Werner Brönnimann (ed.), William Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida / Troilus und Cressida. Englisch-deutsche Studienausgabe. Deutsche Prosafassung, Anmerkungen, Einleitung und Kommentar. Englisch-deutsche Studienausgabe der Dramen Shakespeares. Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 1986, 423 pp.
Troilus and Cressida has always been a problematic play, and native English-speaking students of Shakespeare may feel that a German bilingual edition will create new difficulties rather than solve any of the old ones. Although the edition does mainly aim at German speakers who have a solid knowledge of contemporary English and who are interested in the theatre and in Shakespeare, this Studienausgabe is not a rehash of previous editions, but is based on original research and tries to present some new finds and ideas.
The edition consists of three main parts. The introduction provides surveys of the history of interpretative approaches to the play, of its sources, of its (numerous) textual problems, and of the conventions of the Elizabethan stage where they are relevant to Troilus and Cressida. The bulk of the volume is made up of the English text and the German translation facing each other, with full footnotes and a textual apparatus - all on the same double page. A scene-by-scene analysis (very useful for readers like theatre directors or teachers who want to inform themselves quickly about individual scenes) and a bibliography conclude the book.
English and American editors of Shakespeare enjoy the privilege of silence. The lack of a footnote in (say) the Arden edition is a clear signal to the reader that there is nothing to gloss here. Creating a German prose version, however, does not permit silence of this kind; it is a process of continuous, uninterrupted glossing. Although this activity may be experienced as drudgery, the precision and attention to minutest details demanded by translation can also lead to new discoveries. As an example, take the invective Patroclus hurls at Thersites in V.1.27: "thou ruinous butt". The Geman translation 'Fass' for "butt" sounds very odd and irrelevant in the context (Fass usually connotes obesity if used derogatively); translating here generates what Ernst Leisi calls "semantic discomfort" - a sort of localised unease which is a mild version of the translator's pervading angst of mistranslation. Such discomfort forces the German-speaking editor to offer explanations that justify Shakespeare's choice of words. Arden 2 glosses "ruinous butt" as "leaky tub", but this misses the point. "Ruinous butt" rather links up with Patroclus' abuse, delivered immediately before: "thou damnable box of envy". The editor of the Studienausgabe believes that in saying this, Patroclus compares Thersites to Pandora's box, which contained as many illnesses and evils ("envy" means 'evil' here) as Thersites managed to pack into his incredible list of repulsive illnesses, a list which immediately precedes Patroclus's exclamations. The contents of Pandora's box are "ruinous" in the sense of 'fatal', i.e. they cause disaster, an idea that gives a more sinister causative significance to Thersites's not-so-funny stream of disgusting words. Thersites is apostrophised as a "butt" because in the myth of Pandora her box is said to resemble a tub. Thus in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, II.1.92, Pandora's box is called "Pandora's tub". Bevington's later Arden 3 (1998) does indeed note the reference to 'box' and adds - as did Muir (1982) - that "butt" also refers to 'buttock', but the darker implications of Patroclus's mythological allusion to Pandora have thus been missed. The slowness of the translation process sometimes lifts new lids.
In the introductory discussion of textual problems, the validity of three hypotheses explaining the variants betwee Q and F is tested: (1) Both Q and F go back to the same manuscript, but this manuscript had been revised by Shakespeare when it was used as a copy for F. (2) Q and F are derived from different manuscripts, Q's copy being a revised text. (3) Again two different manuscripts served as copies for Q and F, with F using a revised version. The editor exposes the circular arguments and the hidden value-judgments inherent in most discussions of textual problems, but nevertheless pleads for the third hypothesis as the most likely solution.
The concept of an interpretative scene-by-scene analysis does not allow the editor to isolate and systematically pursue singular elements in the play, although he tries to emphasise Shakespeare's overall control of audience response. Stylistic features (such as Troilus's Latinate diction in moments of high emotional intensity) are therefore examined to elucidate their effect on both the protagonist's putative psyche and the audience's reactions. Although the play's tragic notes are underlined, the editor pleads for a rehabilitation of the much maligned first scene of the third act, where Helena makes her only appearance. In particular, he argues against the dubious moralistic argument that the Trojan War would make more sense and would be better motivated in Shakespeare's play if Helena had been presented as an intellectual, guilt-ridden woman. The editor comes to the conclusion that in puzzling the audience with generically mixed signals and by juxtaposing the language of romance with that of savagery Shakespeare has employed a Verfremdungs-technique that precludes easy identification with any of the figures and makes for an exuberantly intellectual play.
Shakespeare in Europe
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