Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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BLOCH ---- SHAKESPEARE IN HEBREW GARB
25
attained great fame in modern Hebrew literature. I t is they who
have been instrumental in introducing Shakespeare to a constantly
growing audience of Hebrew readers. Such names as H. N. Bialik,
Saul Tchernichovski, Hillel Bavli, Israel Efros, David Frishman,
Reuben Grossman, Simon Halkin, Ephraim E. Lisitzky, Israel
Jacob Schwartz, Benjamin N. Silkiner, S. Shalom and others, are
among the creators of modern Hebrew verse. They are in the
forefront of the movement to accord Shakespeare the place he and
his writings justly merit in the literature of Hebrew translation.
While Hebrew literature has not yet felt sufficiently the impact of
Shakespeare’s influence, there is abundant reason to look forward
to a not distant day, perhaps within a decade or so, when Shake-
speare will become a major link in the chain that binds the Hebrew
reading public with English-speaking people everywhere.
In this survey no effort is made at interpreting any rendition of
Shakespeare’s writings which have already reached the Hebrew
reader. Such a venture would be presumptuous on the part of one
who makes no special claim to mastery of the subject. Nor is
there any need for it, since the literature on Shakespeare is quite
extensive. There is a continuous flow of books and essays on every
aspect of the life and labors of the incomparable poet who occupies
a unique position in world literature. The present study is confined
merely to a rapid survey of the few portions of Shakespeare’s
writings which have become accessible in Hebrew garb. Of his
plays, less than half are available to the Hebrew reader in one
form or another, and of his poems, an even smaller number are
extant in Hebrew translation.
I t is reasonably safe to assume that this survey cannot purport
to be complete, for in a day when Hebrew writers are busily
engaged in enriching Hebrew literature with translations of the
great classics in all literatures, Shakespeare’s works are not being
neglected. Whatever few translations have already made their
way into Hebrew literature indicate an unmistakable trend to
habilitate the greatest of English authors into our Hebrew literary
treasure-trove. While the beginnings were modest and stemmed
from the middle of the last century, the bulk of the output is the
product of the post World War I days. If the translations continue
at their present pace, we may look forward to the felicitous arrival
of the day when Shakespeare’s complete works will become avail-
able to the Hebrew reader, well-edited and attractive in form, and
worthy of a place alongside the finest literary productions written
in the Holy Tongue.
Much of Shakespearean lore is transmitted in quite a number of
works by writers who erected literary structures of their own with
materials drawn from Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Few of