Translation of the Complete Works in Brazilian Portuguese

June 19, 2017

Written by Cristiane Busato Smith

A seminal publication for the study and staging of Shakespeare in Brazil, William Shakespeare. Teatro Completo, is the new edition of Shakespeare’s complete works translated into Brazilian Portuguese. Published in a three-volume box by Nova Aguilar Publishing House to mark the 400th anniversary of death of the English playwright, this edition contains the translations of thirty-eight plays by Shakespeare, including unpublished translations such as Edward III. (Volume I: Tragedies and Dark Comedies; Volume II: Comedies and Romances; Volume III: History Plays).

Barbara Heliodora (1923-2015)

The thirty-eight plays were translated by Barbara Heliodora (1923-2015), Brazil’s leading authority on Shakespeare as well as renowned theatre critic and writer. Heliodora faced many challenges throughout her work as a translator of Shakespeare’s plays into Brazilian Portuguese. Her main concern was “to search for a fluent Brazilian Portuguese music and rhythm that might be acceptable as “the nearest equivalent” to the original” (Heliodora 236)[1]. In recreating Shakespeare’s texts, she was interested in their performability, never losing touch with the fact that Shakespeare was first and foremost a man of the theatre. Heliodora also believed that by preserving, as much as possible, the prose, the rhyme, the white verse, and other metrics from the original, she would be able to mirror the kind of economy and rhythm characteristic of Shakespeare’s language so that “something of the translation might remain at least near the dramatic poetry that Shakespeare wrote” (236).   Eschewing the option to convert Shakespeare’s early modern English into a classical Portuguese vernacular of 400 years ago, Heliodora defended the argument that the language should nevertheless be elevated while maintaining a sense of effortlessness and identification that one finds in one’s own language.

Heliodora famously repeated in her spirited classes and conferences that the English playwright “had a love affair with humanity”. The same could be said of her – her life-long love for the English bard, along with her unparallel knowledge of Shakespeare’s theatre have become one of the most popular means of transmission of Shakespeare’s plays in Brazil. This project was the apple of her eye. Sadly, she did not live to see her dream come true. Barbara Heliodora’s life-long project was brought to fruition by Liana Leão (Global Shakespeares Editor for Brazil) who revised, wrote notes and missing introductions to the plays.

Liana Leão
Global Shakespeares Editor for Brazil.

 

[1] Heliodora, Barbara. “My Reasons for Translating Shakespeare.” Ilha do Desterro 36 (1999): 219-236. Print.

 

 

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