SHINE: Shakespeare in Europe:

History and Memory

International Conference
Jagiellonian University, Kraków

Krakow, 17-20 November 2005

OOrganised by:
Institute of English Philology, Jagiellonian University
Polish Shakespeare Society
Institute of Modern Languages, Pedagogical University in Kraków
In cooperation with the British Council

Seminar: History and Translation / Abstracts

Convenor: Cees Koster, Utrecht University / e-mail:

Time Schedule

First Meeting: Friday 18th November, 09.00 – 10.30

Discussion of papers by
Anna Cetera (Warsaw University),
Lene Petersen (School of English and Drama; University of the West of England)
Karen Bennett (Catholic University of Portugal)

Second Meeting: Friday 18th November, 17.00 – 19.30

Discussion of papers by
Monica Matei-Chesnoiu (University Ovidius Constanta)
Julia Paraizs (Eotvos Lorant University of Sciences, Budapest)

Third Meeting: Saturday 19th November, 09.00 – 10.30

General discussion on the position of the study of translation within Shakespeare Studies


Anna Cetera (Warsaw University;

Suit the word to the action: The Case of  Meta (translation) of Shakespeare’s Richard II  (2004) (abstract)

The paper focuses on the translation of Shakespeare’s Richard II by Piotr Kami?ski completed upon the specific request of renowned actor, Andrzej Seweryn, who directed the play staged in the National Theatre in Warsaw, Poland, in 2004. Hence Kaminski’s translation is seen as functioning primarily in relation to theatrical reception and, in fact, conditioning the success of the performance by matching the text with the conceptual design of the prospective director. Consequently, the paper juxtaposes the aesthetic and political context of the performance as seen by the director, with the strategies adopted by translator to adjust the text to the pre-existent directorial vision. These strategies pertain in particular to the treatment of extensive rhetorical structures and rich imagery of the play, numerous semantic shifts, as well as frequent omissions and interpolations of interpretative hints. Additionally, the paper discusses the structure of the booklet accompanying the performance, published with a clear intention of shaping the interpretative context of the play and justifying the translation policy.

From the theoretical standpoint, the paper addresses the question of how the translations of Shakespeare’s plays are tailored to fit into specific aesthetic and/or political contexts of the target culture in advanced stages of literary reception where the translation strategy is influenced neither by the peripheral position of the author, nor by the strength of literary or stage conventions of the hosting culture. On the contrary, it is the high status of the translated text, here Shakespeare’s plays, which increases the temptation to tamper with the acknowledged originals and ostensibly reveal the arbitrariness of the rewriting. These rewritings - proposed to be seen as (meta)translations – retain the traditional focus on rendering the merits of the original, yet they also deliberately expose the presence of the translator as a self-conscious agent and mediator of meaning. The phenomenon naturally coincides with theatrical tendencies where subversion has been a recurrent facet of contemporary productions of old masterpieces. Yet meta(translations), though occasionally indeed subversive, aim rather at reinforcing various interpretative hints of the source text in a way which highlights the elucidating efforts of the translator. Considering  parallel nature of literary and theatrical reception of drama, it is the latter – by definition more dynamic and innovative – which encourages ever new translations of old repertoire. It is also the presence of charismatic directors and/or actors which ensures the counterbalance for habitually conservative critical milieu, and therefore allows translators ‘to spoil’ the acknowledged masterpieces with trademarks of their individualistic, idiosyncratic and possibly eccentric approach.

In conclusion, the paper highlights the interpretive potential of Richard II,  the relation of the play to contemporary political context, and the role of translation in both shaping and mirroring the reception process.

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Lene Petersen (School of English and Drama; University of the West of England;

Translation, Transformation, Transmediation:  On The Spirit of Hamlet and Nihilistic Self-fashioning in the Fourteenth Night Watch of Bonaventura (Germany, anon. 1804). (abstract )

Shakespeare, of course, has been translated into nearly every language on earth, but never so frequently as into German. More pertinently than in any other language, the early German Shakespeare translations involved not so much a mere relocation of language as a cultural translation, or cultural adoption, as well. By 1766 Wieland had published his translation; by 1801 A. W. Schlegel had published most of his portion of the Schlegel-Tieck-Baudissin translations in groundbreaking blank verse. Wieland translated 22 plays; Schlegel translated only 17 (publ. Berlin 1797-1801). Both Wieland and Schlegel translated Hamlet. In 1804 an anonymous author (who only much later appears to have been identified) took it upon himself to deliver a genuine cultural ‘transformation’ of Hamlet – in an early, daring rereading (or misreading) of the play as well as of the new fervent climate of German Shakespeare Reception. At this point in time, Wieland had (perhaps unfairly) been criticised for having recreated a neo-classicist, moderate Shakespeare – a German Enlightenment Shakespeare, while the Sturm und Drang, and the Jenaer ‘Early Romantic’ School were claiming for themselves a different, wilder, unrestricted and ‘natural’ Shakespeare. Goethe, of course, had, already by 1771, started appropriating his Shakespeare, and shortly, Germany apparently had assimilated Shakespeare altogether as a German literary conception, while the character of Hamlet became emblematic for a nation of poets and thinkers. What the author of the Nachtwachen des Bonaventura does in his fourteenth chapter, as well as in the remaining 15, is to seemingly adopt Friedrich Schlegel’s Early Romantic creed of aesthetic freedom; claiming absolute autonomy for the creative artist from poetic conventions, using irony as a philosophical principle to strive towards infinity. What he actually does is radically deceive his audience, as he turns the irony of autonomy back on the founders of these principles, using his version to critique both Shakespeare and the German literati who championed his ‘spirit’.

By joining a rather non-German (European) tradition of satirical skepticism The Night Watches of Bonaventura becomes a vehicle for chastising Enlighteners, Storm and Stress, Klassicists and Romantics alike. It satirises the arguably few differences between the Wieland Shakespeare and that of the Jenaer circle (Schlegel), it satirises the Romanticists’ belief systems, and last but not least the author’s own involvement in what is depicted as a futile debate.  In the fourteenth Night Watch, the book’s narrator transforms and creatively misreads Hamlet to produce a commentary on the emerging Shakespeare/Hamlet cult, which appears post-modern before its time – satirical of its own time, and of the time of post-modernity yet to come. The poets and thinkers are doomed to obscurity, Hamlet, together with Ophelia, writes himself out of a role whilst incarcerated in a madhouse; while Shakespeare, the second world creator, the translator of souls, uncharacteristically, stands by silently.

This paper proposes a detailed exploration of a still much overlooked document of cultural and literary satire, and of how such a document might be read as an exposé and critique of the German literary intelligentsia’s translocation and adoption of Shakespeare. From German Enlightenment to ‘Sturm und Drang’ to Klassik and Romanticism, German intellectuals fought to translate Shakespeare into the German in ways far more wide ranging than merely linguistic. The Nachtwachen des Bonaventura, and the fourteenth Night Watch in particular, rewrites, transforms and transmediates Hamlet, exposing how translations became indistinguishable from cultural, literary and philosophical debate in Romantic Germany, and seems to mock the immerging notion of a Classical German world spirit that is Shakespeare. Amongst translators and translocators, one writer took it upon him to live out the German Shakespeare – to perform a literary annihilation of Shakespeare to the sound of highly disturbing, and probably self-mocking, laughter. And “[i]s there upon earth a more potent means than laughter to resist the mockeries of the world and of fate?”

(Cf. R. Steinert’s edit. Nachtwachen des Bonaventura. Leipzig, 1917).


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Karen Bennett (Catholic University of Portugal;

Star-cross’d Lovers in the Age of Aids: Rudolph Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet as Intersemiotic Translation

Since Roman Jakobson’s famous 1959 article, ‘On Linguistic Aspects of Translation’, the term ‘translation’ has been extended beyond its conventional linguistic sense to refer to many other kinds of textual transfer, including rewritings and adaptations in other sign systems. This has enabled the tools from the now flourishing discipline of Translation Studies to be applied to non-verbal media, such as painting, music, dance and film, shedding light not only upon the way meaning is construed in those different semiotic systems, but also upon the way the work itself is conditioned by constraints introduced by the target culture.

The paper presented here makes use of these tools to explore one particular segment of an intersemiotic chain, namely Rudolph Nureyev’s ballet version of Romeo and Juliet (the paper is in fact part of a larger study devoted to intersemiotic versions of this play; a study of Prokofiev’s musical score was presented at the 2003 Utrecht conference). It examines how both Shakespeare’s play and Prokofiev’s score are reworked through the medium of dance and performance, and identifies some of additional dimensions of meaning introduced by the many allusions to other cultural contexts, such as Classical Greece, Elizabethan England and Goya’s Spain.

What we discover is that Nureyev’s version of the tale of the ‘star cross’d lovers’ is, above all, a comment upon the era in which he himself lived, the aftermath of the youth revolution when the exuberance and optimism of the sixties was beginning to wear a little thin. In the light of this, his use of gay iconography, images of pestilence and invocations of doom take on a new sinister significance.


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Monica Matei-Chesnoiu (University Ovidius Constanta;

English History from Page to Stage: An Early Romanian Translation of Richard III

Considering the unrelenting complexities of cultural reality in confrontation to the objective study of that reality, this paper analyses a nineteenth-century translation of Richard III by Scarlat Ion Ghica, first printed in 1884. This is the first Romanian translation of the play directly from English and the author, a scholar and politician coming from a family of elite Romanian cultural promoters, translated this play as a part of a larger cultural project. Around the 1848 revolution, a group of artists and men of letters from the Romanian province of Moldova set up a plan of advancing the country’s culture through the encouragement of translations from Western European literature, especially from Shakespeare. By making Shakespeare known to the Romanian reading public and to theatrical performance, these intellectuals sought to achieve a more rapid and efficient dissemination of the Western ideals of civility and democracy among the Romanians. In addition, these translations contributed to the syntactic and lexicographic shaping of Romanian as a romance language, at a time when the Slavic influence was still predominant.

The translations of Shakespeare’s plays produced before 1840 were made via French or German intermediaries and appeared in an archaic language, while the text was printed in Cyrillic alphabet. This text, however, is printed in Roman letters. The brothers Scarlat Ion Ghica and Dimitrie Ion Ghica inaugurated a period of fresh appropriation of Shakespeare in Romanian translation. They had been educated in England and brought a new perspective on how to approach a Shakespeare play, beside the thorough knowledge of the English language. Stanley Wells observes that those for whom English is not a native language may well become more aware of their linguistic heritage as they see it challenged from the West (Stanley Wells, Foreword to Four Hundred Years of Shakespeare in Europe, edited by A. Luis Pujante and Ton Hoenselaars (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003), 7). Similarly, the Ghica brothers and the members of their influential literary circle saw in their endorsement of the Shakespearean work in Romania a form of relating to their own culture and a way of integrating the national heritage in the circuit of European values. Moreover, the political agenda of the progressive revolutionaries included the translations from Shakespeare as a cultural mode of social and political awareness among the Romanians.

The particular cases of the Romanian translations from Shakespeare’s histories have an additional importance. While the translator’s prefatory note acquaint the reader with English historical events around the reign of Richard III, the splendid illustrations that adorn almost each page give the reader a direct insight into the life of the times depicted, but also remind of the play in performance. Thus, English history becomes a site of remembrance as well as memory because Romanians could visualize the English past via more actual social and political contexts. This particular text served as a basis for subsequent productions of the play at the Bucharest National Theatre, but the printed copy tells us a lot about the text in performance via the illustrations.          

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Julia Paraizs (Eotvos Lorant University of Sciences;

English Shakespeare Editions and Hungarian Shakespeare Translations in the mid-Nineteenth Century. A Case Study.

This paper explores the impact of an English language Shakespeare edition on the non-English language translation. My case study is the Hungarian translation of Shakespeare`s Coriolanus by Sándor Pet?fi in 1848.  The edition Pet?fi used was edited by Alexander Chalmers (published by Baudry's European Library in Paris, 1838), and his edition was based on the Samuel Johnson-George Steevens-Isaac Reed variorum edition of 1803.

Some question to be asked are: where should we position the English language edition in the context of contemporary textual theory and practice? To what extent were the Hungarian poet-translators of the mid-nineteenth century aware of the editorial debate taking place in eighteenth-century England? How conscious was the translator in using that particular edition for the translation? To what degree did a particular editorial tradition affect the text of the translator? Finally, is translation a form of editing?

The question of the original text dominating the editorial theory of Shakespeare`s Works is also central to the history of translations. Shakespeare translations in Hungarian constitute a body of multiple texts for each play yet they also postulate an English language original as the often cited criterion in contemporary translation theory “faithfulness to the original” suggests

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The conference gets financial support from:

ACUME, the  European Thematic Network for Cultural Memory in European Countries
Institute of English Philology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Rector of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków


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last changes: November 2005