Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Inaccuracies in Pasternak's Translations of Shakespeare: Elucidating or Obscuring?


Modern Languages & Literatures


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



In Russia, Pasternak's versions of Shakespeare's plays belong to the classics of English literature in translation, and many Russians have learned Shakespeare through them ¿ although not necessarily knowing about their inaccuracies. Since Pasternak's goal was to create translations for the stage production and not for close reading and research, it is natural to expect some departures from the sources in them. What the audience in Shakespeare's time would grasp easily - Latinisms, mythological names, and historical allusions - now requires commentaries. That is why Pasternak, just like many other translators who have worked on the texts from a different culture or epoch, resorted to interpretive translation. It explains why in the Russian version of Romeo and Juliet we see the word Vilafrank ("Villa Franca") matching the "old Freetown" of the original and why in Antony and Cleopatra the names Pacorus and Orodes appear as syn ("son") and tsar ("tsar"). Not all departures from the originals seem to be a result of Pasternak's attempt to elucidate or simplify Shakespeare. The translations contain some obvious blunders caused by misreading, bad logic, and omissions. Some of these errors, especially logical, are not easy to notice, but at close reading they pop up as surprises producing ambiguity and creating changes in the sequence of events and relationships among characters.

Conference Name

The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture

Conference Location

Louisville, KY

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