Tag Archives: Translation

A Poor What Now?


In a play about a war between Trojans and Greeks, a word in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida seems a bit out of place: the Italian word capocchia. The notes in the text of The Complete Pelican Shakespeare edition of the play merely translate it to mean “simpleton” (508). However, Gretchen Minton and Paul B. Harvey Jr. suggest that it may have a more raunchy meaning that better fits with the character of Pandarus (who utters the word) and the word play so beloved by Shakespeare. Continue reading

Being Deaf in a Loud Tavern

What happens when a character’s language cannot be spoken
but can be communicated visually?

Henry IV Tavern

Henry Seago as Poins in 1 Henry IV (OSF, 2010).

This is one of the first questions Michael W. Shurgot asks in his analysis of the translation of a particularly “tricky” language to use in a Shakespearean play: American Sign Language (ASL). Whereas American-English speaking actors can “translate” Shakespearean language through enunciation and the use of American accents, it becomes extremely difficult when there is no Shakespearean era equivalent to the language a character is trying to use. This was the predicament actor Howie Seago found himself in when he was cast as Poins in the production of 1 Henry IV at the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Continue reading

Translating the Bard

Shakespeare is unquestionably an icon of English literature.  His plays and poems are, seriously, SO ENGLISH.  He is estimated to have contributed at least 1700 words to the English language (or at least to have been the first to write them down), and he coined dozens of phrases that we still use today.  His plays drip with allusions to the Bible and classical mythology, topics that would have been well-known to his Elizabethan audiences.  His plays are full of contrasts between English dialects, and his wordplay and puns are knife-sharp, slicing through his dialogue in every play.

It is interesting then, that the works of Shakespeare–the most popular English author of all time–have been translated into at least 80 different languages, including Klingon.

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