Translating Theatre for Restoration Audiences: The Case of Spanish Drama

Assoc. Prof. Jorge Braga Riera

From 1660 onwards, Restoration dramatists drew on the seventeenth-century Spanish comedy of intrigue in search of new plots and characters that might appeal to London audiences. As a result, Hispanic drama in translation enjoyed a period of extreme popularity in England, never to be repeated until the turn of the twenty-first century.

This lecture attempts to show how, despite the socio-historical differences between two distinct theatrical traditions, practitioners managed to successfully turn Golden Age comedias into actable English texts. Hence, and by comparing a corpus of classical Spanish plays and its translations during the Restoration period, it intends to provide some insight into the mechanisms behind the translators’ choices, both on linguistic and non-verbal levels.

Roughly speaking, two different, performance-oriented strategies can be traced and with diverse purposes. On the one hand, many elements in the source texts were naturalized in order to meet the demands of the target culture, as seen not only in the treatment of rhythm, versification, rhetorical devices and phonic symbolism but also in action, act-division and characterization. This domesticating process can also be observed in the approach to the central motifs of the genre, namely comicality (stage and linguistic), honour and the role of love and women. On the other hand, some aspects present in the original were maintained, blatantly showing the “Spanishness” of the play-text; in this sense, storylines, names and certain paralinguistic and stylistic elements are revealed as objects of analysis.

The comparative study draws significant conclusions on the validity of these tailor-made, accommodating formulas, and raises questions as to what extent the translators’ mediating versions left their mark offering theatregoers a particular vision of Spain through drama translation techniques.

You can watch the recording of the plenary lecture here.

Jorge Braga Riera is Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses, chiefly in the field of translation and contrastive studies. His research lines are mainly focused on literary translation (principally drama), on which he has written book chapters and articles in different specialising journals. Within this line he has published the volume Classical Spanish Drama in Restoration English (1660-1700) (Amsterdam & Philadelphia, John Benjamins, 2009). He is member of the Theatre Institute of Madrid has has recently co-edited the Dictionary of Theatrical Reception in Spain (Antígona, 2020, forthcoming).

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