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This book is the first publication for over 170 years of a forgotten masterpiece of translation, done by Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend and cousin, Thomas Medwin. For four months in 1820-1821 Medwin lived with Shelley in Pisa, where the two of them intensely studied and translated the works of Aeschylus. In his Foreword, Editor John Lauritsen shows,...
This book is the first publication for over 170 years of a forgotten masterpiece of translation, done by Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend and cousin, Thomas Medwin. For four months in 1820-1821 Medwin lived with Shelley in Pisa, where the two of them intensely studied and translated the works of Aeschylus. In his Foreword, Editor John Lauritsen shows, on the basis of biographical and textual evidence, that Shelley was at least a full collaborator in the Oresteia translation. Medwin and Shelley were not concerned with servile, word-for-word translation, but with re-creating the full and entire sense -- the energy, wit, irony and pathos -- of the original. Shelley was the master of more verse forms than any other English poet, and the translation abounds in intricate verse forms: some are as familiar as the sonnet, the Spenserian stanza or the ode, while others are original. Highly acclaimed when published under Medwin's name in the 1830s (long after Shelley's death), the Oresteia translation has been unjustly neglected. Although not without flaws (some due to faulty Greek texts of the time), it surpasses modern translations for dramatic power and beauty of language. Above all the translation shows Shelley's gift for writing dialogue, which he showed in his novels, his translations of Plato and Goethe, his dramas Cenci and Prometheus Unbound, and such poems as Julian and Maddalo. While maintaining an Aeschylean formality, the language is idiomatic, and the lines can effectively be spoken. Given actors and an audience accustomed to Shakespeare, Oresteia: The Medwin-Shelley Translation could successfully be put on the stage.
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