HISTORY of DEVELOPMENT
These versions originated in a commission I accepted from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to write a pilot 'translation' of a Shakespeare play. The play we chose was TIMON OF ATHENS, a late work, never performed in his lifetime, so far as we know, with many signs of having been abandoned before it was completed, and almost certainly a collaboration with a younger playwright, Thomas Middleton, known for his provocative and colloquial dramas set in contemporary London. The word 'translation' suggests a subversion of the original, a 'dumbing down' of Shakespeare work, so I prefer a different description of my work on these two plays. I define what I did as a version of the text that is completely comprehensible to an audience while retaining, to the greatest extent possible, the meaning, the poetry and the performability of the original. The result is that large portions of the text are exactly as Shakespeare wrote them, as vivid and intelligible today as they were at their first performance. Where I have made changes I have consciously and deliberately NOT tried to reproduce the lines Shakespeare composed in 5-beat pentameters in similarly strict 5-beat English verse. That’s partly because there’s no tradition of this kind of verse in 21st. Century drama. I’ve seen some attempts to ‘translate’ Elizabethan dramatic verse lines into modern English, and they always show the strain of trying to fit one convention to another - and wind up being fairly lifeless. It’s also because that wouldn’t get us very far in terms of comprehensibility. So, in the case of these two plays, the solution I’ve adopted is one that I’ve used for the 5th century BCE classical Greek dramas I've translated - a fairly loose, ‘free’ verse, broken up into lines that have a certain rhythm, and are a degree or two removed from everyday prose, allowing for internal rhymes, and even end rhymes - where the original has them - so long as the result doesn’t seem forced or turn into doggerel.