Shakespeare’s Legal Wit: Evolution of the Translation of Shakespeare’s Legal Puns into Spanish from the 20th to the 21st Century


  • José Manuel Rodríguez Herrera



Shakespeare, Translation, Legal puns, Malapropisms, Bowdlerization, Law-worthy, Stage-worthy


Shakespeare was law-obsessed and used a considerable amount of law terminology in his plays and sonnets. Though the use of legal terminology was frequent and extended in Elizabethan drama, Shakespeare’s handling of such technical language was particularly accurate and imaginative. It being a highly litigious age, Tudor audiences were well acquainted with a wide assortment of legal terms and concepts, and therefore in a position to enjoy the clownish characters’ (Launcelot, Gobbo, Pompey, etc.) malapropisms and legal puns. However, what applies to the Tudor audience of those days does not necessarily apply to audiences from other cultures and across different ages of Shakespearean reception. In this study, we look at the question of whether the reception of Shakespeare in the Spanish-speaking world coincides with the established image of the Poet as a playwright and poet who knew how to handle the many subtleties of the legal terminology with ease and grace. Much of this image has been diluted as a consequence of ‘loose’ renderings in Spanish translations. With reference to legal imagery, malapropisms, or legal ‘puns’ in particular, many a translation fails to adequately render the corresponding legal overtones in the target text. After a brief overview of Shakespearean translations into Spanish over the centuries, this study focuses on the evolution of the translation of Shakespeare’s legal puns into Spanish through the works of three translators starting with Leandro Fernandez de Moratín’s early 20th century renderings, Manuel Ángel Conejero’s version in 1995, and finally Ángel Luis Pujante’s recent edition of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragicomedies. The paper concludes by problematizing such strategies in the context of “law-worthy” translations as opposed to “stage-worthy” ones.


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How to Cite

Rodríguez Herrera, José Manuel. 2015. “Shakespeare’s Legal Wit: Evolution of the Translation of Shakespeare’s Legal Puns into Spanish from the 20th to the 21st Century”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 28 (November):165-81.