Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 961.  Monday, 20 December 1993.
From:           Nate Johnson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 20 Dec 93 03:47:14 EDT
Subject: 4.0958  Re: Paraphrase (Was Pronouns)
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0958  Re: Paraphrase (Was Pronouns)
Dear Jim Schaefer,
I still don't know what exactly you have against paraphrase as a pedagogical
tool.  Is it such a strange thing to ask students, in the course of a class
discussion, for example, to explain in their own words what they think a
difficult passage means?  In my admittedly limited experience, the question
often generates rather different responses, and those differences become
matter for interesting discussions.  Actually, the same could be said of
many of the postings on SHAKSPER.
Doesn't your willingness to accept translations contradict your
unwillingness to accept paraphrases?
The popularity of Shakespeare in translation would seem to qualify your
assertion that "the play is the language," although I think the plays lose
much of their texture in translations I've read.  An example from Elio
Chinol's translation of Macbeth:
             Mi son tanto saziato d'orrori
Che l'orrore che accompagna i miei pensieri di strage
Non puo piu scuotermi ormai.
In what sense is this not a "paraphrase" of the original?
            I have supp'd full with horrors:
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
Cannot once start me.
Much is lost in the translation--the specific metaphor, "familiar," which
links "Direness" to "slaughterous thoughts"; the subtle differences between
"horrors and "Direness"; the concrete emphasis on eating, "I have supp'd."
Yet the translation certainly conveys the main idea and is serviceable for a
stage production.  I have found that I can learn a great deal about
Shakespeare's language from studying translations like this, seeing what
translators had to give up to convey what they perceived as the "literal"
sense of the text with some reasonable degree of economy.  Isn't asking
students to "translate" the text into their own language a similar kind of
exercise?  And without paraphrase of some kind, private or public, how do
we understand a difficult new language?
Nate Johnson

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