The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0560 Monday, 9 November 2009
Date: Thursday, 5 Nov 2009 20:57:25 -0800
Subject: Literary Incantations Only in Non-Tonal Languages?
A rather zealous Shakespeare actor (with some alternative views) once
told me that the most adept actor would be able to cast any spell in the
world. Presumably, he meant the master actor would be able to intone
each word so precisely, and with such skill, that the words would become
more than just words -- to use the analogy of "pitch-perfect," to
strike the right "chords" in the universe, to turn words into a spell.
He performs in English. This makes me wonder because . . . when
Shakespeare is translated into another language, especially a tonal
language like Mandarin Chinese, much of the magic "sound" of the Bard's
words is lost. When casting a spell, a Chinese shaman typically doesn't
utter an incantation, but uses body motion or the cauldron, and
sometimes calligraphy. So, rather than worrying about what's lost in
translation, I'm wondering if spoken incantations (in literature, at
least) arise only in non-tonal languages.
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