Canonising Shakespeare in 1920s Japan

Tsubouchi Shōyō and the Translator's Choice

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
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Abstract

In 1927, just before completing the first Japanese translation of Shakespeare's Complete Works, Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859–1935) selected eight of his translations for inclusion in his own Selected Works, which were published in fifteen volumes in conclusion to his career as one of the leading exponents of cultural reform of his generation. His choice is idiosyncratic as it omits the plays that had become most popular during the period of Shakespeare's initial reception in late nineteenth-century Japan, but includes a number that were relatively unknown, such as Measure for Measure. This article suggests likely reasons for his selection before discussing the comments he makes on each play in his translation prefaces, and thus provides an overview of what Tsubouchi had come to value about Shakespeare.

Contributor Notes

Daniel Gallimore has been professor of English literature at Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan, since 2011, and in 2018–19 was a Visiting Fellow at the Northrop Frye Centre, Victoria College, Toronto. His research focuses on the reception of Shakespeare's plays in Japan, with a particular interest in the translations and criticism of Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859–1935). Recent publications include Tsubouchi Shōyō's ‘Shinkyoku Urashima’ and the Wagnerian Moment in Meiji Japan (Edwin Mellen Press, 2016) and ‘Of Ponds, Lakes, and the Sea: Shōyō, Shakespeare, and Romanticism’, in British Romanticism in Asia, ed. Alex Watson and Laurence Williams (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).