Shakespeare and Translation
The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett, Adrian Streete, and Ramona Wray (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), 68-87.
Literary translation is a love affair. Depending on the context, it could be love at first sight or hot pursuits of a lover’s elusive nodding approval. In other instances it could be unrequited love, and still others a test of devotion and faith. Or an eclectic combination of any of these events. Translation involves artistic creativity, not a workshop of equivalences.
To think of translation as a love affair does not eliminate the hierarchies that are part of the historical reality. In terms of its symbolic and cultural capital, literary translations always reflect the global order of the centre and the peripheral. Shakespeare remains the most canonical of canonical authors in a language that is now the global lingua franca.
Contradictory to the purists’ anxiety that the proliferation of Shakespeare in translation, whether in modern English or foreign languages, will spell the demise of Shakespeare’s oeuvre, the rise of a global industry of translation speaks to the power of Shakespeare’s words—not bound within the limit of one language and historical period but open to a wide spectrum of interpretive possibilities, a common feature shared by great works of art..