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The First Hebrew Shakespeare Translations

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The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded our research project on the first translations of complete Shakespeare plays into Hebrew. The project resulted in a bilingual edition of the plays and student productions of Ram and Jael (Romeo and Juliet). As part of the project, a three-day international conference (PDF) on Shakespeare and the Jews was held at UCL. 

In 2018 UCL's Faculty of Arts and Humanities funded a student/staff produiction of and Ithiel the Cushite of Venice (programme PDF), the first Hebrew version of  Shakespeare's Othello

Ithiel is the first Hebrew-language translation of a complete Shakespeare play. It was translated by Isaac Salkinson, a Lithuanian Jew who had converted to Christianity, and was published in Vienna in 1874. Salkinson’s translations are a product of the nineteenth-century Jewish Enlightenment project to create a modern European-style literature in Hebrew before the language was revived as a vernacular in fin de siècle Palestine. Ithiel and Ram and Jael offer a unique and fascinating perspective on global Shakespeare. In both unusual versions of these iconic plays, characters have biblical names, references to Christianity and Classical mythology have been replaced with Jewish equivalents, and the lines are replete with a rich layering of biblical, rabbinic, and medieval Hebrew textual references.

Dr Tsila Ratner wrote an illuminating review of the production of Ithiel

 

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(Left) The performance of Ram and Jael shown here took place at UCL's Bloomsbury Studio on Tuesday, 28 March 2017.
(Right) Photos from the dress rehearsal of Ithiel by Sonti Ramirez