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Shakespeare & Beyond

Play on! Q&A: Elise Thoron and Julie Felise Dubiner on translating 'The Merchant of Venice'

Julie Felise Dubiner and Elise Thoron
Julie Felise Dubiner and Elise Thoron

Over the next few months, the Folger is doing a series of Q&As with some of the playwrights and dramaturgs involved with Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play on! project to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into contemporary English.

This month’s Q&A is with Elise Thoron and Julie Felise Dubiner, the playwright and dramaturg who worked on the translation of The Merchant of Venice.

Julie Felise Dubiner and Elise Thoron

Julie Felise Dubiner and Elise Thoron

⇒ Read an introduction to the Play on! project by Lue Douthit, the project director at OSF

Read previous Q&As in the series:

⇒ Q&A with Kenneth Cavander about translating Timon of Athens

⇒ Q&A with Caridad Svich about translating Henry VIII

Q: Can you describe your process for translating The Merchant of Venice?

Elise Thoron: The first stage was reading the play a few times for my pure enjoyment and following the filaments of notes on language and history I often do not have time to really track down. Then, mulling, daydreaming, imagining the play in my own mind, thinking about characters’ levels of speech, and reading some criticism about the play, but not too much. I also started listening to different film versions of the play to hear the language spoken, and saw whatever live productions came my way. As with painting a house, translation is as much in the preparation as it is in the actual laying on of paint. I wanted to be familiar with the play, know its ins and outs, have lived inside it in different ways, and for it to have lived in me for some time before even attempting a word.