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Sensing the Author’s Hand thanks to Translation: The Brazilian-Portuguese Translation of Sir Thomas More

Régis Augustus Bars Closel


Cet article est consacré au processus de traduction en portugais brésilien de la pièce écrite à plusieurs mains, Sir Thomas More (1600 ; 1600-1604). Cette pièce, dont le manuscrit a été conservé, porte les traces des interventions de Shakespeare. Le travail de traduction devait tenir compte des représentations culturelles, telles que normes esthétiques et préjugés des auteurs. La méthode adoptée pour étudier comment la traduction modifie notre jugement sur l’identité des auteurs s’appuie sur un usage original du concept d’entropie – concept emprunté à la thermodynamique. Une série d’exemples illustre la façon dont une traduction peut garder la trace de la multiplicité de ses auteurs, permettant ainsi à différents types de lecteurs d’accéder à des informations fiables.

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  • 1 . See Harry De Quetteville (2015) “Sir Ian McKellen is wrong about Shakespeare. He’s best read on (...)
  • 2 . It is worth mentioning a published translation of As You Like It, the translator of which is nam (...)

1In an interview recently published in The Telegraph, Sir Ian McKellen said that those who admire Shakespeare do not need to “bother” themselves with the difficulties that arise from reading the plays as they are meant to be staged (Foster, 2015). This piece prompted reactions from those who prefer to read a play rather than watch a production.1 This kind of discussion is obviously not new; however, when we talk about Shakespeare outside the English-speaking world, the division between page and stage affects how we conceive Shakespeare as a historical character. Also, it affects how we understand his relationship with the plays ascribed to him, as both author and work pass through a series of different translations and different senses of authorship. I will here focus on the example of Brazilian translations of Shakespeare’s plays, in which this line of division is very clear. As most are prepared for reading and are not suitable for the stage without some major adjustments, theatrical companies often have to produce their own translations—“translations for the stage” as opposed to more conventional “translations for reading”—a separation that is not extremely strict, but provides a relevant context for the discussion of translation practices. In addition, the availability of these translations produced by theatrical companies2 in print is usually minimal. This visible gap partly stems from differences in how translators and readers understand Shakespeare in relation to the idea of authorship.

  • 3 . See, for instance, the nineteenth-century works of William Hazlitt or the late twentieth-century (...)
  • 4 . Different Brazilian translators have dealt with collaboration in their introductions, such as th (...)

2The heritage of the Romantic critical approach to literature dominates authorial reception, in which a dramatist is perceived as a literary author.3 As a result, drama tends to be conceived much more as a lyrical piece of work than as a playtext that should live upon the stage. Bardolatry has a side effect: the hand of someone else working together with Shakespeare, like a collaborator, is either concealed from the general public or completely ignored. Therefore, drama translation relies on expectations of drama as literature, in which the author is mostly conceived in a role that does not correspond to early modern English practices of authorship and textual transmission. Ironically, these two topics put both page and stage together because they provide the background information for thinking about how the play was written and how it reached us. Unfortunately, these two areas tend not to be covered in the introductions to translations of collaborative plays. However, some efforts4 are being made to change this, giving new readers and theatre practitioners the chance to try out the plays in some more up-to-date translations and to get to know their textual history in greater depth. The translator is a key figure in this process.

  • 5 . For this kind of approach in the humanities, see, among others, Debora Shaw and Charles H. Davis (...)
  • 6 . See Closel, Régis Augustus Bars, 2016.

3In this article, I wish to discuss some points concerning the process of translating the collaborative play Sir Thomas More for the first time into Brazilian-Portuguese, a process involving all these aspects of the cultural politics of translation, referring to the scientific concept of entropy5 and a material approach to translation practice that I have been calling gatekeeping.6 Sir Thomas More is a play on which Shakespeare collaborated in some additions and provides an excellent example for discussion of both authorial perception and reception. The translation and the analysis that follow are based on my personal experience of translating the play, undertaken during my doctoral studies. In the first section, two main concepts applied throughout the article are explained, followed by an overview of how existing Brazilian translations of Shakespeare have dealt with the topic of collaboration in Brazil and how they relate to both entropy and gatekeeping. Then, the third section explores examples found in Sir Thomas More in which the translation can highlight the perception of multiple hands in a playtext.

Entropy and Gatekeeping

4The concept of entropy derives from a thermodynamic law that provides an explanation for every system becoming reordered in a different form and at a different energetic level as the conditions around it change and it reacts to reach new stability. The methodological approach in this article considers a printed translation as an ordered linguistic system composed of words, meanings and senses and its entropy is something that a translator has no control over as the variants that affect it are out of his or her hands. Therefore, every printed translation will be affected, some more and some less than others, by modifications in the way we see language, criticism, authorship, dating, etc. The second concept, that of gatekeeping, is sometimes used when talking about publishing policies, and my use of the term is related to that context. However, here the overall interest lies in how the translator acts as a gatekeeper in the process, shaping the ways in which we perceive the author and the play through the translator’s sense or judgement. My approach here is distinct from the tendency to focus on potential new authors or on the policies of publishing houses—something that usually does not apply in the case of Shakespearean drama for instance, but which is relevant when it comes to his contemporaries or their collaborations.

  • 7 . According to Jonathan Hope (1994), sociolinguistics explains how language is in constant flux an (...)

5There is a great range of possibilities regarding the application of entropy and the role of the translator as a mediator of senses. In this context, entropy works as a natural tendency for a linguistic system to change to a new order, especially regarding the authorial senses present in the translations of collaborative plays, in which the translator can choose what impressions to frame in the translation. Sir Thomas More (1600; 1603-4) is an exemplary case for our discussion as it provides many different circumstances in which different authors are present in the text, while it also provides opportunities for a translator both to keep equivalence and to reshape the text in the “irreversible” (Prigogine, 1980) translation process.7

Brazilian-Portuguese translations of Shakespeare and multiple authorship

  • 8 . A reliable source of information on Brazilian-Portuguese translations is the “Escolhaseu Shakesp (...)
  • 9 . For an account of the collaboration discussion, see in the bibliography the entries by Taylor & (...)
  • 10 . The fact that they are historical dramas can be ruled out as a reason for only having a few tran (...)
  • 11 . Brazilian readers may read this through the European-Portuguese edition, in which collaboration (...)

6Shifts in authorial perceptions affect both editors’ and translators’ approaches to their objects of study. Brazilian-Portuguese translations8 of collaborative plays,9 such as Henry VIII (1613) and Henry VI Part I (1591) for example, are marginal and usually only for reading in old-fashioned Portuguese, and their collaborative nature is possibly a reason10 why they have been overlooked. Timon of Athens (1605), Titus Andronicus (1592), Measure for Measure (1604) and Pericles (1607) have only two or three translations each, as opposed to Macbeth (1605), a play revised by Thomas Middleton, of which there are a dozen translations, although none refers to Middleton’s role. The now canonical Two Noble Kinsmen11 (1613) and Cardenio (1612-3)—as it survives partly in Lewis Theobald’s eighteenth-century adaptation, Double Falsehood (1728)—are still awaiting their chance to reach Brazilian readership and the stage as there is as yet no translation of these two plays, while Edward III (1595), a play that might find its place in the Shakespearean canon in the near future, was translated for reading bearing Shakespeare’s name. The Spanish Tragedy (1587-1602), by Thomas Kyd, is another play with a Shakespearean addition, and it reached print for the first time in October 2015, without mentioning a possible collaboration. Finally, for Sir Thomas More there is only my own translation, developed as part of my doctoral dissertation. With the notable exception of Pericles, Edward III and my Sir Thomas More, collaborative plays have usually been translated only in major projects addressing the whole canon, according to what was considered canonical at the time.

7According to Will Sharpe (2013), one of the editors of the important RSC publication Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays, collaboration might be the reason some plays are included in the famous First Folio of Shakespeare while others are left out. This works for omitted Shakespeare and Fletcher plays, such as Cardenio and Two Noble Kinsmen, as well as for cases such as Edward III and Pericles. However, the Folio does not tell the “whole truth about Shakespeare’s authorship” (Sharpe, 2014: 35), as some collaborative plays are left out, whereas others are included (ibid.), such as Titus Andronicus, Timon of Athens, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Henry VIII and Henry VI Part I. To ignore collaboration is to overlook an essential aspect of theatre itself, as an art that is essentially collaborative. This is not to say that collaborative writing is the most important aspect and solo authorship does not matter. Both cohabit in Renaissance drama and lyrical quality cannot be asserted based only on the number of hands working on a play. Gary Taylor, an influential Shakespearean scholar, recently stated that “anyone interested in Shakespeare must care about collaboration” (Taylor, 2014a: 1) and this involves readers, translators, actors and directors.

8Over the last few years, there has been increasing editorial interest in translations that may work on the stage as they are usually more accessible to a great range of readers. It is not rare to find mentions of the concern for performatibility (how a translation will sound upon the stage without major arrangements) in modern Brazilian translations. However, as I have stated above and going back to the never-ending discussion on reading / staging, both kinds of translation will continue to exist, probably using the great variety of resources available for digital editions. Translations for the stage are thought-provoking because they are exceptions to the rule and they provide the general background to thinking about the early modern practices of authorship, such as collaboration, as opposed to post-Romantic approaches of a solitary genius author. In addition, these so-called translations for the stage might not fit most performative circumstances because productions may rely on a great range of interpretations and are subject to constraints of time and space, to name just two.

9The language of these translations for the stage destroys the barriers and the difficulties that old-fashioned language and excessively complicated idioms have posed for decades because it speaks in an understandable and effective way. In the case of collaborative works, new translations give new life to these plays, giving rise to more up-to-date discussions, such as those concerning collaboration, which might have been unavailable to translators in the past, easily explaining the reason for a different authorial perspective.

  • 12 . See E. K Chambers (1924) for a historical account of the negativity associated with collaborativ (...)
  • 13 . See Gary Taylor and John Jowett (1993), for an account of Middleton’s revisions of Shakespeare’s (...)
  • 14 . See, for example, the Oxford World’s Classics edition for Shakespeare and Middleton’s collaborat (...)
  • 15 . Collaboration was, in the past, viewed as something negative—a form of interference (see Chamber (...)

10The negative idea associated with collaborative plays in which the authorial voice is dispersed in different hands in any period is another possible justification12 for translators having tended to avoid dealing with them and their inherent difficulties. The case of the Shakespeare and Middleton collaborations,13 such as Timon of Athens, is a good example for a discussion of entropy. This play was once taken in the 1950-70s criticism as being a draft or abandoned piece. This opinion influenced a Brazilian translation (2003). In the following year (2004), a new edition14 authoritatively established its collaborative nature15 and critical opinion on its authorship changed from viewing it as an abandoned play to a play written with a collaborator. In addition, Timon is a play about misanthropy and the miseries of human behaviour, topics that might have played a role in the play’s reception, influencing several generations of negative commentaries. Any translator has to cope with the information available on essential criticism, something that is defined through the source edition. For readers, spectators, actors and directors, it does make a difference to know whether we are watching / reading a Shakespearean draft or a play by both Shakespeare and Middleton as it affects our senses of authorship, imagery, vocabulary, action, characters and the plot. Clearly, this example takes into account only the entropy of the authorial perception or opinion present in the introductory material because the translator cannot foresee precisely what will happen to the state of criticism regarding specific features of a play in the future. Nevertheless, this translation of Timon, republished in 2006, still remains the most recent and valuable published translation of that play in Brazilian-Portuguese.

11Therefore, the way in which a translator engages with his or her critical material and the ongoing discussions concerning a specific play—including or not some material and ideas—might affect how the readership or possible audiences will react to the play. Gatekeeping involves the selection of the information available on the text and its criticism, which is actually framed within the final printed translation, usually found in the pre-textual section. Whether the selection is sufficient or up to date is another matter, as translations are also affected by a great number of variants, such as methodological approaches, the purpose of reading / acting, the language employed, the play’s current state of criticism and publishing constraints out of the translator’s control. The inevitability of this situation for any printed translation outlines the entropy feature of drama translation—its natural tendency to move into a new order. As a reader or a spectator, one’s senses and expectations are inevitably affected by the amount of information already received about the play, usually through translations as these are often the most available form of material access to it. In the next section of this article, taking these two features as points to consider regarding drama translation, I examine the material problems faced as the translator of a collaborative play that never reached print in its own period and how this shapes the perception of Shakespeare, theatre, the history of the text and the play’s story.

Translating Sir Thomas More

  • 16 . All the references and quotations from Sir Thomas More (STM) are from the John Jowett edition pu (...)
  • 17 . See STM scene viii, 1-21.

12Sir Thomas More (1600; 1603-4)16 is a collaborative play written by Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, with the “hand of Shakespeare” and many others, which has survived as a censored manuscript. This is a different case of collaboration: rather than two dramatists working together, here we find Shakespeare helping Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle to recreate a scene of crowd control, a sequence of episodes that caught the eyes of the censor, who demanded that the rebel scenes be removed. Rather than losing the seven initial scenes, the climax was arranged by a dramatist with experience in dealing with riot-control scenes and characters, such as those found in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part II (1591) and Julius Caesar (1599). Moreover, this is an extreme case of collaboration, in which we find two authors, three collaborators, a copyist and the censor all leaving marks in the playtext. In addition to this scene, the sixth, there is an opening passage of 21 lines in the eighth scene of Sir Thomas More that is also attributed to Shakespeare.17

13This play has idiosyncratic characteristics, such as the presence of several dramatists, traces of censorship, of revision, of replaced passages and of damaged parts, all of which make it a challenging work for both editors and translators. The nature of the manuscript gives the translator an unstable object with which to work. The translation works in a gatekeeping sense not only in relation to words and meaning, but also mediating between the play’s action and words—through variations and conjectural readings—and the stage, actors’ bodies, theatregoers and readers. The translated text originated as a process to discuss the performative condition of the literary object, arguing the interdisciplinary status of the theatrical artefact, something that might seem obvious, but that always needs to be recalled when drama is regarded as literature and collaborative undertakings could easily be disregarded as works of lesser quality.

  • 18 . I am thankful to the Brazilian theatrical company, Cena IV Shakespeare Cia, for providing me wit (...)
  • 19 . John Jowett suggests that the copyist “could make little sense out of the combination of underpu (...)

14The translation serves as a text that can work as the starting point for theatre and it offers detailed information to the reader. The solutions found to highlight the play’s material condition during the translation process provide comments meant to be useful on movement, intonation and pauses for actors and directors, a result of experimenting with the text under performance conditions.18 Therefore, the variants of the playtext and the history of changes and revisions led me to think about other aspects of this particular play, such as movement and the props that might be used. Readers may find annotations all through the text as divisions between one dramatist and another are visible throughout the pages; revisions and alternative readings are found in footnotes; censorship and deletions by the copyist are highlighted by the underlining of specific lines. The passage quoted below shows some noteworthy examples in the Shakespearean addition. In this scene, Thomas More arrives to talk with the leaders of the riot against the foreigners. More says that they are offending God by creating such upheaval in the city, a point with which they do not agree. In the translation of this passage, certain resources have been used: underlined phrases or words show what the copyist chooses to remove. After crossing out almost five lines (125-9), he adds “tell me but this” (130) as a solution for rearranging the sequence.19 Some lines later, he removes “Alas, alas” (138). These two words are a rhetorical device, ending the previous sentence and starting to describe another imaginative situation. It provides a meaningful pause for the actor playing More and for the audience listening to a long speech, allowing a moment for some non-verbal language. Its removal certainly affects the acting, while the excision of the other five lines would speed up the sequence. By keeping these marks in the translation, actors and directors can verify what is best for their specific circumstances, while readers have a glimpse of Shakespearean crafting of lines within the preparation of the text.

  • 20 . Underlined phrases and words here show what the copyist chooses to remove.
  • 21 . “Tell me but this” is an addition by the copyist.
  • 22 . Marked for removal by the copyist.

Nay, certainly you are.
For to the king God hath his office lent
Of dread, of justice, power and command;
Hath bid him rule, and willed you to obey.
And, to add ampler majesty to this,
He hath not only lent the king His figure,
His throne and sword, but given him His own name:
Calls him a god on earth. What do you, then,
Rising ’gainst him that God Himself installs,
But rise ’gainst God? What do you to your souls
In doing this? Oh, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands
That you, like rebels, lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace; and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet.
To kneel to be forgiven
Is safer wars than ever you can make
Whose discipline is riot,
In, in, to your obedience! Why, even your hurly
Cannot proceed but by obedience
Tell me but this:21 what rebel captain,
As mutinies are incident, by his name
Can still the rout? Who will obey a traitor?
Or how can well that proclamation sound
When there is no addition but ‘a rebel’
To qualify a rebel? You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound.
Alas, alas!22
Say now the King,

As he is clement, if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England:
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts
But chartered unto them? What would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case,
And this your mountanish inhumanity.
(Munday, Shakespeare
et al., Sir Thomas More, Add. II (D), scene vi, lines 111-56)

15An important point on which to reflect is the transfer from page to stage. As spectators can we still perceive the multi-authorial condition of this or any collaborative play? Is it possible through translation? In some experiences of reading certain passages of Sir Thomas More, including this one above, it is noteworthy that many members of audiences make connections to several different Shakespearean plays that they have read. The fact that the passages attributed to Shakespeare are very distinct from the rest of the play, as the next quotes from it will show, may contribute to generating a different perception on the part of the audience. When the play was staged by the RSC ten years ago, it is said that the audience became more engaged in the play during this sequence. Whether they had their senses “prepared” it is impossible to know, but we may be relatively sure that publicity played its role in this. The Shakespearean sequence quoted above evokes many images and it deals with a relevant subject, the dangers of xenophobia. The gradual change of topic from rebellion against foreigners to sympathy for them, employing a set of easy-to-follow arguments, could be the reason for such engagement with the passage.

16However, it is not only the argument but also the procedure of the argument in the sequence of lines that awakens the senses of the spectator. As the passage ends and the revolt comes to a halt, the leaders surrender themselves to the authorities and the text returns to the hand of Anthony Munday and his own style; here, the high point of verbal intensity gives way to more placid dialogues. In Munday’s hand, the same scene follows on with the surrender of the rebels and the authorities thanking Thomas More for his role as a peace-maker. There is no use of metaphorical language or engagement with the audience’s imagination, even when Munday is crafting the same character as Shakespeare just a few lines later.

My lord, and breathren, what I here have spoke
My country’s love and, next, the City’s care
Enjoined me to; which since it thus prevails,
Think God hath made weak More His instrument (10)
To thwart sedition’s violent intent.
(ibid.: lines 204-8)

17If the brutal changes in style in these scenes point to a different perception concerning authorial hands, a translator must aim to preserve much of the style of each hand to point to the transitions between one hand and another. However, this is not as easy as it may sound as in any play we have different characters who speak differently from each other and the tone of the scenes poses different choices in terms of the words and emotions for the characters, not to mention the development of the action, which usually affects all the characters.

  • 23 . See Taylor (2014b) and Nance (2015) for a method of attribution for small amounts of text.

18The register of a character is something that also reveals how this group of authors worked. For example, Thomas Heywood—one of the collaborators—inserted a character called Clown Betts in the rebellion scenes. Generally, no character interacts with Clown Betts and his phrases are comments intended as jests or moments of relief. In this specific example, found in the seventh scene, while the riot leaders—Clown Betts included—wait for execution, the hand writing changes along with the character who articulates the changes. This transition tends to go unnoticed as the brevity of the play encourages quicker, and perhaps less forensic, reading of the text. We can only verify that hands have changed through analysing the handwriting in the manuscript. In this case, even the best computer-assisted stylometrical resources for authorship attribution are insufficient because they normaly only work on chunks of text that are at least two lines long.23

Doll [Original Text]
Farewell, John Lincoln. Say all what they can,
Thou lived’st a good fellow, and died’st an honest man.
Clown Betts [Line by Thomas Heywood]
Would I were so far on my journey! The first stretch is the worst, methinks.
Ibid.: Add. III, scene vii, lines 70-3)

19Another complex category is lacunae. Some parts of the manuscript, especially the edges, have suffered damage or are illegible. This leaves the play with small gaps, ranging from one or two words to a complete line. Editors have tried their best to recover what the text might have been, offering what they call “conjectural readings”. These vary considerably from one editor to another. Facing this issue, the translator has the option to choose one variant and continue, or to leave the space empty. Both solutions have their own problems because they give the text a stable status that does not represent the source. To overcome this, alternative readings are given in footnotes. In some cases, the absence of a variant may even be meaningful for the text for dramatic reasons. In the example below (191), there is a space, represented by “<>”, between the vocative and the question, when a daughter of Thomas More may be supposed to be crying when her father is being arrested:

To a great prison, to discharge the strife
Commenced ’twixt conscience and my frailer life,
More now must march.
Chelsea, adieu, adieu.
Strange farewell: thou shalt ne’er more see More true,
For I shall ne’er see thee more. – Servants, farewell.
– Wife, mar not thine indifferent face. Be wise.
More’s widow’s husband, he must make thee rise.
– Daughters, <> what’s here, what’s here?
Mine eye had almost parted with a tear.
– Dear son, possess my virtue; that I ne’er gave.
Grave More thus lightly walks to a quick grave.
Ibid.: Original Text, scene xiii, lines 184-94)

20In my translation of Sir Thomas More, I treated cases of lacunae individually, as choosing a particular stance—always using solutions provided by a pre-defined editor or using none—was not a good option because conjectural readings were chosen according to how well they sounded in Portuguese, especially if they were based on a proverb or they required rhyming with the previous or following line. All such lacunae were marked with a graphical sign to indicate their role in the playtext and a footnote pointing to their editorial origin.

21The sense, presence and absence of words, hands and dramatists were matters to bear in mind during the process of translating Sir Thomas More. The difficulty in approach arose from the desire to create a translation suitable for the stage, whereas most of the solutions found in the process affect only the reader. The limits of translating for the stage are only tested when the translated text is enacted under performance conditions; even using actors to test the lines is not a solution as every time a play is set, it is influenced by several conditions of theatrical practices and habits related to the physical space of the theatre and the place. As Susan Bassnett stated some years ago, the responsibility of the drama translator is limited (1998: 106), as translators are not the director or the dramaturgist. However, translation for the theatre may provide unlimited possibilities, based on the tendency of drama translation to become naturally dated (as part of a linguistic system circumscribed in a specific period) and facing the inherent tendency to the reordering of its own system (entropy) which affects these translations. Entropy here has a great range of possibilities: first, the text, as the leaves of a manuscript, can potentially be overlooked in a translation in which the original material condition is ignored and in which the marks of revision or censorship are not visible, the changes in hands are not indicated and conjectural readings are taken for granted. As the translator, I was also the gatekeeper of such information for those who might have contact with the translated play. Clearly, working with this kind of material I had to make many choices and take the most from the current state of criticism of the play regarding its features, trying not to occult its idiosyncrasies and appealing properties. However, like every “scholarly edifice against the erosion of subsequent enquiry” (Sharpe, 2014: 43), it will not escape from entropy, but will hopefully provide a chance for readers and spectators to review their ideas of authorship, possibly sharpening their senses.

22The translated text works as a starting point for considering authorial hands as it can provide a guideline for fitting the translated play to specific theatrical circumstances. A simple example is the presence of the Clown mentioned above. If a director wants to eliminate a character, he or she can easily choose not to follow this later addition to the play and this kind of insight opens up a new way of perceiving the play. Directors and actors can try the variations that the play offers and have recourse to its prismatic nature to their own advantage in fitting the play to their needs. Other approaches might rely on the textual transmission of the text, trying to make the most of lacunae or exploring the possibilities afforded by the lack of stage directions in some moments of the text. Therefore, some instances in which there are no definitive solutions in the text are open to different perceptions when the translated playtext makes its way to bodies, sound and movement.

23Most of the work involving several hands will go unnoticed as the play progresses, even if different styles are strictly preserved. This may point to the fact that whilst maintaining different styles and registers, the play has not lost its dramatic unity, a risk that is embedded in this kind of approach to the playtext. On the other hand, regarding the printed outcome of the translation of a play, authorial presence and collaboration make themselves visible in the text.

  • 24 . The reference here is Shakespeare’s The Tempest, 4.1.150 “As I foretold you, were all spirits an (...)
  • 25 . I would like to thank the physicist and Shakespearean scholar, Dr Ronaldo Marin, for reading ear (...)

24Translations are an inevitable part of the history of the text, offering infinite possibilities in any language. The framing of the senses of the text is part of this same movement as the translator puts great effort into his or her own understanding of the playtext regarding the selection of words and the recreation of both characters and situations. As time moves on, language changes, as does the vocabulary available to a translator. Also, the critical understanding of the play and the theatrical practices associated with it can change drastically. Finally, the ways in which we conceive the author or authors are subject to modification. This set of perceptions differs from one generation of drama translators to another; this set is also responsible for the entropy in drama translation. Returning to the perspective from which this article started—that the idea of the author seems to influence how the translator deals with the text—collaboration was a matter perceived as an important topic of discussion by the time I began working with this play and thus became a relevant issue in my approach. The presence or the absence of different hands in the textual corpus of the play becomes an approach to authorial perception, rather than simply concerning the way the text reached us. It may not be palpable or felt by most of the audience, but after the curtain falls and the show is over, it is the text—the translation—that stands between readers and the play. It is in the translated playtext that readers can see different hands working together as a gateway to creating emotions that will inevitably disappear “into air, into thin air”24 of performance.25

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Corpus Texts

Munday, Anthony, Shakespeare, William et al., 2011, Sir Thomas More, John Jowett (ed.), The Arden Shakespeare Third Series, London, Methuen Drama.

Shakespeare, William, 2003, Timão de Atenas, trans. Bárbara Heliodora. Rio de Janeiro, Lacerda Editores.

—, 2009, Titus Andronicus, trans. Beatriz Viégas-Faria, Porto Alegre, L&PM.

2010, Eduardo III, trans. ElvioFunck, Porto Alegre, MovimentoEdunisc.

—, 2012a, Do Jeito que VocêGosta, trans. Cia. Elevador de TeatroPanorâmico, São Paulo, Balão Editorial.

—, 2012b, Péricles, Príncipe de Tiro, trans. José Roberto O’Shea, São Paulo, Iluminuras.

2013, The Tempest, Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan (eds), Arden Shakespeare Third Series, Revised edition, London, Bloomsbury.

Shakespeare, William & Middleton, Thomas, 2004, Timon of Athens, John Jowett (ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Works cited

Bassnett, Susan, 1998, “Still trapped in the labyrinth: Further reflections on translation and theatre”, in Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere (eds), Constructing Cultures, Clevedon, Cromwell Press, p. 90-108.

Chambers, E. K., 1924, “The disintegration of Shakespeare”, The Annual Shakespeare Lecture, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 11, London, Oxford University Press, p. 89-108.

Cheesman, Tom, 2015, “Reading originals by the light of translations”, Shakespeare Survey, vol. 68, p. 87-98.

Closel, Régis Augustus Bars, 2012, “Obediência e Livre Arbítrio no Universo Elisabetano: uma reflexão acerca da opressãoem ‘Medida Por Medida’ e ‘The Booke of Sir Thomas More’”, in Cardoso, A. et al. (eds), Habitandomodernidades: utopia, controle social e livre-arbítrio, Niterói, Letras da UFF, p. 45-53.

2013a, “Drama and Censorship in The Booke of Sir Thomas More”, in Marinho, C. (ed.), Teatro do Mundo – Drama e Censura, Porto, Univ. do Porto, p. 41-52.

2013b, “O mundo fora do cânone: considerações sobre algumas peças apócrifas de Shakespeare”, Anais do XIII Congresso Internacional ABRALIC, Campina Grande, Realize, p. 1-10.

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1 . See Harry De Quetteville (2015) “Sir Ian McKellen is wrong about Shakespeare. He’s best read on paper”, The Telegraph, 28/10/2015.

2 . It is worth mentioning a published translation of As You Like It, the translator of which is named collectively as the Brazilian theatrical company Cia Elevador de Teatro Panorâmico (Shakespeare, 2012a).

3 . See, for instance, the nineteenth-century works of William Hazlitt or the late twentieth-century Shakespeare: The Creation of the Human, by Harold Bloom, for good examples of this way of conceiving Shakespeare’s drama as literature.

4 . Different Brazilian translators have dealt with collaboration in their introductions, such as the translations of Titus Andronicus by Beatriz Viégas-Faria (2009) and Péricles by José Roberto O’Shea (2012).

5 . For this kind of approach in the humanities, see, among others, Debora Shaw and Charles H. Davis (1983) “The concept of entropy in the arts and humanities” and the seminal lecture by C. P. Snow from 1959, published in 1961. To the best of my knowledge, no author has explored the application of the concept of entropy to drama translation.

6 . See Closel, Régis Augustus Bars, 2016.

7 . According to Jonathan Hope (1994), sociolinguistics explains how language is in constant flux and is influenced by social origin, education and the place in which an individual grows up. A later translator will work differently—at the linguistic level—than a previous one. In addition, according to Tom Cheesman (2015), who compared 40 different translations of Othello into German, each new translator of the play tends to avoid the same use of words as previous translators, especially in the initial verses of a scene. Both claims point to and explain the irreversibility of the translation process.

8 . A reliable source of information on Brazilian-Portuguese translations is the “Escolhaseu Shakespeare” online database, prepared by Márcia A. P. Martins (2012), which includes information on 181 translations.

9 . For an account of the collaboration discussion, see in the bibliography the entries by Taylor & Jowett, Vickers and Sharpe.

10 . The fact that they are historical dramas can be ruled out as a reason for only having a few translations because Shakespeare’s historical drama Richard III, along with the tragedies Macbeth and Hamlet, are the Shakespearean plays most often produced in Brazil.

11 . Brazilian readers may read this through the European-Portuguese edition, in which collaboration is explicitly announced on the book cover. No Brazilian translation of the collaborative plays has printed the collaborator’s name on the cover or in the first pages.

12 . See E. K Chambers (1924) for a historical account of the negativity associated with collaborative plays in the early 20th century.

13 . See Gary Taylor and John Jowett (1993), for an account of Middleton’s revisions of Shakespeare’s plays and Gary Taylor (2014b).

14 . See, for example, the Oxford World’s Classics edition for Shakespeare and Middleton’s collaborative play, Timon of Athens, edited by John Jowett (2004) and the Oxford Middleton, edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino (2007), as well as Brian Vickers’ chapter on this play in Shakespeare Co-Author (2002: 244-90), which summarizes the preceding discussions on its dual-authorship.

15 . Collaboration was, in the past, viewed as something negative—a form of interference (see Chambers, 1924) —and not as part of the writing process of early modern theatrical practices.

16 . All the references and quotations from Sir Thomas More (STM) are from the John Jowett edition published by Arden Shakespeare Third Series in 2011.

17 . See STM scene viii, 1-21.

18 . I am thankful to the Brazilian theatrical company, Cena IV Shakespeare Cia, for providing me with their opinions on their use of translations and what they would find useful in a translation of an English Renaissance play.

19 . John Jowett suggests that the copyist “could make little sense out of the combination of underpunctuation, complex syntax, difficult thought and interlineation” (STM: 127).

20 . Underlined phrases and words here show what the copyist chooses to remove.

21 . “Tell me but this” is an addition by the copyist.

22 . Marked for removal by the copyist.

23 . See Taylor (2014b) and Nance (2015) for a method of attribution for small amounts of text.

24 . The reference here is Shakespeare’s The Tempest, 4.1.150 “As I foretold you, were all spirits and / are melted into air, into thin air;”. The quote is from Arden Shakespeare Third Series Revised edition (2013).

25 . I would like to thank the physicist and Shakespearean scholar, Dr Ronaldo Marin, for reading early versions of this text and checking the accuracy of my uses of entropy. In addition, I thank Professor Suzi Frankl Sperber, Professor John Jowett, Dr Will Sharpe and Elaine Melchior Closel for readings and discussions on the topic of this research. This work was supported by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP).

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Régis Augustus Bars Closel, « Sensing the Author’s Hand thanks to Translation: The Brazilian-Portuguese Translation of Sir Thomas More », Palimpsestes [En ligne], 29 | 2016, mis en ligne le 17 mai 2017, consulté le 17 février 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Régis Augustus Bars Closel

Régis Augustus Bars Closel est chercheur, spécialiste de Shakespeare et traducteur. Il a traduit Sir Thomas More dans le cadre de sa thèse dirigée par le professeur Suzi Frankl Sperber à l’Universidade Estadual de Campinas ; il a reçu le soutien financier de la Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo. Au cours de sa recherche, il a effectué un séjour d’un an au Shakespeare Institute (Royaume-Uni), également avec le soutien de la Fundação de Amparo. Il a proposé une solution éditoriale pour résoudre un problème épineux dans Notes & Queries (2014). Il a publié plusieurs articles et rédigé plusieurs chapitres de livres ; il a donné de nombreuses communications sur Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare et l’Angleterre pré-moderne. Il a également publié des traductions au Royaume-Uni, au Brésil et en Europe. Il est le co-éditeur de deux ouvrages : Onze Vezes Utopia (Campinas, IEL-Unicamp, 2011) et Shakespeare 450 Anos (São Paulo, Instituto Shakespeare Brasil, 2014).

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