enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

Act 3

Kazuko Matsuoka and Her Translation of Shakespeare’s Plays

Act 3 Scene 1 Shakespeare in Japan

   In Act 3, Ms. Matsuoka’s translation of Shakespearean plays will be positioned within the approximately 150-year history of the reception and translation of Shakespeare’s plays in Japan, and its appeal and significance will be explored. It is said that the first translation of one of Shakespeare’s plays in Japan was accompanied by a satirical cartoon published in the English magazine, The Japan Punch in January 1874. A figure resembling Hamlet, dressed as a samurai and immersed in mediation, is shown in the centre, and the translation ‘Arimasu Arimasen Are wa nandesuka’ is written in romaji. In 1909, Shoyo Tsubouchi published Hamlet as Sao Kessakushu (The Masterpieces of Shakespeare) which later developed into Sao Zenshu (The Complete Works of Shakespeare, 1935). Japan’s first full translation performance of Shakespeare’s plays was Hamlet, which was the first performance of the later Bungei Kyokai (The Literary Society) held at the Imperial Theatre (translated and directed by Shoyo Tsubouchi) in February 1911. Although this performance was a commercial success, Shoyo’s aim was the ‘creation of national drama’ through Shakespeare’s play. The basis of this stage production is the idea that ‘Japan’s flavour must be shown’ whenever the performers are Japanese, and through this, Shoyo’s Shakespeare distinguished itself from the new theatre movement that sought to faithfully adopt the stage of modern Western theatre.

(Reference: A New Companion to Shakespeare Studies, The Shakespeare Society of Japan [ed.], 2007)

Act 3 Scene 2 Matsuoka’s translations, which continue to evolve

   Of the post-war Shakespeare productions, the Bungakuza production of Hamlet (1955) translated and directed by Tsuneari Fukuda, attracted attention. Although Hiroshi Akutagawa gave a good performance and the play was well-received, Shingeki Shakespeare began to show limits as an imitation of the ‘authentic British’. After the 1970s, Norio Deguchi’s Shakespeare Theatre staged Shakespeare’s complete works for six years, from 1975–1981. Their costumes were casual clothes such as jeans and t-shirts, and the stage was set in a small space called Jean-Jean in Shibuya without the use of large stage equipment; it revamped the conventional image of Shakespeare’s plays. The fact that Yuushi Odashima, Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, translated all of Shakespeare’s plays for this performance is epoch-making. Through this trend, Ms. Matsuoka’s translations of Shakespeare’s plays appeared in the 1990s, and she also took charge of the translations for the Sai no Kuni Shakespeare series for which the late Yukio Ninagawa served as the first artistic director. There is great appeal and significance to her translations, but what deserves special mention is the fact that they are expressed in natural Japanese for audiences and readers living in the present, and this continues to be updated with each reprint. In Act 3, we will introduce the appeal and significance of Matsuoka’s translations by taking up concrete examples such as the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet and the Tomorrow Speech in Macbeth.

(Reference: A New Companion to Shakespeare Studies, The Shakespeare Society of Japan [ed.], 2007)