Shakespeare - from Right to Left
The Dan Almagor Collection

Some Notes on this Bibliography:

The earliest reference to Shakespeare in Hebrew was in 1856, when Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be", appeared in a literary periodical. 18 years later the first translation of a complete play was published in Vienna. It was Othello, and the protagonist's name was changed by the translator, E. D. Salkinsohn, to the biblical name Ittiel. Peretz Smolenskin, publisher of Ittiel Ha-Kushi ('Othello the Black') and one of the leading Hebrew novelists of the time, wrote the introduction, in which he declared enthusiastically:

"Today we take revenge on the British!                    

They took our Holy Scriptures and made them their own, translated them and spread them all over the world  as if they were theirs.

And we too repay them today for what they did: we have taken the book, that is as dear to them as our Holy Scripture is to us, and introduced it into the treasure house of our Holy tongue.

 Is not this revenge sweet?

Shakespeare's plays in the prophets' tongue! If all Israel had known and loved the language of their forefathers, and if all those who understand and love Hebrew could comprehend what great prize the translator of these plays has brought into the treasure-trove of our language – then the day on which the first Shakespearean play appeared in Hebrew would indeed become a victory celebration!

At the end of the 19th century, Eliezer Ben-Yehudah, who is known as "The Reviver of the Hebrew Language", printed a detailed, three-chapter summary of The Comedy of Errors, It was written in the style of Charles & Mary Lamb, and appeared in his Hebrew daily which he published in Jerusalem. His version was performed at a religious Boys School in Jerusalem – the first Hebrew Shakespearean production in Eretz Yisrael (Palestine) – and was translated into Ladino (the Judeo-Spanish language) and the Jewish Bukharan dialect.

The complete Hebrew Hamlet was first published in daily segments in 1900, in a Hebrew language newspaper appearing in Warsaw. Three years later a group of young Jewish amateurs in Plonsk, Poland, presented the first Hebrew performance of King Lear. The role of Lear was played by the 17 year old David Green – later known as David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel.

Since then, about two thirds of the Bard's plays have been translated into Hebrew by dozens of translators - among them some of the leading Hebrew poets - and at least 3-4 plays are performed professionally in Hebrew every year. Some of these productions (Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet etc.) have successfully played in international Shakespeare Festivals abroad. Foreign Shakespearean actors and companies often participate in Israeli drama festivals, and many Israelis attend British productions of Shakespeare in Stratford and London.

Smolenskin made his half-humorous remark about the "Revenge on the British" in 1874. Hundreds of allusions to the Old Testament are indeed scattered throughout Shakespeare's works; but, reciprocally, many of his motifs and lines can be detected today in myriad Hebrew plays, poems, novels, films and even colloquial idioms; as well as in thousands of Israeli newspapers headlines.

'Shakepeare from Right to Left'  is the first Hebrew accumulative bibliography of Hebrew & Israeli Shakespeareana, spanning a period of 150 years, from the earliest Hebrew version of  "To be or not to be" to the most recent translations, productions and essays about the Bard.

Illus.: Ada Rappaport-AlbertIt covers all translations (complete or partial) of Shakespeare's plays and poems into Hebrew; all Hebrew/Israeli stage productions and adaptations, as well as reviews of either productions of visiting Shakespearean companies and artists, or Hebrew revues of major productions in other countries; research of Shakespeare's works in Hebrew, as well as essays of Israeli scholars in other languages; Shakespeare in films and television, music and opera, children books; Shakespearean motives in Hebrew plays, stories and poems, parodies and songs and anecdotes (Shakespeare in the Israeli Law Court, press, slang etc.).

The bibliography was compiled over the last 43 years by Dr. Dan Almagor – one of Israel's most prolific playwrights, translators, songwriters, TV presenters and literature historians.

Among the many dozens of the plays he has written, translated and adapted for all the major theatres in Israel, are eight translations of the Bard's plays, for which he was awarded the first "Ada Ben-Nachum Award for Best Translation" (for The Comedy of Errors), three 'Israeli Academy Awards' for "Best Translation" (for The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Hamlet) and one Academy nomination (for Midsummer Night's Dream). He also received the Jubilee Award of Israeli ACUM (ASCAP), for his "Lifetime Contribution to Israeli Culture".

Dan Almagor is a graduate of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and has a Ph.D from UCLA. He has taught at UCLA; UC Berkeley; The University of Judaism, Los Angeles; Texas University at Austin; University College, London and Tel-Aviv University.  

Since 1965 he has been serving as the Israeli contributor to the 'Annual Annotated World Shakespeare Bibliography' of the American Shakespeare Quarterly, which is published by the Folger Institute (editor: Dr. James Harner, The English Department, Texas A&M University).

While covering the Hebrew-Israeli scene in English every year, he has also compiled more then 5,000 bibliographical items in Hebrew, and has published bibliographies and monographs of "Shakespeare in Hebrew Literature (1856-1927)"; "Shakespeare and the Jews in Queen Elizabeth's Court"; "Shakespeare's First Comedy" (The Comedy of Errors); "Echoes of The Merchant of Venice's in the Israeli-Arab Conflict"; "Shakespearean Themes in the Israeli Press"; as well as essays and a play about a tempting-though-feeble possibility of a meeting between the young, little-known neophyte from London, who arrived in Italy during the 'Lost Years' of his biography, and Maestro Leone de Sommi, the Jewish-Hebrew playwright, director and producer of the Mantuan Court in Italy , who died in 1592, just a few months before the first Shakespeare play was presented in London.

"For the past 43 years I have been dreaming about sharing my collection with other Shakespeare lovers", wrote Dan recently. "Fortunately, my old friend and colleague, Joseph (Yossi) Galron-Goldschläger, Head of Hebraica & Jewish Studies Library at The Ohio State Univeristy and editor of the 'Lexicon of Modern Hebrew Literature', offered his kind assistance in editing, updating and dedicating an internet site to my 'Shakespeare-in-Hebrew' bibliography. I hope this accumulative site will serve and help Hebrew-reading scholars, students, directors, actors, critics, historians, artists, writers and poets, as well as any other reader and admirer of the Stratford Bard".   

October 19, 2007

לראש הדף

שקספיר  –  מימין לשמאל
עורך אחראי: יוסף גלרון־גולדשלגר

Edited by Joseph Galron-Goldschläger