Kent Richmond's Enjoy Shakespeare series appeals to those who find Shakespeare's 400-year-old language a bit too difficult to follow comfortably yet want to read a piece of literature, not a study guide or cheat sheet.

 

Most translations offer prose simplifications of Shakespeare's originals. But Kent Richmond's translations preserve the feel and richness of the plays by maintaining the verse structure of each line. If Shakespeare uses blank verse, then the translation uses blank verse. If Shakespeare uses prose or includes a song or rhyme, the translation does too. The vocabulary is as large and varied as Shakespeare's and the sentences as complex.

 

Features

  • Line-by-line verse translations, not prose paraphrases.
  • Complete. No lines deleted. No dumbing down.
  • Accurate and authentic iambic pentameter.
  • True to the feel and look of Shakespeare's original.
  • Tone, complexity, and poetic devices preserved.
  • Subtlety and richness revealed without the need of notes and glosses.
  • Accessible introduction to classic drama.
  • Attractive, comfortable-to-read layout.
  • Stage-ready for an audience-pleasing theatrical performance.

Now you can enjoy the true genius of Shakespeare with the passion, comprehension, and enthusiasm of audiences 400 years ago. Order a title today.

 

 

Praise

 

(from the back cover)

"Too often, unless we read a Shakespeare play beforehand, we process the language as if it were coming from a poorly tuned-in radio station. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays to be experienced impressionistically as ‘poetry;’ he assumed his language was readily comprehensible. At what point does a stage of a language become so different from the modern one as to make translation necessary? Mr. Richmond is brave enough to assert that, for Shakespeare, that time has come. The French have Moliere, the Russians have Chekhov—and now, we can truly say that we have our Shakespeare.”—John McWhorter,  Manhattan Institute

 

John McWhorter's article "The Real Shakespearean Tragedy" in the January 2010 issue of American Theater Magazine praises Kent Richmond's Shakespeare Translation Project.

 

 

Excerpt

To see an example of how close the line structure matches the original, take a look at the opening lines of Kent Richmond's translation of Twelfth Night. The translation looks and feels like Shakespeare, with the poetic elements and the pacing of language and action kept intact.

DUKE ORSINO

If music is the food of love, play on.

Fill me with such excess, that gorged on it,

My craving turns to sickness, and thus dies.

That song again! Its cadence fell away.

O, it came past my ear like the sweet sound,

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing in, giving fragrance! [pause for music]

                                      Enough. No more.

It’s not so sweet now as it was before.

O spirit of love! So keen and ravenous,

That, even though your vast capacity

Lets in as much as seas, what enters there

Despite its value and the height it gains

Will sink into low price and worthlessness,

In but a minute! So rich in forms is love

That it alone incites such fantasy.

CURIO (a gentleman serving the Duke)

Lord, do you wish to hunt?

DUKE ORSINO

                                           Hunt what?

CURIO

                                                              The hart.

DUKE ORSINO

But Curio, I do, the noblest one.

O, when my eyes first saw Olivia,

It seemed she cleansed the air of all infection!

That instant I was turned into a hart,

And my desires, like cruel and vicious hounds,

Have chased me since.

[Enter VALENTINE]

                                      Come in! What news from her?

VALENTINE (a gentleman serving the Duke)

If you please lord, I’d rather not intrude;

Her handmaid, though, has brought back this reply:

The elements themselves above will not,

Till seven summers pass, behold her face,

But like a cloistered nun, she’ll wear a veil

And wash her chamber once a day with tears,

Preserving in eye-burning brine the love

Of her dead brother, which she wants kept fresh

And lasting in her cheerless memory.

DUKE ORSINO

O, if her heart’s so tender in construction

That she could owe such love to just one brother,

Think how she’ll love, when Cupid’s golden dart

Kills off the flock of all desires that live

In her but one; when liver, brain and heart,

These sovereign thrones, and all her sweet perfection

Are filled and ruled by just a single king!

Lead me away now to sweet beds of flowers.

Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.

[Exit ALL]

© 2004 by Kent Richmond

Excerpt from Romeo and Juliet

from Act One, Scene Five

 

Romeo first notices Juliet at the Capulet's party. As in the original, Romeo's lines about Juliet are couplets.

ROMEO

[to a Servant] That lady there, enriching that knight’s hand,

Who is she?

SERVANT

I do not know, sir.

ROMEO

O, she could teach the torches to burn bright!

It seems she’s hanging from the cheek of night

Like a rich jewel in a chieftain’s ear—

Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!

And seems a snowy dove lined up with crows,

Among her friends, that’s how the lady shows.

The dance now done, I’ll note where she will rest

And, touching hers, my rough hands will be blessed.

Has my heart loved till now? Renounce past sight!

I’ve never seen true beauty till this night.

Later in this scene, Romeo and Juliet first meet. As in Shakespeare's original, the first fourteen lines are a sonnet.

ROMEO

[to Juliet] If I profane with my unworthy hand

This holy shrine, my gentle sin is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, here they stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET

Good pilgrim, you have wronged your hand too much,

I see a fitting piety in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims hands may touch,

And palm to palm is how the holy kiss.

ROMEO

Don’t saints have lips, and holy pilgrims too?

JULIET

Yes, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;

They pray, saints act, or faith turns to despair.

JULIET

Saints won’t move first, though prayers may make them act.

ROMEO

Then do not move as my prayer takes effect.

[He kisses her]

Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

JULIET

Then from my lips take back the sin they took.

ROMEO

Sin from my lips? A wrong so sweetly urged!

Give back my sin.

[He kisses her]

JULIET

                                I see you’ve read the book.

© 2004 by Kent Richmond


An Excerpt from Kent Richmond's Introduction to King Lear: A Verse Translation

About This Translation

This translation makes the language of William Shakespeare’s drama more contemporary without modernizing the play in any other way. No lines are omitted or simplified, and no characters or scenes are deleted.

My aim is for readers to experience Shakespeare’s plays with the level of challenge and comprehension offered to audiences 400 years ago. Despite the richness of the plays, theatergoers in that era did not need scene summaries to follow the plot, footnotes to interpret vocabulary, or elaborate gestures to help them recognize a joke or guess at the character’s intentions or emotional state. After all, Shakespeare’s characters tell us what they are thinking. The plays lasted only a couple of hours, which means the actors spoke at a fairly rapid, though comfortable, pace.

To qualify this translation as authentic Shakespeare, I preserve the metrical rhythm of the original as much as possible. When the original employs iambic pentameter, this translation does too. When characters speak in prose, the translation shifts to prose. Rhymes, the occasional alliteration, and metrical irregularities are preserved. Jokes, inspired or lame, and poetic devices get equivalents in the modern language. Sentence length and syntactic complexity are the same.

To help comprehension, I occasionally add brief pieces of exposition, careful to operate within the metrical constraints imposed by the original. Shakespeare sometimes makes references to Greek mythology and folk legends, many of which are obscure today. So "Hecate" becomes “the sorcery of Hecate,” or "Phoebus" becomes “the Sun God.” This practice eliminates the need for footnotes, which are unavailable to the theater audience and a distraction to readers. The occasional endnote offers an alternate translation of a disputed passage or explains a decision to deviate from the original. Endnotes can be ignored without loss of comprehension.

I suggest reading this translation without referring to the original so that you can imagine the play as theater in real time with the rhythm and pacing undisturbed. Don’t be surprised if the “colors” seem a bit brighter than you remember them. After four centuries, more than a little “linguistic grime” builds up as our language changes. Keep in mind how surprised we are when Renaissance paintings are restored to their original state and those muted, sepia hues turn into celebrations of color. My translation wants you to see the same colors that the groundlings and the royalty saw when they crowded into theaters 400 years ago.            

 

© 2004, 2014 by Kent Richmond

 

 

 

More Praise

 

"Richmond has performed a service for English-speaking students everywhere."

Boak Ferris, Calif. State Univ. Long Beach

(see full review)

 

"I wanted something more understandable. I found [Richmond's] script and loved it...The translation manages to maintain Shakespeare's brilliant form and rhythm."

Shauna Huff, director of Romeo and Juliet: A Verse Translation, Jonathan Alder High School

 

"For the first time I see what Shakespeare is doing."

university student

 

"I dearly hope that Kent Richmond will continue this immensely valuable and supremely necessary project of making the genuine Shakespeare available to modern readers. In importance to the literary heritage of the English-speaking world, I would compare this project to the production of the King James Bible in 1611. Please, please keep going."

Robert B. Laney, Oxnard, California

 

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