What does it mean for Shakespeare’s plays to be recognized as both ‘universal’ and ‘foreign’ in a recipient culture? In the case of Japan, where Shakespeare was initially received in the late nineteenth century, one answer might be that Japanese Shakespeareans have adopted a kind of ‘soft humanism’; in other words one not specifically situated against the horizon of the English Renaissance, but instead fulfilling a range of purposes within the local culture, not least the touting of ‘universal’ values. Universals appeal to societies perceived to lack a strong awareness of the individuated self, such as in late nineteenth century Japan, where the pioneering Shakespeare translator Tsubouchi Shōyō was among the first to encounter Shakespeare’s works. One influence on Tsubouchi’s translating style that is often overlooked is that of John Dryden, who becomes a central figure in the history of English literature which Tsubouchi published in 1901. Like Dryden, Tsubouchi finds in Shakespeare a forum for philosophical and ideological exchange; Dryden may well have provided Tsubouchi with a critical perspective on their predecessor. This article discusses their relationship with regard to Dryden’s influential adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra, All for Love (1678), and Tsubouchi’s 1915 translation of the same play.
Shakespeare, William; Theatre; Dryden, John; Shōyō Tsubouchi; Japan; Universal values