The Linguist

The Linguist 55,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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18 The Linguist Vol/55 No/1 2016 FEATURES 400 years after the playwright's death, Brendan Cole considers the challenges of producing Shakespeare's plays in present-day Mandarin O n the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016, a series of his plays is being reworked and rendered anew for a growing audience in the Chinese-speaking world. It is not just in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore where the bard's stock is rising. In London in 2015, crowds packed the Globe Theatre to see a Mandarin production of Richard III by the National Theatre of China and a Cantonese version of Macbeth by Hong Kong's Tang Su-Wing Theatre Studio. This built on the success of the Globe to Globe Festival of 2012, which showcased dozens of foreign language productions of Shakespeare, ranging from Arabic to Lithuanian. The Globe's Executive Producer, Tom Bird, was Director of that festival, and he is now on a tour that will take Hamlet to every country in the world by April. When it comes to productions in other languages, the Globe takes a hands-off approach. "In some ways the translation can be more eloquent than the original and they tend to be more colloquial, but we don't get involved in that process. The job for a foreign company is hard enough without them worrying about the Globe's view on it," he says. It is said that, in his lifetime, Shakespeare travelled no further afield than Lancashire, yet his interests lay far beyond the "sceptred isle" and he may, therefore, have found the idea that he is considered a quintessentially English writer a curious one. For him, all the world really was a stage, with Verona, Denmark and Scotland among the locations in which his universal ideas were played out. So it is unsurprising that there is a rich history of Shakespeare in translation and, in many cases, appropriation. His work is so ensconced in German literary and theatrical tradition, thanks in part to masterful 18th-century translations by August Schlegel, that German audiences often feel as if Shakespeare is their own. A perilous journey According to Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, the journey for the translator is beset with perils. "Iambic pentameter poses problems. Also, English is rich in monosyllables, meaning that a word- for-word rendering of a Shakespearean play could take twice as long to perform." The great Romanian director Ion Caramitru claims that Romanian is the only language that can render Shakespeare's rhythm effectively. "The translation of 'to be or not to be' is rhythmically closer to the original than the French version, which is 12-syllable Alexandrine instead," he explains. The transition from Stratford to Shanghai is just as difficult, as the Royal Shakespeare Company's Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, knows only too well. He is currently working on Chinese versions of Henry IV and Henry V, which the RSC will take to Beijing and Shanghai. He was inspired to produce these after doing a production of the 13th-century drama The Orphan of Zhao – the first Chinese play to be translated in the West. Doran felt that existing Chinese versions of Shakespeare were too formal: "There are a number of very 'literary' translations going The bard in Chinese

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