Publication details

„Nejstarší nejvíc nes’“ : Stáří Shakespearova krále Leara v českých obrozeneckých překladech

Title in English “The oldest hath borne most” : The Old Age of Shakespeare’s King Lear in Czech Translations from the 18th and 19th Centuries


Year of publication 2016
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Slavica Wratislaviensia
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Field Mass media, audiovision
Keywords William Shakespeare; King Lear; translation; Czech National Revival; Prokop Šedivý; Josef Kajetán Tyl; Ladislav Čelakovský
Description Critics have noted the importance of the motif of old age in Shakespeare’s King Lear, chiefly the old age of the play’s title character. The King’s age serves in the play as a powerful dramaturgical device, a prism through which the audience sees Lear’s character, other characters’ deeds, and most of the play’s action. When watching the play, the audience is constantly reminded of Lear’s age, both directly, through the characters’ speeches, and indirectly, through a number of physical details. It could be said that the King’s age is employed at all possible levels of the drama, becoming the main impulse for the development of the plot. King Lear is one of the first plays by Shakespeare to be translated into Czech, and various dramatists attempted to localise it for Czech audiences. The present paper examines three early translations of King Lear into Czech: by Prokop Šedivý (1792), Josef Kajetán Tyl (1835), and Ladislav Čelakovský (1856). While the last mentioned version is the first “true” translation of the play into Czech, using Shakespeare’s unabridged English original as the source text, the two earlier translations are rather loose adaptations, based on German stage versions, altering significant portions of the story and cutting entire scenes and speeches (or even characters). Even the earliest Czech translators were apparently aware of the dramaturgical importance of the motif in the original and, in spite of the (sometimes) drastic alterations, tried to preserve it as much as possible. Nevertheless, in various passages from the Czech versions, we may observe that even with this knowledge, the translators at times struggled with a number of nuances in the original, not always being able to preserve the complexity of a character or dramatic situation. This was only achieved by Ladislav Čelakovský, whose mid-19th century text was the first to represent Shakespeare’s King Lear, both in terms of form and, of course, in terms of the motifs of the original.
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