Academic journal article Scottish Language

Shakespeare's Scottish Play in Scottish Gaelic'

Academic journal article Scottish Language

Shakespeare's Scottish Play in Scottish Gaelic'

Article excerpt

A translation into Scottish Gaelic of Shakespeare's Macbeth, by Iain MacDhomhnaill (Iain MacDonald) (1946-), performed in Glasgow as MacBheatha in September 2013 and in Edinburgh in August 2014, will be the focus of this article. We will consider the political and cultural implications inherent in returning Shakespeare's gaze. Macbeth engages with histories of eleventh-century Gaelic Scotland for an early-seventeenth-century audience. MacDhomhnaill's translation into Gaelic arguably provides an opportunity for some level of reappropriation and further levels of meaning; allowing a twenty-first-century Gaelic audience to reflect on the history of Gaelic Scotland in the eleventh century but also in Shakespeare's own day and perhaps even today. MacDhomhnaill's occasional use of a register reminiscent of Gaelic poetic and literary traditions invites Shakespeare's characters to speak in ways that may bring to mind the early modern Gaelic poetic corpus. This type of awareness of MacDhomhnaill's chosen register can lead to a somewhat subversive reading of the production. Shakespeare's Macbeth, it is argued (Highley 2004), can be seen to reflect some contemporaneous prejudice against Scottish Gaels and their language. In today's Scotland the majority of Scots are supportive of efforts to allow Gaelic a place at the table. Yet sadly, prejudice against Gaelic can still be given a very public platform, allowing continued marginalisation. Therefore, a Gaelic translation of Macbeth creates opportunities for reflection on Gaelic's history in Scotland, past and present. Previous efforts to translate Shakespeare's works into Gaelic will be examined here, before we turn to MacBheatha and its echoes of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Gaelic song tradition.

SHAKESPEARE IN GAELIC

It has been noted that Gaelic playwriting remains a highly neglected genre of Gaelic literary studies; despite the existence of an estimated 500 plays in Gaelic, with perhaps around 100 of those in print (Macleod 2006: 1573; Macleod 2011). Translation of drama into Gaelic from other languages has received even less scholarly attention. In 1911 Julius Caesar was the first, and to-date only, Shakespeare play to be fully translated into Gaelic and published (MacGillemhoire 1911). The translator, Dr. Uilleam MacCoinnich MacGillemhoire (William Mackenzie Morison), born in 1866, was a native of Lewis but a resident of Annfield Plain, County Durham (MacKay 1907: 41; [Macbean] 1921: 113-14). In his introduction, he expressed his shock that none of Shakespeare's works had previously appeared in Gaelic, leaving Highland children at a disadvantage. He asks, 'C'arson a bhitheadh sinn air deireadh air sluagh dhuthchannan eile ann an eolas no oilean 'sam bith?' ['Why should we be behind the peoples of other countries in knowledge or learning?] (MacGillemhoire 1911, n.p.).

It appears that the only other Shakespeare play to have been translated, in addition to Julius Caesar and Macbeth, is Measure for Measure. Measure for Measure was translated by Iain MacCormaic (John MacCormick) (1859-1947) (MacLeod 1974: 163; MacLeod 1969: 146, 513 n.23). MacCormaic belonged to Mull, although he later worked in Glasgow. He was a prolific Gaelic writer, and author of the first Scottish Gaelic novel, Dim-Aluinn (1912) (Kidd 2006). MacCormaic's Tomhas mu choinneamh Tomhais ('Measure for Measure'), dated to 1934, was never published but is held in manuscript (handwritten) by the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and also in manuscript (typescript) by the library of Comunn Gaidhlig Inbhir Nis/The Gaelic Society of Inverness at Inverness Library (Mac Cormaic 1934; Mac Cormaig 1934). MacCormaic also completed a translation of Macbeth in 1933, to be discussed in more detail below. There is also some suggestion that further copies of MacCormaic's two translations may be held elsewhere (Glasgow Herald Editorial Diary 1935: 8). Therefore, as regards plays by Shakespeare, the only published translation is Iulius Caesar (1911). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.