August 27, 2008

Translator's Corner: Romeo and Juliet

Lest you think I only ever read Thai juvenile fiction, today's installment of Translator's Corner brings us the highest of high culture: Romeo and Juliet.

The play, written in the tail end of the 16th Century, was translated by King Rama VI with the title โรเมโอและจูเลียต and first published in Thai in 1922. The copy I have is the 1978 seventh printing, a run of 1,000 copies published by สำนักพิมพ์คลังวิทยา on behalf of หอสมุดแห่งชาติ, the National Library.

King Rama VI died in 1928, which puts all of his works firmly in the public domain under Thai copyright law (which protects books for 50 years after the death of the author, or 50 years from first publication for copyrights held by an organization). Anyone who is inclined to type it up can post it to Thai Wikisource, or anywhere else for that matter.

This translation is a fantastic specimen of the writing and spelling conventions of its time. It retains liberal use of ฃ ฃวด (but ฅ คน, which died out first, isn't used).

It also uses the now-obsolete symbol ยามักการ in such names as เชกส๎เปียร์ and ลอเร็นซ๎ (above the ส and ซ, respectively--it looks at first glance like a การันต์). ยามักการ indicates that a consonant should be read as a cluster. Some modern publishers, like สำนักพิมพ์ผีเสื้อ, do continue to use it to transliterate foreign names, though.

Being as this is a translation of a play, and 80+ years old, I'm utterly unqualified to comment on the translation itself. Rather, I'm simply going to present some interesting sections and lines, corresponding to well-known passages from the original.
    Two households, both alike in dignity,
    In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
    From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
    Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
    From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
    A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
    Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
    Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
    The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
    And the continuance of their parents' rage,
    Which, but their children's end, naught could remove,
    Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
    The which if you with patient ears attend,
    What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

    กล่าวถึงสกุลสอง. กิติศักดิ์เสมอกัน,
       อยู่ร่วม ณ ถิ่นบรรพะบุเรศเวโรนา
       เปนเรื่องแสดงภาย ณ เขตสองนาฬิกา;

And some well-known lines from Act 2, Scene 2:
    O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
    Deny thy father and refuse thy name!
    Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
    And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

    โอ้โรเมโอ! อ้า, เธอเปนโรเมโอใย?
    ตัดขาดจากบิดา และแปลงนามเสียเปนไร
    หรือเธอยอมมิได้, ขอเพียงปฏิญญารัก,


     What's in a name? That which we call a rose
     By any other name would smell as sweet.

     นามนั้นสำคัญไฉน? ที่เราเรียกกุหลาบนั้น


     Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
     Than twenty of their swords!

     อ้าอันตรายนั้นมีมากมวล ณ นัยนา


    Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
    That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

     ลาก่อน, ลาก่อน! อ้า, การลานี้โศกชื่นใจ,

The meter manages to stay fairly close to Shakespeare's iambic pentameter, with usually 11 syllables per line.

It's a fascinating read, if somewhat more difficult than I'm accustomed to.

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