Shakespeare In Translation: Harder Than It Sounds

Translating plays from one language to another is always a difficult task. Translating Shakespeare, whose constant use of puns and linguistic tricks was uniquely English, is nigh onto impossible, particularly when the language needed is as far afield from the original as Japanese. There have been many Japanese translations of the Bard’s works, of course, but many have made the mistake of trying too hard to stick faithfully to the original dialogue. The resulting mish-mash of words and sounds can be grating on a Japanese audience’s ears, says Miki Takashima, but a new Tokyo production of Hamlet seems to have risen above the usual awkwardness.