The Voß Shakespeare translation : an assessment of the contribution made by Johann Heinrich Voß and his sons to the theory and practice of Shakespeare translation in Germany
On the few occasions mention has been made of the VoJ3 Shakespeare translation since completion of its publication in 1829, it has generally been in a negative comparison with the so-called Schlegel/Tieck translation as the "classic" German Shakespeare. This bias, originating from contemporary critics and reinforced in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by Johann Heinrich VoJi's biographer, has been perpetuated without detailed analysis of the translation and without consideration of the VoBs' notions of translation. In order to provide a basis for assessing whether this judgement would or should be revised today, modern concepts of literary translation in general and (Shakespeare) drama in particular are considered alongside changing translation theories and practice in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Germany. Particular attention is given to the theories and translation of drama and to the translation of Shakespeare up to the beginning of the nineteenth century in order to ascertain what theoretical and practical resources the VoBs had at their disposal. An examination of the concepts of translation and language evolved by the VoBs reveal that they differ from contemporary theory and practice. Detailed analysis of a representative selection of Shakespeare passages translated by the VoBs establishes that the practical application of these the ories also results in a rendering of Shakespeare quite different from the Schlegel/Tieck translation. The VoBs' achievement is then assessed with the help of their own criteria and of those we might apply today; reasons are suggested for the negative reception of their work, and for its general rejection in favour of the Schlegel/Tieck Shakespeare. The place of the VoB Shakespeare is finally considered in the continuing tradition of German Shakespeare translation.