Canonizing Shakespeare in 1920s Japan: Tsubouchi Shoyo and the Translator's Choice

Daniel Gallimore_Shakespeare Japan

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 12:00pm
Daniel Gallimore, 2018-2019 NFC Visiting Fellow 
Northrop Frye Centre, VC102, Old Vic, 91 Charles st. West

Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935) first translated Shakespeare when he was 25 with a version of Julius Caesar in the style of classical Japanese drama, and it was through a process of rapid linguistic change and theatrical reform that he came to translate the complete plays and poems of Shakespeare between 1909 and 1927. This he did in a modern style interspersed with literary inflections, maintaining that ‘The natural and contemporary feel of contemporary colloquial Japanese recalls the unchanging naturalness of Shakespeare’s works’, and affordably priced with the translator’s scholarly forewords the series of forty volumes became a best seller. Tsubouchi was a distinguished and prolific writer in his own right, ‘the father’ of the modern Japanese novel, whose Selected Works were published in seventeen volumes in 1927-8. The latter included translations of eight of the plays alongside his original novels, plays and criticism, namely (in order of inclusion) The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, The Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth, and Measure for Measure, but omitting much better known plays in early 20th century Japan such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice. My lecture will discuss this somewhat surprising choice in terms of Tsubouchi’s development as a Shakespeare translator and the various illuminating comparisons he makes in his forewords with his native drama.

Daniel Gallimore first came to Japan in 1987, and has been professor of English literature at Kwansei Gakuin University, near Kobe, since 2011. His research interest is in Japanese translations of Shakepeare. His book on the treatment of prosody in Japanese translations of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was published by Kwansei Gakuin University Press in 2012, and a book on Tsubouchi Shoyo, the pioneer of Shakespeare translation in early 20th century Japan, by Edwin Mellen Press in 2016. He was a contributor to A History of Japanese Theatre (ed. Jonah Salz, Cambridge University Press, 2016), is a regular participant in international conferences such as the World Shakespeare Congress, and has also translated contemporary plays for Kinokuniya's Half a Century of Japanese Theatre series. His fellowship at the Northrop Frye Centre will be spent in making a detailed study of the Shakespeare translations and criticism of Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935).