Which Country Loves Shakespeare Most?

It’s often pointed out that the works of Mr. Shakespeare have been translated into basically every language (including Esperanto and Klingon). I actually own an Esperanto Hamlet.

I’m wondering about something different. In what country/region, not counting the United States and Great Britain, is Shakespeare most beloved? That is, in what non-English language do they speak of him the most? I’m not asking about translations, since after all you translate him once and you’re essentially done. I mean how much stuff is written *about* Shakespeare in foreign languages? Could I for instance find the equivalent of a “No Fear Shakespeare” or a “Lamb’s Tales” in Chinese or Arabic? I’m not even sure how I’d go about finding something like that out.

Update : A strong vote for Germany!  I had no idea there were so many resources.

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11 thoughts on “Which Country Loves Shakespeare Most?

  1. I'm from Germany and yes – I guess we also love Shakespeare. Especially Hamlet of course. I think this still dates back to Goethe's fascination with the play and the fact that Hamlet studied in Wittenberg.

    Also, quite a lot of Shakespeare is performed at theatres and tought at German schools. I have always specialized in English, so it is not really surprising that I was/am taught about Shakespeare in high school. However, my little sister had to give a speech about Richard III in her German class. I guess no other non-German author made it into the curriculum of a German class 🙂

    And yes – you can also find something like "Lamb's Tales" in German. There is a nice edition by Michael Köhlmeier in which he "translates" Shakespeare's plays into modern-day German.

  2. Thanks Katja! Funny, I was wondering if somebody would bring up German. There's a scene from my old favorite television show "Scrubs" where they're doing a satire of old tv sitcoms, and putting on a talent show. The residents go around trying to see which has talent and one of them pipes up "Ooo! I can do Shakespeare in German!"

    "… Oh, Romeo, Romeo, Warum bist du Romeo? Verleugne deinen Vater und entsage deinem Namen. Oder wenn du das nicht willst, so SCHWÖRE hier."

    I have no idea what that really means, I copied it from a tv-transcript site 🙂

  3. Hey Duane,

    the quote from Scrubs is actually a literal translation of Juliet's speech:

    "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love" (2.1.75-77)

    So, unfortunately no hidden Scrubs pun here, that only we Germans could understand. 😉

  4. Yeah for the vote for Germany!

    And I think I can even strengthen Germany's claim to the title "Country which loves Shakespeare most". The link posted above (in the Update) mentions parts from Shakespeare's works which are available in more than one translation. Actually, every Shakespearean line is available in more than one German translation because two translators, Frank Günther and August Wilhelm Schlegel (in collaboration with Ludwig Tieck), have already translated Shakespeare's complete works into German. Ha! 🙂

  5. Twitter chimed in on Germany as well.

    Motivation – was thinking recently about learning a foreign language, something I've never done, and the question inevitably becomes which language? Something most useful in the short term? Probably Spanish. Something most useful in the long term? I suppose Arabic is going to have value. But then I thought, "In what other language could I also continue to speak and read about Shakespeare?" and it looks like German wins 🙂

  6. Funnily enough this is where my own research has been for the last week or two. I'm looking for Elizabethan players connections in Northern Europe.

    Germany has the title of being the first to translate SH works into prose. An anthology book entitled Englische Comoedien und Tragoedien was published in 1620. There are about 30 plays translated of which 8 are SHakespeare's: Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Hamlet are mentioned in the source i'm using. I cannot find this anthology anywhere on the web to verify what the others are. Further there are plays by Marlowe, Dekker, Peele, Greene and Kyd.

    The plays were being played by travelling groups of actors on the continent.Their itineraries took them variously to the Netherlands, Gdansk, Elbing, Konigsberg, Pomerania, Livonia, Warsaw, Austria and Bohemia!

    This last country's first indication of english players is from 18 March 1596 in a letter from Landgrave Maurice of Hesse to his agent in Prague Johan Lucanus. Remember this is many years before SH wrote Winter's Tale in which he gives a coastline to Bohemia!

    Chances are very good then that he knew it didn't have a coastline.

    In the 1640's Titus Andronicus was translated into Dutch.

    not really an answer to your question but interesting food for thought anyway.


  7. Here is a link with an image of the proposed reconstruction in Gdansk of the Elizabethan era
    Fortune Theatre-esque playhouse as
    well as an old print showing the
    original theatre:

    This page is part of a larger
    piece on "Shakespeare in Poland" –
    which in turn is part of a series
    of articles under the heading "Shakespeare Around the Globe", which look worth reading.


  8. Ok, now it's official… The Globe Theatre's Autumn season is entitled "Shakespeare is German".

    Being German has never made me feel so proud before. 🙂

  9. Hey Katja,
    You stole my thunder!..I've just come from a read-through performance/seminar at The Globe of Fletcher's "The Chances" (it
    was very enjoyable) where I picked up their booklet on the upcoming season of lectures etc concerning
    Germany's especial love of Shkspr.
    The season begins with a book launch of new translations of Goethe's essays on Shakespeare.

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