The Undiscovered Country: Shakespeare in Philippine Literatures

Judy Celine Ick


Far from being a corpus of faithful renderings in local languages, Shakespearean translations in and into Philippine literatures participate in the afterlife of Shakespearean texts where Shakespeare is only one among many points of origin. Taking off from the late nineteenth century, the essay covers Shakespearean texts translated into some major Philippine languages—Tagalog, Kapampangan, Hiligaynon, and Bikolano—over the course of the twentieth century. The essay attempts to locate and describe some key qualities of Shakespearean translations in Philippine literatures, account for the shifting nature of authorship in these local practices of translation, and finally gestures towards probing the question of motivation—why was Shakespearean translation, an activity unsanctioned by colonial governments, pursued anyway? Read against the backdrop of colonial education and the cosmopolitan nature of Philippine translations of foreign texts, these local versions of Shakespeare display a variety of strategies of cultural accommodation that bespeak a striving towards a reconciliation of the original foreign source with the local culture and the biases and expectations of its readers and audiences. They represent a practice of translation that aspires to reconciliation rather than reproduction, laying bare a process of meaning making in a cross-cultural encounter that actively produces a Filipino Shakespeare rather than merely reproducing the English Shakespeare in a Philippine language.


cultural production; Walter Benjamin; postcolonial; Romeo and Juliet; awit; colonial history; author; sawi na pag-ibig

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