Outrageous fortune in Russian I

I have commented on Argumentative Old Git‘s post on Shakespeare performances outside Britain. Preti Taneja’s call in The Guardian, “It’s time to break the national monopoly on Shakespeare,” is two centuries late. Maybe more. Russia was a latecomer to the fest but as early as 1837, Pavel Mochalov created an exemplary Russian Romantic Hamlet at the Maly Theater.

As I wrote in the comments, the Russian Wiki entry on Hamlet lists 32 translations of the play into Russian – not all complete, not all in verse, but one translation in 6.25 years! The two canonical ones, Lozinsky’s and Pasternak’s, are relatively recent, from 1933 and 1940. The reason for this post is one line by Lozinsky, “Пращи и стрелы яростной судьбы”, a word-by-word translation, amazingly, of “The slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune.”

Why did he choose яростный for “outrageous”? Simply because the metric pattern fits and technically, the modern sense “violent or unrestrained in behaviour or temperament” is pretty close to the Russian word? Lozinsky – held by Akhmatova and others to be Zhukovsky’s equal in the art of translation – knew his French well and, therefore, realized that “outrage” is derived from outré and ultimately from ultra and is akin to French outrage. That’s all well but I suspect Lozinsky realized it was impossible for an English reader not to parse, if naively, “outrage” as “out-rage”, so “rage” cannot be evicted from “outrage” – and “rage” is properly translated as ярость.

Then I found out that Lozinsky’s fortunate find, яростная судьба, took on a life of its own in Russian poetic translation. To be continued.



  1. A version of Hamlet was being performed in Germany within a few years of Shakespeare’s death. I believe there is some evidence it reached Poland slightly later, but I’d have to dig up the evidence for that.

    The Guardian article is typically ignorant drivel, pandering to its readers’ self-hating prejudices. The “Other” is always better, whether it’s a Catalan Othello or Putin’s Russia. For what it’s worth, a couple of years ago the RSC did a version of Julius Caesar with an entirely black cast set in an unspecified modern African country. It was even televised by the BBC. Not spotting any mention in that piece.


    Font uses it to expose prejudices and assumptions about gender, race and the male gaze in Spain and on screen.

    Comments like that put me off ever wanting to see that film.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from Winterings in Trans-Scythia

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading