Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shakespeare in Thirty-Eight Languages

The 2012 Season. Shakespeare's Globe. Artistic dir. Dominic Dromgoole. Web. 26 January 2011.
Starting on 23 April 2012, Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London will present all thirty-eight plays in the Shakespeare canon—each in a different language, each by a different company. The season is inspired by the 2012 Summer Olympic Games (parenthetically, they are also to be held in London that year).

I am intensely interested in global Shakespeares, and this is fascinating beyond all speaking of it. The biggest question I have is "Which plays will be performed in which languages by which companies for what reasons?"

Answers to that are currently hard to find. A few alert readers forwarded me an article by the BBC about the six-week season. The article mentions Lithuanian, Spanish and Greek without any connection to particular plays, but it also provides these specific connections:

The Taming of the Shrew——Urdu
King Lear——Australian Aboriginal languages
Troilus and Cressida——Maori
The Two Gentlemen of Verona——Shona
Henry VIII——Spanish
Julius Caesar——Italian
Love’s Labour’s Lost——British Sign Language
The Tempest——Arabic
Titus Andronicus——Cantonese
[Note: I hope to add to that chart as information becomes available, so check back periodically.]

There's also an interview with Dominic Dromgoole, the Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe, on the subject—though it's not as informative as I'd hoped. Even so, Dromgoole does say this about the multi-lingual season:
The idea is very simple, which is to do the complete works but to do each play in a different language presented by a different company from abroad. [. . .] And we just want to make this about language more than anything else. It's not about directors; it's not about actors; it's not about stunning visions or anything like that. It's about the languages. It's about communities of artists taking pride in telling those stories in their own language and communities of audiences really enjoying the fact that they can take over this space and enjoy an afternoon or an evening with a story told in their own language and by . . . somewhat from their own culture. And I hope . . . I don't know what the result will be. Just shake things up a bit, I think.
The classic British understatement burrows its way into the last sentence of that quote. This will do more than "just shake things up a bit" by any measure. And it's a marvelous thought that Cantonese-speaking Chinese athletes (for example) will be able to unwind after a hard day's hammer throwing (for example) with a production of Titus Andronicus in their native tongue.

Of course, we can't help but wonder what will be gained a lost in the translation. Will the loss be as great as Lost in Translation suggests? I've taken the last few lines of the St. Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V and entered it into Lost in Translation. Here's the original:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day! (IV.iii.60-67)
And here's the same speech, once it's been translated back and forth from English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish:
Small, small happy, we found to the brothers. In sequence its blood with me is today the sources my brother. And the horseman in England that hopes to lodge imagines that here maledizioni he not estêve. They consider of them virilities economic, when, than it is fought with, spoken with so extreme in santo one of approximately of the day in Crispin! (IV.iii.60-67)
No. It will certainly be much more significant than that (as humorous as that is). The question of what is universal about Shakespeare will be complexly explored by these thirty-eight plays.

And if any athletes need inspiration to compete at their highest level, their coaches can just break into the most inspiring speech Shakespeare ever wrote: "Small, small happy, we found to the brothers!" (Henry V, IV.iii.60).

Links: The BBC's article. The 2012 season at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The interview with Dominic Dromgoole. Lost in Translation.


Duncan said...

You might find the Globe's press release useful in adding to your list:

The Shona TGV has already toured the country, as has that company's Hamlet.

kj said...

Thank you so much, Duncan. That is fantastic! I'll incorporate that quite soon.

Can't wait!


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