaptation :

"Now all my family's trouble have become
To a glorious end, thanks to my brother, King Henry IV.
All the clouds that threatened the York famiy
Have vanished and turned to sunshine.
Now we wear the wreaths of victory on our heads.
We've taken off our armor and weapons and hung them as decorations...

Now, before you start screaming and send me hate letters, let me be perfectly clear about what you might consider as a sacrilegious attack on the immortal words of the immortal bard : I do not advocate the systematic and unilateral use of these so called "adaptations" in order, be it only, to increase Shakespeare's readership although it might do that by simply making his archaic (I repeat : archaic) language more comprehensible to a wider audience. I, for one, have had just about enough of what is obviously something to be read aloud continously interrupted by footnotes, definitions, and sometimes, long explanations as to the meaning of such and such a word or such and such expression, words and expressions that haven't been used for two, three centuries and I welcome the opportunity to read side by side the original version and a modern, in context, version in plain texts.

Part of a series published by Spark Publishing Inc., under their "Sparknotes" label as "No Fear Shakespeare".

Available at fine book stores.

Thought I'd mention it. En passant.

And, while I'm at it, if you think that Shakespeare ought to be read as is, with no annotations whatsoever, because of his vocabulary and its impact on the English language, you'd be better off with Willam Tyndale (1494-1536) but, then, if you're a Catholic, particularly a Roman Catholic, you might be excommunicated ; no longer burned at the stake, at least. - You might, while you're at it, also look up Myles Coverdale (1488-1569).

Copernique Marshall

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