Dubrovnik’s very own Shakespeare Marin Držić takes on the English language…
Translations help the world to progress. Endlessly. We understand others much better and vice versa, learn about other cultures, habits, about the progress of man, about anything we could not know or have had somebody not translated it into the language we understand.
Just think how much a cook book translated into your mother’s tongue has helped you to improve and diversify your diet!
But here we have a very serious case of a most serious translation of a brilliant, serious comedy. Somebody in Dubrovnik wrote both funny and serious plays a bit before Shakespeare, our legendary friend and co-citizen who spends some days on the amazing historic site on the top of the Lovrjenac Fort every summer. We talked about that with Filip Krenus last year, and it would be useful for you to click here, as it explains a lot about why we are mentioning him again today.
Marin Držić, (yes, we all know – so unfortunately difficult to pronounce ”Drzhich”), is the pride of the literary heritage Dubrovnik has contributed to the spiritual treasure of Croatia. Despite his picturesque life of various occupations and eternal bankruptcy, Drzic kept on writing and left to us an enviable opus of (mainly) theatre plays that have not lost anything of their criticism to man and human society to our day. He died 450 years ago, when Shakespeare was just a 4-year old kid.
When in Dubrovnik, you should inevitably visit his birth house, a small building arranged into The House of Marin Držić (Dom Marina Držića), one of the most interesting among the museums in Dubrovnik. If impatient, you can see more here. The wonderful Nikša Matić, its energetic manager, keeps producing ‘things’ and organizing events of all sorts year round. He also met Filip, of course, and did another admirable thing – he commissioned a translation into English of Drzic’s most popular comedy, Uncle Maroye (Dundo Maroje). An admirable move, yet much more amazing is the work such a translation requires.
Its language is a mix of the then spoken Dubrovnik idiom, with lots of Italianate elements and even some scenes in Italian (the story takes place in Rome). Huge work, with help of mentors, lots of bibliography, of Googling for most appropriate lexical solutions. It took Filip took five months gross to come to its last page.
”A balance between the language of those days and modern English was the main prerogative. Italian and archaic elements often stood in the way and required consultations with my mentor and lots of research. I had made a translation earlier and tried it out with the English actors in Dubrovnik, and it showed what a wonderful piece of literature Uncle Maroye is. It is now ready to be played in English on any stage anywhere in the world.”
The real point Filip and I agreed upon almost silently is: Uncle Maroye is a play worth every attention. Coming from a small nation, it has found its way to just a few stages abroad, yet for all its many features, its firm dramatic construction, psychological, comic, ironic, satiric and any other element, it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the most reputed Renaissance comedies regardless of their original language. The two of us, artists after or before all, do hope that it will find the way (money, actually), to some stage in London or anywhere else soon.
Anyway, if you think you could become a translator and have never tried it, here are several basic steps for beginners: Put the text you want to translate by the side of your laptop/PC. in your Word/Pages, open a new document and format it. Read the first lines of the text to translate.
Do not read what you write before you have done one full page. Do not tell anyone how you feel after reading it. Be happy translating is not what your dear life depends upon, get a glass of wine, put some music on and start dancing.
And when the joy is over, remember to buy another book, regardless of the language.