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Shakespeare, William

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. First edition of this translation.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. First edition of this translation.

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English literature / Firsts London 2024 / Translations / William Shakespeare
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Shakespeare, William [The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark]. Gamlet, Prints Datskii. 

Translation [and preface] by A. Sokolovskii.

Sankt-Peterburg, tip. V. Bezobrazova i K°, 1883.
8vo, VI, 151 pp.

In contemporary quarter leather. Gilt-lettered on spine.
In good condition, head and foot of spine worn with some loss.

First edition of this translation.

This translation of 'Hamlet' was completed by the translator and publisher Aleksandr Sokolovskii (1837-1915). It is noteworthy that starting from the 1860s, he embarked on the translation of all of Shakespeare’s works, compiling them into a collection and publishing it in eight volumes (1894-1898). In recognition of these translations, Sokolovskii was awarded the Pushkin Prize in 1901, the most prestigious literary accolade in pre-revolutionary Russia. It's also worth mentioning that Sokolovskii’s translation of 'Romeo and Juliet' served as the textual basis for Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s planned opera, of which only a fifteen-minute overture-fantasia remains.
Sokolovskii, along with other translators of Shakespeare's works in his time, sought to dispel the romantic aura surrounding the image of the Danish prince. As highlighted by Sokolovskii in the preface, his main goal was 'to make Shakespeare a Russian poet, understandable without any explanation, just as our own Russian writers are understood'. In this translation of 'Hamlet', Sokolovskii employed the method of explanatory translation, where characters 'explain in verbose terms everything they need to say'. Russian Shakespearean scholar Vitalii Poplavskii remarked: 'The text has grown enormously and has become like a leisurely bourgeois melodrama, the heroes of which are so close and understandable to the audience that they should behave in accordance with the unassuming mores of a peaceful era, and not experience Shakespearean passions' (Poplavskii, V. 'Hamlet' in Russian: Two centuries of translation tradition. 2008).
On the other hand, some researchers suggest that 'Hamlet' in Sokolovskii’s translation can be seen as reflective of the translator himself. Sokolovskii included mentions of poverty and the deceit of power within the play. He heavily criticized authority through Hamlet's speeches, and we can also sense the translator's disillusionment with the reality around him.

OCLC locates three copies of this edition: in the British Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Abu Dhabi University Library.

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