“…let it be faithful to idea and form, yet free…”

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2017/09/29 - 2018/03/02

Exhibition about the first Hungarian edition of Complete Works by Shakespeare on the occasion of the János Arany Memorial Year


William Shakespeare’s works – primarily his dramas – had been translated into Hungarian before 1858 (and, of course, after 1858 too). At the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, translators used German translations and adaptations as a basic text, including Friedrich Schröder’s or August Schlegel’s Hamlet (Ferenc Kazinczy), or Heinrich Beck’s Die Quälgeister (Much Ado About Nothing – József Benke). Original English text was first used by Gábor Döbrentei: Macbeth was published in 1830. The play based on this translation was staged by the acting company of Buda Castle Theater in 1834.

Anasztáz Tomori (Teodorovits) of Serbian origin, who had been a mathematics teacher and János Arany’s colleague at the Reformed Grammar School of Nagykőrös, came into the possession of a rich inheritance in 1854. Tomori became a noteworthy patron of the Hungarian culture and science of the second half of the 19th century: an inventor, initiator and financier of the first Hungarian complete Shakespeare edition. He asked for the principles to be elaborated by János Arany.

The concept of the Shakespeare edition was undoubtedly invented by Arany, who also worked out the professional content as well as the assurances of the work.

Translators and control editors had been selected from prominent figures of contemporary Hungarian literary life including, among others, Károly Szász, Sr., Ágost Greguss, József Lévay, Jenő Rákosi, László Arany, Ede Szigligeti and János Arany. The unquestionably authoritative János Arany, whose translations (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and King John) had been accepted without any alterations or comments, volunteered for correcting and editing the translations of nine plays including Coriolanus (translated by Sándor Petőfi), Julius Caesar  and King Lear (translated by Mihály Vörösmarty). These three translations had been made earlier and were included in the first Hungarian complete edition of Shakespeare’s works. János Arany was in the habit of not only criticizing translations, but also recommending solutions.

The first volume (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello) was published in 1864, while the last one (Sonnets) was published in 1878. In the two decades that followed, almost all of the new translations of Shakespeare plays had been staged. The first one was A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged in National Theater on April 23, 1864, on the 300th anniversary William Shakespeare’s birth. Our exhibition presents publication history including János Arany’s contribution, role and translations of Shakespeare plays.

Opening ceremony: Thursday October 5, 2017, 5 p.m., in the catalog space of Theater History Collection – Music Collection

Facebook event of the opening ceremony

Curator of the exhibition:  Dr. Edit Rajnai

Venue of the exhibition: National Széchényi Library, Wing ‘F’ of Buda Royal Palace, Floor 6, catalog space of Theater History Collection – Music Collection

The exhibition will be open between September 29, 2017 and March 2, 2018, Tuesday to Friday 9:00—17:00, and on Saturday 9:00—14:00.

Visitors who do not own a Reader Pass to NSZL can attend our temporary chamber exhibitions for a flat fee of HUF 400.