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How and when my Shakespeare was begot.
(A product of Creative Leisure)
Goffredo Raponi
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, November 29th 2000, n. 232

The original idea of this translation sprang out ad took shape quite occasionally in june 1955, when I was staying in Birmingham following a scholarship won for a few weeks stage by that University (Egmonton Department). Birmingham is some 30 kilometres - three quarters of an hour driving - far to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. At that time of the season the annual Shakespeare Festival was on in the Stratford theatre which is situated within the monumental Shakespeare Memorial Building; and I was strongly tempted to go and attend there one of the Shakespeare performances. Some of my colleagues were of my same mind.

Thus I was given the opportunity to see, performed in that theatre by reputed English actors, three Shakespeare'a works, namely King Henry V, The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummers Night's Dream.

My English, although not sufficienty good at that time as to let me understand hundred per cent of the fifteenth century shakespearian texts, flying verses and prose speedly uttered over a stage - which is the case, by the way, even for most part of more advanced people than I in the knowledge of English, and this because of the frequent sudden verbal quibbles, puns, quickwittet gramatical constructs requiring briskness in catching, together with the words, even the inner wit of the author - my English, I say, was nevertheless sufficient to let me to suck a supreme delight in listening to such texts as they were uttered and acted by those actors; in the listening of a spoken word, I mean, whose capacity to nourish phantasy was far beyond actors' action and gentures, even though these were perfectly studied and fit to it: I did feel really fascinated by the great poetic breath as well as by the opening of a world of wonders, within a scenic fiction, unreal and imaginary, and nevertheless richer than reality: which is the the touch of creative genius only.

Back to Italy, in Rome, where I lived and worked, one of the things I cared for was to going catching any opportunity to see which kind of Skaespeare would be performed over our stages by Italian actors. I was strongly beguiled; for, in spite of my good disposition to take out and squize out of it anything which could bring back to me and renew those sensations I felt in Stratford, this Shakespeare here was, helas!, by all means highly different and improbable: all in prose, for the most part of it tediously grammatical, sometimes rhetorical, stammering, unbearably artificial; and the scenic action performed in a villanious manner, when not even offensive to the common thought of the meanest beholder. I was deply displeased, and brought to the firm conviction that those who go to our theaters with a mind to see Shakespeare, in fact they are given a different matter to be behold and listened to.

What to do, then, in order to having to read such a Shakespeare in Italian that could somehow renovate in me the pleasure of the one I dad savoured in its original tongue in Stratford ? Stratford in not round the corner; and, at any hand, the English themselves have found so far that a modern stage, as the one in Stratford and everywhere in the world, is unfit to having a Shakespeare truly performed, if they have lately arrived to decision of rebuilding in London the Globe theatre all along the identical pattern of the old one where the company of The King's Men, of which Shakespeare himself was part, used to play at the end of the sixteenth century.

Shakespeare, as is the case for any poet, is hardly suitable for being translated even in English. Nevertheless, I told myself: when the time comes that I shall have more time, I shall try to undertake to translate and read him by myself for my own use, being myself at te same time the actor, the scenery and the director; that is to make reviving in my inner self, as conceived in my own imagination, his poetic world, and not as it may be imposed to me mechanically from the outside, by one or another stage director, by one or another actor.

This time came when I reached the age of retirement. With the practice acquired in translation during my professional work (I had previously translated from English into Italian several works of various nature for Italians editors, and from Latin, in metric verses, a good deal of Horatian Odes, which had received in 1975 the literary Porta Portese Prize; moreover during my professional activity I had organized and managed the Tranlations Services with the European Community in Brussels and with the FAO in Rome), I put myself at work. The first thing to do was to acquire knowledge of precedents; that was to provide myself with the most possible part of the immense literature over Shakespeare's works in various languages, where from take out the benefit of borrowing here and there the intepretation and reddition of controversial words, phrases and passages. Which I diligently did.

Thus, a title to another, I have been filling with such a stuff called Shakespeare Complete Works these latest 25 years of my life. On top of that, upon reading and re-reading the Shakespearian verse, I did find out that his "blank verse" - a dactylic pentameter - had an amazic sounding correspondence with our endecasyllable: i.e, in fact, that, exemple given, the Hamlet's verse:

    « To be or not to be, that is the question »
had the same syllabic cadence as the Dante's:
    « Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita »
or Foscolo's:
    « All'ombre dei cipressi o dentro l'urne »;

thus, it came out, almost spontaneously, that I could easily and without any effort of metric research, render in Italian what I read in English, and, to say it with Ovid, « quod temptabam traducere versus erat ».

May it please or not to my potential readers, I wish to point out that all I have done has been exclusively for my personal pleasure, far from any commercial or publicity purposes. I have just drawn out of my drawer, where they were already almost sleeping and half-forgotten, the 38 shakespearian works in order to comply with a gracious urgence made upon me by professor Stefano Colonna, who, having occasionally seen a specimen of them, thought that it was such stuff as to be worth to be included within the texts of Italian literature wich are diffused over Internet within the frame of Progetto Manuzio initiated and managed by site <>.

Therefore, whoever wishes to read my Shakespeare, can have it at his own mouse hand. But I must say that whatever judgement my potential readers may set forth about my work, be it favourable and positive at the outmost, if any, it would never and by no means equate the home, inner delight given to me by my twentyfive year colloquial entertainement with one ot the highest poetic spirits of all times.

Who, as I am deeply convinced, can be only savoured through mere reading: because Shakespeare, like Homer, like the Greek Tragedians, like Dante, like Goethe, is unfit to be theatrically represented !



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