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“ Have you the tongues?”: Translation Matters in Shakespearean Drama. Dr . Liz Oakley-Brown Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Writing Department of English &Creative Writing, Lancaster University http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/faculty/profiles/Liz-Oakley-Brown/English/.

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have you the tongues translation matters in shakespearean drama

“Have you the tongues?”: Translation Matters in Shakespearean Drama

Dr. Liz Oakley-Brown

Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Writing

Department of English &Creative Writing, Lancaster University


e diting as translation
editing as translation?

17th century

21st century

The Norton Shakespeare, ed. By Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Katherine EisamanMaus, second edition (New York, Norton, 2008)

First Folio (1623)

‘The First Folio is the collected edition of Shakespeare\'s plays, published seven years after his death by Isaac Iaggard and Edward Blount. It was edited or overseen by his fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, and contains the texts of 36 plays, half of which had not previously been published. The Folio was based on earlier sources (the Quartos) that show the plays as actually performed in the theatre. The title page incorporates a portrait of Shakespeare, engraved by Martin Droeshout’

British Library





Reading Shakespeare

e g identity politics to be or not to be


e.g. Identity Politics‘To be or not to be...’?







shakespeare at cardiff c 1990
Shakespeare at Cardiff c. 1990

Catherine Belsey

Terence Hawkes


That Shakespeherian Rag (1986) reprint edition (London: Routledge, 2008)

Meaning by Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1992)

Shakespeare in the Present (London: Routledge, 2002)


Why Shakespeare? (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan , 2007)

Shakespeare in Theory and Practice (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008)

thou art translated
‘Thou art translated’?

Studying Shakespeare in Wales


Acts of Union [’Assimilation’] 1536-43

Welsh Language Act 1993


deficits in language teaching and learning at school;

  • the perceived global dominance of English;
  • the failure of many state schools to promote language learning as effectively as do private schools:

(RAND Europe report, cited‘Language Matters: The supply of and demand for UK born and educated academic researchers with skills in languages other than English’, British Academy position paper (2009). See further ‘Language MattersMore and More’, British Academy position paper (2010))


Shakespeare in translation

In questions of translation, poetics readily slides into politics.

Inga-StinaEwbank, ‘Shakespeare Translation as Cultural Exchange’, Shakespeare Survey 48 (1995): 1-12, p. 7

shakespeare in hungary
Shakespeare in Hungary

1790 Hamlet first translated

1794 Hamlet first performed

See further IstvanPalffy, ‘Shakespeare in Hungary’, Shakespeare Quarterly 29: 2 (1978): 292-294

eagleton translation textuality
Eagleton/ Translation/ Textuality

… translation from one language to another, may lay bare for us something of the very productive mechanisms of textuality itself – may figure as some kind of model or paradigm of the very secret of writing.

Terry Eagleton, ‘Translation and Transformation’, Stand 19 (1977): 72-77, p. 73




shakespeare and the translation of identity
Shakespeare and the Translation of Identity





…in an early modern education such as Shakespeare’s, the progression is not from language to literature but from grammar to rhetoric. Thus the real focus of reading in the middle and upper school years […] is on that body of texts devoted to oratory.

Leonard Barkan, ‘What did Shakespeare Read?’, in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, ed. Margreta de Grazia and Stanley Wells (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 41-37, p. 34)


The. xi. bookes of the Golden asseconteininge the Metamorphosie of Lucius Apuleius(tr. William Adlington 1566));

  • Seauenbookes of the Iliades of Homere, prince of poets, translated according to the Greeke(tr. George Chapman (1598));
  • Ouidhis inuectiue against Ibis. (tr. Thomas Underdown (1569));
  • The heroycall epistles of the learned poet PubliusOuidiusNaso, in English verse (tr. George Tuberville (1567));
  • The. xv. bookes of P. OuidiusNaso, entytuled Metamorphosis, translated oute of Latin into English meeter(tr. Arthur Golding (1567));
  • The thre first bookes of Ouids De tristibus, translated into Englishe (tr. Thomas Churchyard (1572));
  • The liues of the noble Grecians and Romanes, compared together by that graue learned philosopher and historiographer, Plutarke of Chaeronea: translated out of Greeke into French by IamesAmyot(tr. Thomas North (1579));
  • Seneca his tenne tragedies, translated into Englysh(trs. Jasper Heywood, Alex Nevile, John Studley, T. Nuce and Thomas Newton (1581))
  • The xiii. bukes of Eneados of the famosepoeteVirgilltranslatet out of Latyne verses into Scottish metir(tr. Gavin Douglas (1553).
ovid s metamorphoses
Ovid’s Metamorphoses
  • The. xv. bookes of P. OuidiusNaso, entytuled Metamorphosis, translated oute of Latin into English meeter(tr. Arthur Golding (1567) [‘Shakespeare’s Ovid’]
translation in shakespeare
Translation in Shakespeare

episodes from:

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c.1590)

The Taming of the Shrew (c.1590)

Titus Andronicus (1594)

Timonof Athens (1605)


SECOND OUTLAW: Have you the tongues?

VALENTINE: My youthful travail therein made me happy,


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c.1590)


[Hortensiotunes his lute. Lucentioopens a book]

bianca: Where left we last?

lucentio: Here, madam.

[Reads]Hic ibatSimois, hic estSigeiatellus,

Hic steteratPriamiregiacelsasenis.


The Taming of the Shrew (c.1590)

[tr. ‘Here flowed the Simois: here was the Sigeian land; here the palace of old Priam had stood’]



lucentioHic ibat, as I told you before – Simois, I am

Lucentio; hic est – son unto Vincentio of Pisa; Sigeiatellus– disguised thus to get your love. Hic steterat – and that Lucentiothat comes a- wooing; Priami, is my man Tranio; regia, bearing my port; celsasenis, that we might beguile the old pantaloon.



bianca Now let me see if I can conster it. Hic ibatSimois– I know you not; hic estSigeiatellus– I trust you not; hic steteratPriami– take heed he hear us not; regi a– presume not;celsasenis– depair not.



As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the sweetewittiesoule of Ouid lives in melifluos and hony-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his priuate friends, &c.

As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: So Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage. For Comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Loue Labours Lost, his Loue Labours Wonne, his Midsummers Night Dreame, and his Merchant of Venice; for Tragedy, his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet.

Francis Meres, PalladisTama, Wits Treasury (1598)


… Lavinia, raped and mutilated, can explain her ordeal only by making a double translational detour, first pointing to a similar tale and rape in Ovid’s Metamorphoses(in Golding’s 1567 translation?), then writing a few Latin words in the sand for the others to interpret (after translation?).

(Delabastita, Dirk, ‘If I know the letters and the language’: translation as dramatic device in Shakespeare’s plays’, in Shakespeare and the Language of Translation, ed. Ton Hoenselaars (London: Thomson Learning, 2004), pp. 31-53, p. 51)


The world into which the English schoolboy was initiated […] was not so much the world of ‘men’ as opposed to ‘women’, as the world of a few select men, mainly those who belonged to the privileged minority by virtue of property, wealth and power.

(Margaret Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare and Early Modern Virgil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 48.)


Enter [SOLDIER] with a tablet of wax

SOLDIER: My noble general, Timon is dead;Entombed upon the very hem o’th’sea;And on his grave-stone this insculpture, which

With wax I brought away, whose soft impressionInterprets for my poor ignorance.

ALCIBIADES reads the Epitaph


Timon of Athens (1605)

s uggestions for further reading
suggestions for further reading

Susan Bassnett, Translation Studies, third edition (London, Routledge, 2002)

Michael Cronin, Translation and Identity (London, Routledhe, 2006)

Roger Ellis and Liz Oakley-Brown (eds.), Translation and Nation: Towards a Cultural Politics of Englishness (Cleveland: Multilingual Matters, 2001)

Ton Hoenselaars, Shakespeare and European Politics (Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 2008)

Charles Martindale and A.B.Taylor (eds.), Shakespeare and the Classics, reissue edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Willy Maley and Philip Schwyzer(eds.), Shakespeare and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010)

George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)