Three languages in The Winter’s Tale

 

Jan, Izabela and Becka – working on the translation

 

 

We’re working on The Winter’s Tale in three languages – English, Czech and Polish, and trying to incorporate all three into the overall story telling. It’s a fascinating process to see how the shifting between languages can not only perform the principal function of keeping audiences up to speed with the narrative, but can also have a dramatic function. We’ve associated our two countries – Poland and the Czech Republic – with the Sicilia and Bohemia of Shakespeare’s text, so that immediately gives a focus to who speaks what language. And of course we need to work with the language skills of our participants – it’s quite humbling to work with community participants who can switch with some facility from Czech to English and then Polish, while the creative team muddle along in one language.

 

 

 

I thought it might be interesting to look at a short scene for three actors which we’ve been working and to see how we’re using the languages available to us.

Here’s the scene where Paulina visits the prison where Hermione is being held, in order to try and see here – she leaves, taking with her the new born Princess.
SCENE II. A prison.
Enter PAULINA, SCARUS her STEWARD
PAULINA
The keeper of the prison, call to him;
let him have knowledge who I am.
Exit SCARUS
Good lady,
No court in Europe is too good for thee;
What dost thou then in prison?
Re-enter SCARUS, with the Gaoler
Now, good sir,
You know me, do you not?
Gaoler
You are Paulina, a worthy lady
And one whom much I honour.
PAULINA
Pray you then,
Conduct me to the queen.
Gaoler
I may not, madam:
To the contrary I have express commandment.
PAULINA
Here’s ado,
To lock up honesty and honour from
The access of gentle visitors!
Is’t lawful, pray you,
To see her women? any of them? Emilia?
Gaoler
So please you, madam,
To put apart these your attendants, I
Shall bring Emilia forth.
PAULINA
I pray now, call her, and.
Withdraw yourself.
Exeunt SCARUS
Gaoler
Madam,
I must be present at your conference.
PAULINA
Well, be’t so, prithee.
Here’s such ado to make no stain a stain
As passes colouring.
Re-enter SCARUS, with EMILIA
Dear gentlewoman,
How fares our gracious lady?
EMILIA
As well as one so great and so forlorn
May hold together: on her frights and griefs,
Which never tender lady hath born greater,
She is something before her time deliver’d.
PAULINA
A boy?
EMILIA
A daughter, and a goodly babe,
Lusty and like to live: the queen receives
Much comfort in’t; says ‘My poor prisoner,
I am innocent as you.’
PAULINA
I dare be sworn
These dangerous unsafe lunes i’ the king,
beshrew them!
He must be told on’t, and he shall: the office
Becomes a woman best; I’ll take’t upon me:
Pray you, Emilia,
Commend my best obedience to the queen:
If she dares trust me with her little babe,
I’ll show’t the king and undertake to be
Her advocate to the loud’st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight o’ the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades when speaking fails.
EMILIA
Most worthy madam,
Your honour and your goodness is so evident
That your free undertaking cannot miss
A thriving issue: there is no lady living
So meet for this great errand.
I’ll presently acquaint the queen of your most noble offer;
Who but to-day hammer’d of this design,
But durst not tempt a minister of honour,
Lest she should be denied.
PAULINA
Tell her, Emilia.
I’ll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from’t
As boldness from my bosom, let ‘t not be doubted
I shall do good.
EMILIA
Now be you blest for it!
I’ll to the queen: please you,
come something nearer.

Exit Emilia

Gaoler
Madam, if’t please the queen to send the babe,
I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
Having no warrant.

PAULINA
Do not you fear: upon mine honour,
I will stand betwixt you and danger.

Reenter Emilia with the baby

PAULINA
This child was prisoner to the womb and is
By law and process of great nature thence
Freed and enfranchised, not a party to
The anger of the king nor guilty of,
If any be, the trespass of the queen.
Gaoler
I do believe it.
Exeunt

Winter’s Tale experts will notice some cuts, and some additions to Shakespeare’s text. Additions are usually a word or phrase repeated for reinforcement.

Our three actors in this scene are Emilia – the lady in waiting, who is played by Izabela, one of our Polish community actors who plays both in Ostrava and Gdansk, the Gaoler – played by Jan – who is from Ostrava and who’ll play there, and Paulina. Paulina is played in Ostrava by Dotty, a Polish actress who is part of our team, and in Gdansk by Becka who is a Czech speaking actress from our group. So we have a mix of languages across these four. There’s a fourth silent role, for Paulina’s Steward – in keeping with our policy of trying to give every cast member at least one named role, we’ve called him Scarus.

Here’s the opening of the scene with the various languages marked.

English
Czech
Polish
SCENE II. A prison.
Enter PAULINA, SCARUS her STEWARD
PAULINA
The keeper of the prison, call to him;
let him have knowledge who I am.
Exit SCARUS
Good lady,
No court in Europe is too good for thee;
What dost thou then in prison?
Re-enter SCARUS, with the Gaoler
Now, good sir,
You know me, do you not?
Gaoler
You are Paulina, a worthy lady
And one whom much I honour.
PAULINA
Pray you then,
Conduct me to the queen.
Gaoler
I may not, madam:
To the contrary I have express commandment.
PAULINA
Here’s ado,
To lock up honesty and honour from
The access of gentle visitors!
Is’t lawful, pray you,
To see her women? any of them? Emilia?
Gaoler
So please you, madam,
To put apart these your attendants, I
Shall bring Emilia forth.
PAULINA
I pray now, call her, and.
Withdraw yourself.

So this is fairly simple – Czech and English alternate to keep both Czech and English speaking audiences up to speed with what’s going on. But the shift into English on both occasions is generated by an aside, or private comment from Paulina, so that we initiate the idea of language offering an opportunity for concealment.

In the next section, the gaoler indicates that he’s been told that he may not allow private conversation between Paulina and Emilia and so we use language changes to create two levels of conversation – public and private. And because this is a Sicilia scene, then the actresses shift between English and Polish. The occasional Czech phrase is inserted (for the Ostrava performances), in order to be certain that everyone in the audience is keeping up with the flow of the narrative, and sometimes these are in addition to the original text – as with
A Boy? Another Prince?

Gaoler
Madam,
I must be present at your conference.
PAULINA
Well, be’t so, prithee.
Here’s such ado to make no stain a stain
As passes colouring.
Re-enter SCARUS, with EMILIA
Dear gentlewoman,
How fares our gracious lady?
EMILIA
As well as one so great and so forlorn
May hold together: on her frights and griefs,
Which never tender lady hath born greater,
She is something before her time deliver’d.
PAULINA
A boy? Another Prince?
EMILIA
A daughter, and a goodly babe,
Lusty and like to live: the queen receives
Much comfort in’t; says ‘My poor prisoner,
I am innocent as you.’
PAULINA
I dare be sworn
These dangerous unsafe lunes i’ the king,
beshrew them!
He must be told on’t, and he shall: the office
Becomes a woman best; I’ll take’t upon me:
Pray you, Emilia,
Commend my best obedience to the queen:
If she dares trust me with her little babe,
I’ll show’t the king and undertake to be
Her advocate to the loud’st. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight o’ the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades when speaking fails.
EMILIA
Most worthy madam,
Your honour and your goodness is so evident
That your free undertaking cannot miss
A thriving issue: there is no lady living
So meet for this great errand.
I’ll presently acquaint the queen of your most noble offer;
Who but to-day hammer’d of this design,
But durst not tempt a minister of honour,
Lest she should be denied.
PAULINA
Tell her, Emilia.
I’ll use that tongue I have: if wit flow from’t
As boldness from my bosom, let ‘t not be doubted
I shall do good.
EMILIA
Now be you blest for it!
I’ll to the queen: please you,
come something nearer.

The conceit here is the assumption that the Gaoler naturally speaks Czech (the vernacular in Ostrava) and will speak Polish as it’s a Sicilia scene. So English is used between the two women for statements they want to keep private.

The conclusion of the scene again mixes Czech and English, so that our audience understand the argument of the scene.

Gaoler
Madam, if’t please the queen to send the babe,
I know not what I shall incur to pass it,
Having no warrant.

PAULINA
Do not you fear: upon mine honour,
I will stand betwixt you and danger.

Reenter Emilia with the baby

PAULINA
This child was prisoner to the womb and is
By law and process of great nature thence
Freed and enfranchised, not a party to
The anger of the king nor guilty of,
If any be, the trespass of the queen.
Gaoler
I do believe it . (Repeat in Czech)
Exeunt
One of our tasks in this first week has been to work each scene for languages, which has meant that Eva, our Czech Dramaturg has been giving all the cast their lines in that language, using the Martin Hilsky translation that we’re fortunate to have access to. For a Polish translation, we’re working with an older text, and Izabela, Pawel and Krystian have been finding the relevant sections to pass on to the actors. The whole process is a bit like three dimensional chess, but we think it has a real capacity to enhance the audience experience and to add a dimension to the production.

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