Módulos Shakespearianos

Shakespeare in Spain

Shakespeare in Spain.


Most students or academics, who want to study the way Shakespeare is conceived, read and performed in Spain will be surprised by how difficult it may become...

Lista de autores.


Reception through translation.

Not only in the National Library of Spain (Biblioteca Nacional de España/ you'll find the first published translation into Spanish of Shakespeare's Hamlet which is by Ramón de la Cruz and the time is 1772. It was a second-hand verse translation based on the 1769 French rewritten and adapted version by M. Ducis, who not knowing English, had used Pierre Antoine de la Place's English Theatre edition, and who only had translated the most important scenes or those he liked. The first translation directly from English entered Spain in prose after Leandro Fernández de Moratín (a.k.a. Inarco Celenio) published it, after a longer stay in London as embassador of Ferdinand VII, in 1798 and since then has been reedited thirty-three times throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century (Serrano, 29, specially 177ff.) As neo-classical as the French versions by M. Ducis Leandro Fernández de Moratín made an important difference not so much through his job as a translator but by being accompanied by the Shakespearean actor Kemble, who helped him and Spain better understand Shakespeare.
From the fourth to the eighth of October of 1772 Hamlet was first performed in Ramón de la Cruz's version at the Teatro del Príncipe (today Teatro Español) and it was such a total failure that it did not see the scene again -nowhere in Spain, neither did any other play by Shakespeare- till1802 when Teodoro de la Calle's Othello (again using M.Ducis' french adaptation) was performed. La Calle does not change only the names of the characters , but also the number; thus: Desdemona becomes Edelmira; Brabantio becomes Odalberto; the Dux is called Mocenigo and Iago is Pesaro, "false friend of Othello", etc. and the whole play is performed by 7 main characters. Since then it has been translated twenty-six times and not always for the better.
During the nineteenth century Laplace, M.Ducis, Le Tourneur or Larroche served as sources for the Spanish translations but Alcalá Galiano, Eduardo Bonet, Matías de Velasco Rojas, Benítez Pérez Galdós, Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, Sánchez de Castro or Menéndez Pelayo among others increased continuously the interest of Spaniards in Shakespeare's plays and made him more accesible, but it is thanks to two Englishmen living in Spain, Jaime Clark and William Macpherson, who tried to make Shakespeare more truely English, that Spain started knowing the original. Clark succeeded in translating 10 plays before he died and which where published as a 5 volume edition in Madrid between 1872 and 1876.
Macpherson's 8 volumes published in Madrid in 1873 contained the twenty-three plays he translated into Spanish keeping the differentiation between verse and prose as did Clark's version. Clark's use of the hendecasyllabic verse forced him to break his faithfull rythm and sometimes to alter the original.

We can not forget that the multilingual Spain has seen translations not only in Spanish but also in Catalan, Basque and Galician throughout the nineteenth and especially in the twentieth century and it is in the second half of the twentieth century where this multilingual experience bares its fruits with not only more translations and new editions, but qualitatively more important academic and theatrical editions and performances.

Shakespeare's presence in Catalonia, in the Basque Country and in Galicia performed not only the function of a certain theatrical development of those nationally oriented stages, though until then he normally was performed in Spanish and French translations or Italian operas in those regions. The most outstanding element is the fact that Shakespeare contributed inderectly to the literary and linguistic standardisation of national identity of those regions. In Catalonia, for example, and during the early twentieth century, a period nowadays known as "Noucentisme", produced an astonishing number of translations into Catalan, as it was trying to built and renew the stage and theatrical tradition, thus to mention but only a few, you still can read Artur Masriera's Hamlet; Salvador Vilaregut's JuliusCaesar; Cebrià de Montoliu's Macbeth, Josep Carner's A Midsummer Night's Dream; Magí Morera i Galícia's Coriolanus; Anfós Par's King Lear; or Cèsar August Joradana's translations of ten of Shakespeare's plays. The translations most performed and best known in Catalan are the twenty-seven plays that Josep María de Sagarra started in 1941 making him "the" Catalan translator of Shakespeare and as Palau i Fabre recognises "one of the best services to the Catalan language and culture". Being a well-known Catalan writer, playwright and theatrical critic and stage director and some time actor himself some wealthy Catalan citizens payed him to translate Shakespeare, and that is, most probably, why he never translated Hamlet, he was payed, but not much and Hamlet is still the longest text. In his translations he concentrates on acceptability of the "concepts" and he does not hesitate to introduce changes to reproduce Shakespeare's most colloquial and vulgar features.

In 1980 Salvador Oliva's precise rendering, intended to subtitle The BBC Television Shakespeare to be shown on Catalan TV, did not produce a literal translation, as understood as a word by word rendition of the original in the target language. Wherever there is a pun he tries to convey it by equivalent ones in Catalan, his coloquialisms as well as popular expressions are more on the Catalan side.

The first translation into basque is by the playwright and theater director Toribio Alzaga's adaptation of Macbeth (1926) and it was not until the 1950s that Bedita Larrakoetxea started a systematic translation which took him till the 1970s to complete. Bingen Ametzaga's Hamlet (1965), was an isolated translation to be performed. And as it had already happened in Catalonia the BBC series was also dubbed into Basque and broadcasted.

The first translation into Galician, the fourth official language of Spain, dates back to 1920 when Antón Vilar Ponte supplied the text of The Merry Wives of Windsor for an adaptation by the "Escola Dramática Galega". The next translations into Galician is A traxedia de Macbeth by F.Pérez Barreiro of 1972 and Manuel Lorenzo translated and staged Macbeth three years later in 1975. Towards the end of the 1980s Miguel Pérez Romero translated A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice and recently Hamlet.
The collaboration of Manuel Guede and the theater director Eduardo Alonso produced another adaptation of the already translated and performed The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night's Dream again. Eduardo Alonso with the help of Cándido Pazó translated also King Lear in 1990 and as all other translations its main function was to be performed.

After this very quick overview around the multilingual Spain let's not forget the contributions made to scholarship and critical reception by authors as important as Anfós Par, Julià Martínez, Juan Mascaró, Ramón Esquerra, Salvador Madariaga and Luis Astrana Marín, who all tried to do what only Astrana Marín really succeeded in doing. Making Shakespeare more Spanish to the reader and to the performer. Even if Astrana's richly annotated prose translations, which were first published in 1929, were aimed at the reader and not the performer of Shapeseare's Complete Works they have until recently been the version most often seen and heard in Spanish theatre even till the end of the twentieth century.

The other individual translator after Astrana Marín who attempted to translate all of Skakespeare's plays is José Mª Valverde, calling his two volumes published in Barcelona in 1967 W.S. Teatro Completo. As Astrana already did in 1929 he also translates into prose only. A political exile during the Franco regime and literary critic and academic he aimed at conveying the semantic content even if for that purpose he had to sacrifice certain sound effects, the rich variety of styles and theatrical features that exist in Shakespeare's plays.

The most recent translations are the result of very serious research and a very passionate involvement with the Spanish stage by a group of university professors of English Philology. The first team called "Instituto Shakespeare" under the direction by Manuel Ángel Conejero, was formed in Valencia in 1978. Until today this group has translated King Lear, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Twelth Night, Hamlet, The Tempest, Richard II and the most recent Anthony and Cleopatra in 2001. Most of the translations have already been performed and staged by famous directors as is the case of Miguel Narros who first premiered Macbeth for the Teatro Español in Madrid in 1980 , and second King Lear which saw its first performance at the Teatro Principal of Valencia in 1981. In 1986 Pierre Constant directed As You Like It which filled the Teatro Olimpia of Valencia and in 1987 it was Edward Wilson, director of the Youth Theatre of Great Britain, who directed Romeo and Juliet in Spanish and with young Spanish actors at the Shaw Theatre in London with great success.
Even if the main purpose of the translations is to see the text move on stage as close to its original as extensive knowledge of Shakespeare, literary criticism and textual and editorial practice allow, the bilingual annotated critical editions the Instituto publishes since 1981 at Cátedra seek also to satisfy the curiosity of the reader concerning the reasons of choices for the different textual variants adopted and semantic difficulties which have been confronted.

The other ongoing contemporary translations are by Ángel Luis Pujante, who single handedly signs his versions, but who counts on and recognises the contributions of an irregular number of collaborators, and who has till today produced Coriolanus his first translation in 1986, and except The Winter's Tale exactly all the same translations as has the "Instituto Shakespeare" in a different time frame.
As a scholar of English Philology at the University of Murcia he produces linguistically very sound and semantically precise translations which retain all the expressive elements of the original, because his main aim is also the stage and therefore he tries to preserve the poetic effectiveness for the actors. Espasa Calpe, his publishing house, replaced Astrana Marín's translations by the ones by Pujante trying to offer their readership a more recent and up-to-date version of Shakespeare in their classic literature collection.

The recent VIIth World Shakespeare Congress, organised by the International Shakespeare Association and the Fundación Shakespeare de España, which took place in Valencia in April 2001 was the concluding event of five years of intense theatrical and academic activity which put Shakespeare on center stage in Spain. In no other period of time have there been so many performances of Shakespearean plays nor have there been so many academic events, workshops and lectures about the Bard as those that took place all around Spain from 1997 to 2001. We will look more into it through the next chapter in which we will analyse the performance and reception history of Shakespeare in Spain.



© Dr. Forés López, UVpress 2001

Artículo de  Vicente Forés López , publicado el 18 Sep 2007 en © 2004 - 2009,

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