Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center
6th Floor of Van-Pelt Library
We will be welcoming Roger Chartier for a talk entitled: “Who Is the Author? Translating Shakespeare in Eighteenth-Century France and Spain: From Voltaire to Moratín.” Roger writes:
“Demeure, il faut choisir & passer à l’instant / De la vie, à la mort, ou de l’Etre au néant.” It was with these two lines that Voltaire began the first French translation of Hamlet’s, “To be, or not to be,” soliloquy in his Letters Concerning the English Nation, published in 1733. How were they translated after Voltaire’s poetic rendering? The answer requires an examination of reviews of Voltaire’s Letters, the two editions of Shakespeare’s works (by Pierre-Antoine de la Place in 1745-49, and by Le Tourneur in 1776-83), and the text of the first Hamlet ever performed on a French stage, the 1769 adaptation by Ducis, who did not know English. This comparative history of the translations of the first verses of Hamlet’s monologue raises broader questions: What were the English editions used by the translators? What were the contradictory interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays? Who is the author of the translated texts: the English playwright, the French writer who translated them, the editor who published them, or the actors who read them? And how did they translate them? This French story is not irrelevant for Spanish Shakespeare. In 1772, the first Spanish edition of Hamlet was a translation by Ramón de la Cruz (who did not know English) of Ducis’ adaptation. It was only in 1798 that Moratín translated the play from the English text and made his Hamlet say: “Existir o no existir: esta es la cuestión.”
Roger Chartier is Emeritus Professor at the Collège de France and Annenberg Visiting Professor at the University Pennsylvania (since 2002). His most recent books in English are Cardenio between Cervantes and Shakespeare: The Story of a Lost Play, translated by Janet Lloyd (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), and The Author’s Hand and the Printer’s Mind, translated Lydia G. Cochrane (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014). His next book in English will be Won in Translation, translated by John Pollack (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press). He gave his first Material Texts seminar (devoted to an annotated 1676 copy of Hamlet) in the previous century.