Page 42 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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SHAKESPEARE TRANSLATIONS IN YIDDISH
B y A
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B
o r a i s h a
- F
ogel
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TRANSLATION enriches the treasure-trove of a nation’s
literature, and we must judge it by the same high standards
as we do an original piece. An ideal translation requires faithful
rendition of form and content, and maximum utilization of its
own language potential. Thus it evolves into an independent
artistic creation.
In dealing with Shakespeare, the aim of the translator is to
transport his reader back to the milieu of Elizabethan England,
introducing him, on the one hand, to its unique ideology, and help-
ing him to recognize, on the other, as Shakespeare did so pro-
foundly, the permanent and universal truths of its people and the
nature of their problems.
The retention of the balance of form and content, which is the
essence of Shakespeare’s mastery, is a formidable undertaking for
any translator. I t is needless to dwell upon the multiple technical
problems of Shakespeare’s versification, with all its rare and
exacting tonality: the subtle nuances and shadings, word and
sound play, compressed lines and unswerving pentameter. A
further obstacle is the archaic expressions— 16th century idiom
and humor. For this the translator has commentaries to help him,
but not all puns are translatable, nor can a synonym be found
for all archaisms.
The Yiddish translator has to cope with an additional hard-
ship — a natural limitation of his language — which does not
beset the Russian or German writer. The storehouse of Yiddish
is far less abundant than that of English. The dearth of Yiddish
adjectives and word shadings makes it, in many instances, impos-
sible for the Yiddish translator to reproduce the hues and resonance
of Shakespeare’s ingenious and varied literary usages.
In view, therefore, of the extraordinary demands evoked by the
original text, and of the limitations of Yiddish to satisfy those
demands, the translator’s work should, by adhering meticulously
to the English version, strive to duplicate the original as closely
as is possible under the circumstances.
We find that all the translators use modern Yiddish, transposing
the archaic expressions into contemporary idiom, so that the basic
meaning of the archaic word is blended into the text. This provides
smoother passage for the Yiddish reader, but the reader of the