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  • Sounding Like Shakespeare: A Study of Prosody in Four Japanese Translations of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Daniel Gallimore
  • Tim Medlock
Sounding Like Shakespeare: A Study of Prosody in Four Japanese Translations of A Midsummer Night's Dream. By Daniel Gallimore. Hyogo: Kwansei Gakuin University Press. 2012. 208 pp. Paper, ¥2,600 ($34.00).

Daniel Gallimore of Kwansei Gakuin University has studied and written widely on Shakespeare's reception in Japan, concentrating on Shakespeare's influence on modern Japanese culture and the relationship between translation and performance. Now in his new book, Sounding like Shakespeare, he has sought to present the full range of his research, comparing four different translations of A Midsummer Night's Dream and their respective stage adaptations. Putting their various choices under the microscope in a close comparative analysis of select scenes and speeches from the play, he reveals the imaginative approaches and ingenious solutions to which each translator has resorted to bring Shakespeare to their generation. In the process he also traces how Japanese [End Page 260] poetical culture has developed in a dynamic relationship with foreign influences (such as the influence of T. S. Eliot on translation of Shakespeare's poetics) and highlights a variety of principles and issues of translation, making select mention of theorists such as Lawrence Venuti and Susan Bassnett. Much of the book, however, is taken up with his analysis of the different translators' prosody, neatly defined for his purpose as "the shapes, sounds and rhythms that form the material of dramatic voices" (p. 49).

Although comparative translation work has been far from neglected by Japanese scholars such as Anzai Tetsuo or by Niki Hisae, whose influential Shakespeare Translation in Japanese Culture Gallimore acknowledges, this new book is distinguished by its focus on multiple versions of one play and also by Gallimore's attempt to make his analysis accessible to an English readership. All passages are quoted in romaji, supported with a helpful glossary of key terms, and many of the translators' choices are retranslated into English. Given that Gallimore's theme is "the sounds of A Midsummer Night's Dream," it is hoped that the romaji quotations make the onomatapoeia and euphony of the translators' wordplay apparent enough to any keen reader. Chapter 1 introduces us to the translators, chapters 2-4 focus on three areas of translating difficulty ("Stress and Accent," "Syllabic Meter," and "Wordplay"), while chapter 5 deals with matters of performance.

Our four translators come evenly spaced over a century and a half in which we can trace Shakespeare's varying popularity. Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935) was a Meiji era nationalist whose pioneering staged translations during a time of imperial and cultural expansion were founded in his passionate belief in the transformative power of Shakespeare's language. Fukuda Tsuneari (1912-1994) helped reintroduce Shakespeare after a wartime ban, producing realistic and tightly controlled productions focused on bringing Shakespeare's humanism to a shattered postwar audience. The third figure, Odashima Yushi (b. 1930), emerged from the 1960s angura (underground theatre) to win over new audiences with his rich use of rhythm, wordplay, and euphony in a Shakespeare boom to accompany the financial one, while the fourth translator, Matsuoka Kazuko (b. 1942), now in the post-boom era, is the only woman. Observing recent transformations in gender behavior and language, she had felt impelled to devote herself to reinterpreting Shakespeare for a new generation, and, as Ninagawa Yukio's translator, her work has reached large audiences both at home and abroad.

All four had come from academic backgrounds before making a mark in commercial theatre, and to do so they all had to clear numerous linguistic and poetical hurdles. One of the most challenging has been how to find an equivalent resource for iambic rhythm, which relies on English stress accents and so cannot be reproduced in Japanese with its completely different system of pitch accents. Citing numerous examples of these authors' work throughout chapter 2, Gallimore observes how imaginative organization of syllabics and subtle use of pitch accent can manage to create a working equivalent to iambic pentameter or how intricate patterning of hard and soft sounds provide a poetic alternative to Shakespeare's...


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pp. 260-263
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