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Stories

Yvette Nolan | Playwright

“I translated Henry IV Part One and Part Two. I did not want to do a comedy, nor one of the plays that Indigenous people are ‘expected’ to do – The Dream, The Tempest – and I love the Henriad. At first I was drawn to Henry IV. 1 because I believed that it was about leadership, how we become leaders, and besides, it had Falstaff in it. Interestingly, the act of translating the piece changed my perception of the play. Yes, it is about leadership, but not necessarily about good leadership. Turns out Hal, our nascent leader, is a manipulative, dissembling jerk. Is that really the leader we want? Do we get the leaders we deserve?

I approached the translation with humility and probably too much reverence, which made it hard to start, but once I dropped in and started working to both clarify and do no harm, the process became joyful and nourishing. When I was working on other projects, and getting stressed, I would often return to the translating as a break, spending an hour or two kind of bathing in the language, and be restored. With Part One, I did about four passes on the script, and I still have a few things I need/want to tweak. Part Two, which I started very late, only got two full passes, so I feel I have some more work to do on it, which is a comfort to me, because I get to just drop in to the language bath again.

My deepening understanding of Shakespeare as a result of working on the translation confirms for me the importance of Play On’s work. I thought I knew this play – this Henry. But the process of translating taught me so much, gave me so much clarity, and I hope brings clarity to anyone who reads or hears the translation read. Reading the translation – whether as a resource alongside the original or not – clarifies so much, and makes the experience of Shakespeare that much richer.

—Yvette Nolan | Playwright