Translating Classical Plays: Collected Papers, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Translating Classical Plays

Collected Papers, 1st Edition

By J. Michael Walton


270 pages

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Translating Classical Plays is a selection of edited papers by J. Michael Walton published and delivered between 1997 and 2014. Of the four sections, each with a new introduction, the first two cover the history of translating classical drama into English and specific issues relating to translation for stage performance. The latter two are concerned with the three Greek tragedians, and the Greek and Roman writers of old and new comedy, ending with the hitherto unpublished text of a Platform Lecture given at the National Theatre in London comparing the plays of Plautus with Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The volume is an invaluable resource for anyone involved in staging or translating classical drama.


Michael Walton is a rare and important scholar in that he has brilliantly united his detailed knowledge of theatre studies with classical scholarship and his work as a translator of ancient drama. His groundbreaking insights into the art of translating classical works for the modern stage have been invaluable to both scholars and practitioners for many years. Now we are able to appreciate the wide range of his vital work collected in this spirited, thought-provoking and inspiring volume.

- Professor Peter Meineck, New York University, USA

… [a] coherent quasi-monograph that testifies to its author's vigorous and rigorous engagement and passion for performance translations of ancient Greek and Roman theatre. It is also an enjoyable read seasoned with humour, serious business balanced out by historical anecdotes, and with an acute sense for live performance.

- Professor Pavel Drábek, University of Hull, UK, in the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance

Table of Contents



List of illustrations and copyright


Part 1 Translation in English



Chapter 1 ‘An Agreeable Innovation’: Play and Translation

from Lianeri, Alexandra and Vanda Zajko (eds 2008), Translation and the Classic, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 261–7. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Chapter 2 Theobald and Lintott: A Footnote on Early Translations of Greek Tragedy

from Arion Third Series, 16.3, Winter 2009, pp. 103–110.

Chapter 3 Benson, ‘Mushri’ and the First English Oresteia

from Arion, 14.2, Fall 2006, pp. 49–67.

Chapter 4 Business as Usual: Plautus’ Menaechmi in English Translation from Olson, S. Douglas (ed. 2014), Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson. Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter.

pp. 1040–61. By permission of De Gruyter, Berlin and Boston.

Part 2 Processes and Issues


Chapter 5 ‘Good Manners, Decorum or the Public Peace’: Greek Drama and the Censor

from Billiani, Francesca. (ed. 2007), Modes of Censorship and Translation: National Contexts and Diverse Media. Manchester & Kinderhook: St Jerome Publishing, pp. 143–66.

Chapter 6 Vacuum or Agenda: The Translator’s Dilemma

from Classical and Modern Literature,27.1, (2007, pub. 2008),

pp. 93–120.

Chapter 7 Transfusion or Transgression: the translator as director in Medea

from Symposia Proceedings of the X (2000) and XI (2002) International Meetings on Ancient Greek Drama. Athens (2008): The European Cultural Centre of Delphi, pp. 195–205.



Part 3 Greek Tragedy


Chapter 8 ‘Enough Give In It’: Translating the Classical Play

from Hardwick, Lorna and Christopher Stray (eds 2008), The Blackwell Companion to Classical Receptions. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 153–67.

By permission of Wiley publishers.

Chapter 9 ‘Men as they Ought to Be’: Sophocles in Translation

from Markantonatos, Andreas (ed. 2012),  Brill’s Companion to Sophocles. Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. 619–39.

Chapter 10 The Translator’s Invisibility: Handling Irony

from GRAMMA vol. 22 (1), 2014, pp. 143–58.

Chapter 11 Hit or Myth: The Irish and Greek Tragedy

from McDonald, Marianne and J. Michael Walton (eds 2002), Amid Our Troubles: Irish Versions of Greek Tragedy. London: Methuen, pp. 3–36.

Courtesy of Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Part 4 Greek and Roman Comedy


Chapter 12 The Line or the Gag: Translating Classical Comedy

from Manchester University Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies: Occasional Papers, vol. 3, 2006, pp. 29-46.

Chapter 13 Aristophanes and the Theatre of Burlesque

from The Comparative Drama Conference Series Text and Presentation 2005, 2006, pp. 3-14.

Chapter 14 Realising Menander: Get-in at the Getty

from DRAMA Beiträge zum antiken Drama unde seiner Rezeption,

Band 5, 1997, pp. 17192. By permission of J.B. Metzler Verlag GmbH.

Chapter 15 Shtick or Twist: from Plautus to the Musical

from a Platform Lecture on the Olivier stage of the National Theatre in London, under the title ‘Business as Usual: Plautus in the Marketplace’,

15 Sep 2004, before a performance of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.


Works Cited

About the Author

J. Michael Walton is Emeritus Professor of Drama at the University of Hull, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General