Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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BORAISHA-FOGEL---- SHAKESPEARE IN YIDDISH
35
poet, could have avoided these inversions and produced a more
coherent and logical grammatical sequence.
The prose portions of the play are picturesque, being both good
Yiddish and faithful in reproducing Shakespeare. Here the transla-
tor is in full command. The rhymes sung by the Fool give evidence
of Halkin’s mastery of verse and his keen sense of humor.
On the whole, Halkin has succeeded in conveying the tragic
power of the play. He was particularly effective in depicting such
important scenes as that in which Lear curses Goneril and Regan,
and in the storm scene. Lear emerges in his full stature as King,
as a frightened old man, and as a tormented father.
Goldberg, a specialist in folklore, mastered ten languages. His
penetrating study of Mendele Mocher Seforim’s
Fishke der Krumer
is one of the best works of its kind extant in Yiddish literary
critique.
He is the most productive of all, having completed eight transla-
tions between 1933 and 1937. This brief space allows for a survey
of only one of these —
Hamlet
, but it can be used as a guidepost to
Goldberg’s methodology in all his other translations.
Every translation is supplemented with literary and historical
data, and with an exhaustive glossary explaining the archaisms
which are numbered in the text. Goldberg states that he based his
translations on the Cambridge Edition of Shakespeare, but his
comprehensive footnotes indicate that he also availed himself of
additional, more extensive commentaries. He has “Russified” the
names of the
dramatis personnae
, but this is inconsequential, since
he translated not into Russian but into Yiddish.
Goldberg’s Yiddish version of
Hamlet
is undeniably powerful
and compelling. Many of the verse passages are brilliantly ex-
ecuted, reflecting the thunder and tragedy of the original text.
The prose passages, the rhymed portions and the humorous sec-
tions are incisive and sparkling. For the Yiddish reader it is an
exciting experience.
However, when we compare it with the original, we find that a
deal of the poetic splendor has been dimmed and diluted. This is
partly due to Goldberg’s lack of natural perception and sensibility
in this area, which is forgivable, and partly to his carelessness,
which is not. The tender, exquisitely phrased monologue in which
the Queen describes Ophelia’s death, “There is a willow grows
aslant a brook,” points up both of these defections. Some of the
descriptive words are entirely deleted; others are incorrectly
interpreted. When words — which are the key to poetry — are
tampered with in any way, the content is emasculated. There are
many irritating inaccuracies throughout the Yiddish text: the
phrase, “ frailty thy name is woman,” emerges in a completely