William Shakespeare and Slovene dramatists (II) : J. Jurčič, F. Levstik, I. Cankar, O. Župančič, B. Kreft : (the makers of myths)


  • Mirko Jurak




English literature, English drama, Slovene literature, Slovene drama, Slovene dramatists, literary influence


purpose of this study is to explore the influence of William Shakespeare on Slovene playwrights in the period between 1876, which marks the appearance of Jurčič - Levstik's Tugomer, and the 1930s, when Oton Župančič published his tragedy Veronika Deseniška (Veronika of Desenice, 1924) and, a few years later, Bratko Kreft his history, Celjski grofje (The Counts of Celje, 1932). Together with Cankar's works all of the plays discussed in this study deal with one of the well-known Slovene myths. In the previous number of Acta Neophilologica I published my study on the first Slovene tragedy Miss Jenny Love, which was published in Augsburg in 1780.1 The Romantic period, which followed this publication, was in Slovenia and elsewhere in Europe mainly characterized by the appearance of poetry, with a few exceptions of plays which were primarily intended for reading and not for the stage (Closet Drama). Let me mention here that in the Romantic period some of the finest Slovene poetry was written by France Prešeren (1800-1849), and although some of his friends suggested he should also attempt to write a play, his closest achievement to drama was his epic poem Krst pri Savici (Baptism at the Savica River, 1836), which is also often considered by literary historians as a predecessor of later Slovene dramatic literature. Although many Slovene authors who wrote their works in the nineteenth century knew Shakespeare's plays, they still found it easier to express themselves in prose. The first Slovene novel is Josip Jurčič's Deseti brat (The Tenth Brother), which was published in 1866, ten years earlier than his play Tugomer (Tugomer). However,Jurčičʹs tragedy Tugomer was artistically very much improved by the adaptation made by Fran Levstik, whose text has been since considered as the ʺtrueʺ version of this play. Further editions and adaptations of this play definitely prove that several Slovene authors have found the subject-matter of this play worthy of new interpretations. By the end of the nineteenth century the list of Slovene translators of Shakespeareʹs plays (most of them chose only some acts or scenes) was quite long. But it was only in 1899, when Ivan Cankarʹs translation of Hamlet appeared on stage of the Slovene National Theatre in Ljubljana, that a real master of the Slovene language approached one of Shakespeare's plays. Cankar became enthusiastic about Shakespeare's work and this is best seen also in Shakespeare's influence on three plays written by Cankar: Kralj na Betajnovi (The King of Betajnova, 1901), Pohujšanje v dolini Šentflorjanski (Scandal in the Valley of Saint Florian, 1907) and Lepa Vida (Beautiful Vida, 1911). The same kind of "enchantment" caught Oton Župančič, a Slovene poet, translator and dramatist, who had translated by 1924, when his Veronika Deseniška (Veronika of Desenice) appeared, several plays written by Shakespeare. A large number of echoes of Shakespeare's plays can be found in Župančič's play, not to mention the Bard's influence on Župančič's verse and style. Such influence can also be traced in Kreft's play. Many Slovene literary historians and critics mention in their studies Shakespeare's influence on Slovene dramatists but their reports are mainly seminal and rather generalizing. Therefore the purpose of this study is to provide a deeper analytical insight into this topic.


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How to Cite

Jurak, M. (2010). William Shakespeare and Slovene dramatists (II) : J. Jurčič, F. Levstik, I. Cankar, O. Župančič, B. Kreft : (the makers of myths). Acta Neophilologica, 43(1-2), 3–48. https://doi.org/10.4312/an.43.1-2.3-48