The Stage

Howard Sherman: Shakespeare ‘translations’ can be a gateway drug to the real thing

By Howard Sherman | June 14, 2019

When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced, in the autumn of 2015, that it would be commissioning translations of all of Shakespeare’s plays, battle lines were immediately drawn. Because these translations were not taking the plays into French or Klingon, but rather keeping them in English while revising archaic phrasing or words.

Following the initial news, which was shared in a supportive article from the Wall Street Journal, the highbrow debate was carried out in a range of articles. In that piece, John H McWhorter of Columbia University stated: “I suspect Shakespeare himself, in his eagerness to reach audiences, would be perplexed by the idea that our job today is to settle for half understanding his work. Let’s embrace Shakespeare for real and let him speak to us.”