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Pablo Ingberg

Translating Shakespeare by Pablo Ingberg

Two Responses and Two Introductions

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Pablo Ingberg

Pablo Ingberg

Pablo Ingberg is an Argentine writer, translator and editor, who graduated in Literature from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Among works of Shakespeare, he translated 19 plays, the narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece, 2/3 of the Sonnets, and the passages of Romeo and Juliet omitted by Pablo Neruda in his translation for the stage. He was also the general editor of Shakespeare’s Complete Plays as published by Editorial Losada, where he directs as well the Colección Griegos y Latinos (Greek and Latin Collection), to which he contributed his translations of Sappho, Sophocles, Aristophanes and Virgil. He has translated over 50 books (by Whitman, Melville, Conrad, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Fitzgerald, etc.). He has delivered lectures and seminars and written articles and essays on translation in general and of Shakespeare in particular.

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Acknowledgement The Fundación Shakeapeare Argentina thanks Pablo Ingberg, the Argentinian most prolific Shakespeare translator, for share with us two responses about translating drama and two extracts of his introductions to William Shakepeare's

The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing.

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Translating Drama

What does it mean for you or how would you define drama translation?

No doubt its specificity lies in that it works on texts conceived, as a rule, to be told by actors on stage. That ttspecificity can, besides, be split into translations for the stage and for the page: both should ideally coincide, but there are peculiarities in one and the other that are worth considering. I believe that the text for the stage should coincide as much as possible with the text for the page (and not the other way round): if a text by Lope de Vega is not modified (i.e. simplified, flattened) for its staging, I don’t see why those by one of his contemporaries’, Shakespeare, should be “modified” under the translation disguise; let alone a text for the page, which can be read with pauses and reread with notes and dictionary support. It is exactly the same thing a native speaker of English needs today to be able to understand a Shakespeare’s work word by word.

Which are the obstacles or difficulties in the task of translating plays?

My experience has been, so far, with Sophocles and Shakespeare for the page, and the first version of a musical for the stage. Out of the contrast between ancient and present there emerges another great dilemma: What spectator or reader of original plays of other times should we take into account as a parameter when translating? Those contemporary to the composition, to whom the language spoken at that time was familiar, or those contemporary to the translation, to whom it sounds somewhat ancient? I tend to adhere to the latter: for our reader or spectator to sound with certain air of antiquity, like Shakespeare today to an English-speaking audience. That is a first great difficulty: to manage oral fluency while respecting the antiquity of the text. And besides, while respecting its literary qualities and attributes: not flattening it, privileging the “tale” rather than the verbal art, out of laziness or underestimation of the recipient’s capacities; that is to say, not to turn a sybaritic meal into a fatless and unseasoned one. Shakespeare is devilishly tricky and fascinating: he is full of figures of speech, puns, peculiar speaking FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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features in each of his characters such as gravity, rudeness, grandiloquence, coarseness, errors, mistakes, double meanings (mainly obscene), archaisms, neologisms, mispronunciation in foreigners. He also uses the change between prose and the uniform rhythm of verse, and sometimes the rhyme, with a clear dramatic functionality that is a meaning-maker. To account for all this in a translation might be seen as an insurmountable Everest of obstacles, but also as an exciting challenge. When dealing with big names we know beforehand that we will lose, that the translated version won’t be level to the original text; but you must put your soul into the game, so that you are defeated with dignity, not with a final score which is a slaughter.

• Eandi, María Victoria, “Traducir teatro: una aventura con obstáculos y satisfacciones" "Translating Drama: An adventure with Obstacles and Satisfactions”, La revista del CCC [en línea], enero/abril 2010, n° 8.

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Introduction to William Shakespeare's

The Tempest (Extract)

After a quarter century on London stages, and nearly twenty years of non-stop creation, with thirty-odd dramatic pieces and other compositions in his background, William Shakespeare writes The Tempest, shown for the first time in 1611, and then retires to his hometown, Stratford. There he was to die in 1616, when he was about fifty-two years old. Most of his productive life had taken place in a golden period as well as one of political, economic and artistic consolidation in his country. The English drama, though subjected to moral and religious criticism, and subjected to the temporary closing down of some of its buildings due to the plague, enjoyed at that time (like its contemporary in Spain) the favour of a very wide audience, a pyramid that found its very summit in the British Royalty. That same variety of public accounted for even the shape of the rooms, with its origin in the patios of the inns where the shows had formerly taken place: a lower place, a standing room round the front of the stage from three sides, for the standing poor, and the more elevated galleries around, with seated places, for the well-to-do. Shakespeare, as an actor and director, but mainly as a playwright, was a leading figure of that English drama golden age.

The Tempest is, then, according to evidence, his final piece (he later wrote, only in collaboration with John Fletcher, Henry VIII). Of this there are no “pirate” editions of the type which, taking advantage of his popularity, used to be printed at that time, based on texts frequently taken from the very performances. The oldest copy we have access to is that which comprises the first attempt to a Complete Works approach, the renowned folio edition of 1623, that is, seven FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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years after the author’s death, prepared by the actors John Heminges and Henry Condell. There it comes first on the list of “comedies”, and the text, quite well-preserved, includes the division in acts and scenes and a good number of considerably precise stage directions.

(...)

It has been noted this is Shakespeare’s only play that comes closer in the fulfilment of the basic unity-of-time-and-place classical rule (a matter that, nevertheless, seems not to have worried the Bard very much). As regards place, this fulfilment is quite relative, in fact. In Greek tragedy, unity of time tended to occur in a fixed point; for example, the front of a palace. In The Tempest, instead, even though everything happens on an island (and off its coast, in the short initial scene) it moves constantly from one place to another. Much more appealing is the question of unity of time, for what it has in common with a “real time” and its consequent connection with the idea of a Theatrum Mundi.

In effect, there are two references in the course of the play to the time of the day it is, and a third, slightly contradictory, about the time passing by during the events. In the Second Scene of Act I, during a dialogue between Prospero and Ariel, it is said that it’s two o’clock in the afternoon. That is not the exact moment of the beginning of the action, which has taken place some minutes before with the tempest of the First Scene, while –we know at the beginning of this following scene– Prospero, the phenomenon’s mentor, and Miranda were watching it from the island as if it had been (as if it were) a show (within the show). That same idea of a drama intertwined from within the action is reinforced when Prospero, talking with Ariel about the time, adds: “The time ’twixt six and now /  Must by us both be spent most preciously,” anticipating the duration that future events will have out of his will. This is precisely the assertion Ariel reminds Prospero of, at the beginning of Act V, when announcing to him that it is six o’clock in the evening. Nor does this time show strictly the end of the action, which still has ahead the minutes this act lasts. But the fact is that there is a vague idea the events in the play last in all from some minutes before two o’clock in the afternoon until some minutes after six, that is, a bit more than four hours. Significantly, shows at that time took commonly place between three and six o’clock in the evening, when the audience, and the actors, set off for supper, exactly the same thing the characters were finally going to do in the end within the play. Maybe along this same line, as a hint to the audience about the real time the performance has taken place (rather than a slightly contradictory piece of information about the duration of the action), the boatswain’s temporal mark should be interpreted, when he comes back onto FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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stage somewhat before the end and says that it has been three hours since the tempest started (with which the play had started, and now is about to end). The fact is that the boatswain, like the audience, has been outside the power intrigues twined and untwined on the island. For him, then, like for the audience, everything has lasted about three hours.

From a narrative point of view, The Tempest, like Virgil’s Aeneid, begins in medias res, in the middle of the thing, with a sea storm that sets a fleet adrift, after which a character will tell another or other characters the previous events that have lead to the present situation, and, from this storm on, the events will develop further, events that, in the case of The Tempest, will properly constitute the dramatic action. Who knows if Shakespeare found inspiration in the Aeneid when giving his play such a structure from a narrative point of view, though it is quite clear he took it into account in other minor details, which are marked in my notes to my translation.

The fact is that, after the brief action with which the First Scene introduces the matter (and the subject of human fragility facing nature and fate, or however we might like to call it), the three quarters of the very long Second Scene (which in all takes a quarter of the play) are a retrospection of mainly a narrative type, where the events, previous to the situation that lead to the beginning of the action, are told. For this kind of tale, poor in dramatic development, Antiquity drama used to have a prologue, including sometimes some appeal to the audience’s benevolence (especially in the case of comedies). Shakespeare himself had used that means, though in very few occasions, throughout his career. He does so, at least, at the beginning of the First Act in Romeo and Juliet, in 2 Henry IV and in Troilus and Cressida. In The Tempest, instead, he tries to make the story, much longer and detailed on the other hand, be part of the action itself. Nonetheless, in the first part of that retrospection, the long dialogue between Prospero and Miranda, where he recalls the outrage he was object of and how he found himself on the island with his, at that time, little girl, doesn’t contain anything that could be properly called dramatic action. That’s why Shakespeare, well grounded in stage management, puts there in Prospero’s mouth many appeals to Miranda’s attention, the latter playing many times the role of a spectator from within the show (as if Prospero urged from Miranda what Shakespeare expects from the audience). A different case is that of the following dialogues with Ariel and Caliban. The beginning of the first is also narrative, though the details Ariel provides about his acting (this word understood in a double theatrical meaning) in the tempest of the beginning, while providing the chance to know better those events and while adding the final results, describes his relationship with Prospero at that moment. The claim FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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for freedom made afterwards by Ariel, instead, like Caliban’s subsequent reactions, while providing the chance to bring up the story of both characters, puts forward concrete conflicts that give certain dramatic action to the stories being told. But the most significant thing about it is, besides, that the story of those conflicts reproduces with variations that of the outrage Prospero had been victim of. In effect, he, who had been usurped from his Milan duchy, usurped Caliban’s island in turn. And he freed Ariel, yet to turn him into his slave.

From that moment on, the island multiplies those dirty power games (“foul play”, as Miranda calls her uncle’s antique “work”). Antonio, Prospero’s brother and the duchy’s usurper, incites Sebastian, King of Naples’ brother, to kill the latter and usurp the kingdom. With the difference, not at all little, that Antonio had played his own dirty game in Milan itself, where he took control over the duchy, and Sebastian is ready to do the same but on a semi-deserted island, without much hope for control over the Kingdom of Naples –which he would finally get– in Naples itself. That is, he is ready to usurp a position he will most probably not be able to exercise, except over a few defenceless courtesans in an inhospitable land. Thus, his attitude results in something like the epitome of power for its own sake. Caliban, in his turn, together with his discovered new pals, Stephano and Trinculo, will start the farcical and fooling version of that same type of power game.

Three groups of characters take turns on the stage: Prospero and his daughter, joined by Ferdinand, plus the former’s servants (or slaves), Ariel and Caliban; the latter will afterwards set off for a journey with another party, that of “low condition” characters, made up, together with him, of Stephano and Trinculo; finally, the nobles’ party, with Alonso, King of Naples, on the lead. Ariel, an airy spirit, invisible to all but Prospero (and eventually accompanied by all the rest of the spirits Prospero himself handed over to him), is the one who, following his boss’s directions, moves like the air among all groups.

Everything is under Prospero’s control (and everything that doesn’t appears like that, such as Caliban’s initial decision, when finding his new pals, to eliminate him and recognize Stephano in his place, will sooner or later be managed by Prospero and serve his own purposes). He (through his “art” and agents) sets up the ground for Antonio and Sebastian to conceive a plot; he himself drives the royal usurpers and pretenders crazy; he himself restore their “good senses” to them; he paves the road for Miranda and Ferdinand to fall in love with each other; he leads Caliban and company until, in front of all the dirty players, his dirty games are unmasked. Prospero is author, director, and leading FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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character in the summit (as if behind celestial scenes), and all within the play. This double or multiple theatrical game is frequently made explicit through double meanings that lead back to the idea of theatre in the characters’ words (double meanings my translation tries to save and my notes, in some cases, to highlight.)

The mirror game between the different inner situations in the play, the island which is the stage and the world, the theatre within the theatre within the world, the world within the theatre within the world, finds its culmination in the epilogue. Shakespeare had included an epilogue in some pieces, yet mainly as a conventional request to the public for indulgence or benevolence. The Tempest’s might find a connection with that of All’s Well that Ends Well, where, once he finishes his role, the actor playing the role of the King becomes, he says, a beggar (man), and urges the audience’s indulgence. But the epilogue to be pronounced by Prospero goes far beyond. The request for indulgence, after all written and formulated by the author, acquires in the mouth of the “artist” magician who had ruled the scene, and who now drops his magic or “art” like an actor his role, a pathos and poetic dimension that turns those verses into one of the best remembered and most memorable passages issued from the Bard’s pen, just that, as he is known in England (the same as in the Middle Ages the word Philosopher, just that, referred to Aristotle). The one who speaks there, prolonging never-endingly the mirror game, is not completely the actor who has just played Prospero’s role and now quits his “art” (that of performing, that of “enchanting”) to become human again, but also one who plays at being too, still, at the same time, the character, former and new Duke of Milan, “artist” magician on his island that has been the stage while the performance was on, and who recovers his full humanity, with the echo of his own words: “Every third thought shall be my grave”.

Previous to that final show which has contained the show, there has been an end to the action, in which Prospero recovered the duchy he used to own, not at the beginning of the action, but at the beginning of the narration. In Shakespeare’s historical plays, and even in some of his tragedies and comedies, there are processes of a more or less illegitimate enthroning and the usurper’s final fall, with which an order is temporarily restored, with new faces, and subject to potentially repeat the same process. In this case, it is the same old Duke, Prospero, who will come back to his Duchy, yet, even if he recovers his ducal dignity, he won’t be able to be the same person he was before, since he carries with himself the usurpation experience. The world he comes back to is for Miranda, who doesn’t know it, a “brave new world” (borrowed by Aldous Huxley for a novel’s title). But Prospero has answered her (or has he said that to FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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himself?): “’Tis new to thee.” Too many echoes reverberate in the world of that actor-man who has been for some time the author-director-character of a world as little as the little world.

• Shakespeare, W., La tempestad, Introducción, traducción y notas de Pablo Ingberg, Buenos Aires, Losada, 2000, 2006; Barcelona, Vitae, 2005 (Teatro del Mundo Award 2000 in Translation).

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Introduction to William Shakespeare's

Much Ado About Nothing (Extract)

The long-established Spanish translation to the title, Mucho ruido y pocas nueces (literally, “much noise and few nuts”), has only two merits: it matches an English proverbial expression with a Spanish one, and translates correctly the first part of the original expression. Apart from that, it is highly incorrect, inadequate, and misleading. In effect, Much Ado about Nothing, literally “Mucho alboroto en torno a nada”, or even more fluently and colloquially “Mucho ruido por nada” (Much Noise for Nothing), leads to some previous unsubstantial thing, a “nothing”, about which an exaggerated ado, “much noise” has generated afterwards; on the contrary, the saying “mucho ruido y pocas nueces” leads to a resounding promise of great things, “mucho ruido” (much noise), which finally finds only meagre results, “pocas nueces” (few nuts), or a “nothing”. Thus, firstly, such a rendering inverts the order of the facts, since it places the “much noise” chronologically before the other part: instead of an effect of “nothing”, it becomes cause of “few (or many) nuts.” Secondly, it introduces a notion of outcome opposite that of the original title and its reflection in the action: on the one hand, Claudio, supported by Don Pedro, makes “much noise” about a supposed infidelity on Hero’s part which isn’t such, that is, “for nothing”, but he finally marries her, that is, there are “many nuts”; on the other hand, Benedick and Beatrice make “much noise” one against the other and against marriage in general, but will finally get married, that is, the “much noise” was “for nothing” and in the end there are “many nuts”, great outcomes opposite those promised.

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A more literal translation to the title carries, though, another not minor problem, not so much in relation to the English language of today but in comparison to the listening of the audience contemporary to the author: in those times, nothing and noting could be pronounced in an almost indistinguishable way. So the title suggested, as double meaning, “Much Ado about Noting”, with the idea, developed in the plot, of “noting (wrongly).” And this is, no more, no less, what pulls the major strings of a play full of simulations bound to deceive the characters’ perceptions, in what constitutes a subtle way of performances within the performance:

· The crucial event for the plot, the proof of Hero’s supposed infidelity, which on the other hand does not occur on stage, is a staging by Don John, with Borachio’s authorial and acting collaboration and Margaret’s acting too, though unawares in her case, performed in front of Claudio and Don Pedro as spectators.

· Claudio’s reaction, though not a simulation, is the consequence of the above mentioned, and is, besides, an excessive theatrical display with the Prince’s collaboration and with numerous spectators within the play.

· When Don Pedro had promised to court Hero on Claudio’s behalf, he had at one point rehearsed in front of him, his occasional spectator, the future role with such a well-achieved simulation that an ocular and auditory witness, invisible spectator within the play, seems to inform then Antonio what he had “noted”: that the Prince was going to propose Hero himself.

· Don Pedro, according to his promise, courts Hero masked, simulating he is Claudio and on his behalf, who in turn, after being spectator of the scene and with Don Juan’s distorting help, believes Don Pedro has acted on his own behalf, and so did spectator Benedick.

· Hero’s death simulation, as well as at least one part of Leonato and Antonios’s consequent reproaches to Claudio and Don Pedro, the subsequent lamentations on the tomb (in this case the participants, who are ignorant of the inexistent death, not willing to simulate) and the way through the new wedding are stagings written and directed (plotted) by the friar.

· As regards Beatrice and Benedick, they perform all the time the role of mutual rejection and disdain for love and marriage, taking turns successively as actor and spectator in front of one another. That there is simulation in their behaviors is something that comes to light more and more clearly as the play progresses, FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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and will remain patently demonstrated with their wedding at the end.

· For them to change their attitude, the turning point has been a pair of simulation scenes conceived and directed by Prince Don Pedro, with his own respective acting participation together with Claudio and Leonato on the one hand, with Benedick as spectator, and of Hero and Ursula on the other, with Beatrice as spectator.

· The only relatively prominent characters that, to put it some way, never simulate on purpose, Dogberry and Verges with the watch, are all the time hypertheatrical, perform in excess (and with many defects, but with the only necessary effectiveness) the role of vigilance that have been entrusted to them.

In short, this is a play where practically all the characters, some way or other, at some point or other, are theatre actors, authors, directors and/or spectators (even the messenger of the initial scene is an actor gifted at the courtesan wit, which he paves the road for right from the beginning). Yet the essential particularity is that as spectators they tend to note wrongly, and their misappraisals are the engine of the whole action.

The three plot threads, the “serious” (Claudio-Hero, drawn from the sources), the “comical” (Benedick-Beatrice, the courtesan wit) and the auxiliary and also comical (Dogberry and the watch, comical), intertwine in such a well-achieved way that Algernon Charles Swinburne, with an enthusiasm somewhat excessive yet not preposterous, reckoned that in that respect no creation of Shakespeare’s hand would bear comparison with this one. The two main plot threads intertwine harmoniously up to half the play, as if they tended without major adversities to a double happy end (which will sooner or later come, but after great adversities). There, in the middle of the Second Scene of Act III, Don John turns up where Don Pedro and Claudio are to start his intrigue. Then, like a deus ex machina grotesquely risible yet in the end effective, in breaks the auxiliary plot thread (the watch) which, in spite of constantly threatening out of their own nonsense with the fish sneaking out of the fishermen’s hands, due precisely to that they delay the solution to the intrigue to let the main action progress, not without already soothing the audience in relation to the ill-fated plan of the intriguer: as soon as that plan is on the road, it is already clear that it won’t prosper in the long run. With such an underlying relief, the long initial scene in Act IV reaches a double climax: in the “serious” plot thread, Claudio rejects Hero spectacularly; in the “comical” plot thread, Beatrice, who at this point proves to have learnt to manage Benedick, asks him to kill Claudio. Counteracting once again the seriousness of such a scene, in the following Dogberry and his folks, FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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with the notary’s sensible collaboration, make progress in the resolution of the case. Thus, the road to an end typical of a comedy is already traced, and the most dramatic moment, which could have potentially poisoned the comedy, didn’t do so since it is framed by its own antidote: in the tone, which dashes towards comicality, and in the argument, what in the end will fix the inoculated illness.

The subtle interweaving of the threads, the designed alternation between the serious and the comical, and within the comical that between different ways of comicality, coexist with several loose ends, minor inconsistencies or dark points, which can remain unnoticed in the performance speed. Time management itself, as often in Shakespeare, is quite slippery: the Prince of Aragon arrives at Leonato’s house; there’s a party at night; there, Claudio and Hero’s wedding is arranged for the following week, and from that point on there are no major indications of the days the events take place throughout the week until, on the wedding day’s eve, Don John makes his invitation for that same night to the simulated ocular test; the next day, the wedding being frustrated early in the morning, only a few hours later Leonato says Hero has been buried. In some of the many blank spaces left during that week we are to suppose that maybe the serenade in front of Hero’s window proposed by Don Pedro took place. According to him, Borachio “confessed the vile encounters” he had with Hero “a thousand times in secret”: when and how?, are we to suppose that Borachio is a native, inhabitant or frequent visitor of Messina? Leonato’s wife is mentioned in a couple of entering stage directions, but nothing else proves her existence for the action. Antonio’s one son is mentioned explicitly only once, but close to the end he seems to have no children. Before Claudio appears, there is a reference to an uncle of his from Messina, but no more will be learnt about him from that moment on. Maybe more of a mystery than a slip is the fact that by the end of the first act Don John heads for supper and next, at the beginning of the following act, he has not been seen there. But the major doubts are those produced by the fact that possibly firm proofs against Don John’s fraud should remain in the most complete darkness. First, we have to suppose that Margaret, collaborator in the fraud even though not knowing well what she did and what for, is not counted as part of the “companions” that come in for the wedding ceremony, or probably let alone that, being present, she doesn’t dare to declare her fault; in that case, we are to suppose that then she keeps on being ignorant of her lady’s resounding rebuff or that she delays her confession, and in the other, that she, anyway, remains silent, when any kind of delay on her part is hard to understand and even more to excuse (and Leonato will to some extent understand and excuse her participation in the fraud). Secondly, Hero is accused of having been talking to Borachio through her room’s window, and FUNDACIÓN SHAKESPEARE ARGENTINA

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even though she didn’t sleep there that night, she never brings up any firm proof on her defense, nor does her cousin Beatrice, who had slept with her the previous twelve months, and thus she should know about the change of room.

In comparison with the sources, Shakespeare introduces a couple of traces that makes Claudio’s mistake a bit more understandable: the youngster before, with Don John’s vile help, “notes” wrongly that Don Pedro has courted Hero on his own behalf, and Benedick is part of the same wrong appreciation; and then, when “noting” wrongly Hero’s supposed infidelity, he also has a companion in the mistake, as it occurs in Ariosto, it is true, but with the difference in that the companion in Much Ado... is someone more experienced and with good qualities of authority. Nonetheless, at the same time, Shakespeare makes the rebuff scene so spectacular (theatrical), and his Claudio so little dubious and inclined to realize his mistake until he is confronted with a firm proof, that the youngster’s behaviour becomes more hateful. Much more has been written about this Claudio, in order to condemn, excuse, or understand him; and none of the opinions are completely right, but all of them are so in part; because the mystery in great creations in general, and Shakespeare’s in particular, will always exceed the univocal explanations. Much the same can be said about women’s place: the Bard has created great female characters, and not unworthy of being among the best is his Beatrice, whose sharp intelligence is not only not overshadowed by her male counterpart Benedick’s, but also tends to supersede it; yet, even though there might be between lines certain criticism of the state of affairs, a too different social organization is not suggested. Shakespeare is as eternal as a man of his time, and it is always worth remembering that he didn’t write his work last week.

Translated into English by Jorgelina Vittori, under the supervision of Pablo Ingberg and Andrew Daniels.

• Shakespeare, W., Mucho ruido y pocas nueces, Introducción, traducción y notas de Pablo Ingberg, Buenos Aires, Losada, 2005; Barcelona, Vitae, 2005, 2006 (translation nominated in Teatro del Mundo Award 2004-2005).

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