In the relatively recent conjoining of translation and cultural studies, the rendering of Shakespeare into various languages has received increasingly greater attention, especially since the publication of European Shakespeares (1993). One result of the attention to this intercultural aspect of Shakespeare is the recognition that the translation of the English dramatist into non-English cultures has not always been a simple, ordinary event. Like the translation of the Bible in earlier centuries, that of Shakespeare’s corpus in more recent times has often been linked to wider national, linguistic, and aesthetic preoccupations or movements. In Hungary the first translation of the complete works of Shakespeare, carried out by eminent literary men of the nineteenth century and motivated by patriotism, took on the importance of ‘a major force’ in the cultural development of the country. In Norway the English bard played a part in the revival of the native language and literature via the influence he exerted on the first major Norwegian poet, Henrik Wergeland. In colonial South Africa he was used by the black-African translator Solomon Plaatje as a resource in the project for the preservation of a threatened Sechuana language and culture. In communist Bulgaria he was deployed in a series of cultural activities designed to legitimize the soviet-type socialist regime. The list of the purposes which Shakespeare has been called to serve outside his native England could go on. In this study I intend to discuss the case of Vassilis Rotas, who employed Shakespeare in promoting a particular form of modern Greek language and culture. In the process I hope to throw some light on the cultural–historical forces that influenced this translator, as well as on the relationship between appropriative translation and textual identity: to show how Rotas’s purposeful choices affect the status of the Shakespearian text and its dramatic effectiveness.
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