Translation of The Taming Of The Shrew (l. 1-40)- A Translation Exercise

The lines translated and analyzed come from the first act of The Taming of the Shrew,

the famous play by William Shakespeare.

More precisely, the translation I did is the first dialogue after the Induction, which is, if we exclude the characters in the Induction itself, where we see for the firs time the first two characters of the play (within the play): Lucentio and his servant Tranio.

They will play an important role, since Lucentio will fall in love with Bianca, who is Baptista Minola’s youngest daughter, the one who has to wait before getting married. The reason is simple: she has to wait for her sister Katherina (the shrew) to be married, as Baptista has ordered. Thus, Lucentio decides to pretend to be Bianca’s Latin tutor, disguising himself as Cambio, to woo her without her father’s knowledge; in the meantime the trustworthy servant Tranio disguises himself as Lucentio.

However, in the lines I chose (l. 1-40)  we are still unaware of this plan and we still don’t know Baptista, Bianca or Katherina, we are just at the beginning, when Lucentio, followed by Tranio, arrives in Padua to start his studies.

I liked the way Lucentio firmly introduces himself with his language “full of sound and fury” and how Tranio answers him in a not less poetical way, but the main reason is of course related to translation. When I started to read these lines I also decided to translate them in a written form to train myself in this art and I found them very challenging.

Perhaps it is even too high and exaggerated sometimes,

but this is how Lucentio is and, in a comedy, his way of talking could already lead to a comic effect, since it seems that he enriches and inflates his language just to make it beautiful, not to add meaningful information. Thus, I thought that rendering this same effect in a translation was challenging and a good exercise, considering that I decided to try to maintain the same musicality and fluidity that the English version has, without changing too much the features of Lucentio and Tranio.

I also managed to maintain the same number of lines, but I decided not to maintain the same syllabic scheme, because I thought I would be able to render the fluency without focusing on syllables, an action that, instead, could burden the final result. I would say that for translations, in general, I prefer an approach that seeks the word-for-word rendering, but I am also aware that very often it is impossible to perfectly translate every word, that is why I think there has to be always the sense-for-sense approach too.

There has to be a balance, especially in a translation like this one, where we are dealing with poetry, lines, culture-bound elements etc. According to what I have just said, I maintained the line structure and I tried to maintain even the number of words, but in some cases I preferred to maintain the sense rather than the exact translation.



[1.1] Flourish. Enter LUCENTIO and his servant TRANIO.



Tranio, since for the great desire I had                   1

To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,

I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy,

The pleasant garden of great Italy,

And by my father’s love and leave am armed        5

With his good will and thy good company –

My trusty servant, well approved in all –

Here let us breathe and haply institute

A course of learning and ingenious studies.

Pisa, renowned for grave citizens,                         10

Gave me my being and my father first –

A merchant of great traffic through the world –

Vincentio, come of the Bentivogli.

Vincentio’s son, brought up in Florence,

It shall become to serve all hopes conceived         15

To deck his fortune with his virtuous deeds.

And therefore, Tranio, for the time I study,

Virtue and that part of philosophy

Will I apply that treats of happiness

By virtue specially to be achieved.                        20

Tell me thy mind, for I have Pisa left

And am to Padua come, as he that leaves

A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep

And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.



Mi perdonato, gentle master mine.                        25

I am in all affected as yourself,

Glad that you thus continue your resolve

To suck the sweets of sweet philosophy.

Only, good master, while we do admire

This virtue and this moral discipline,                    30

Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray,

Or so devote to Aristotle’s checks

As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured.

Balk logic with acquaintance that you have,

And practice rhetoric in your common talk;          35

Music and poesy use to quicken you;

The mathematics and the metaphysics—

Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you.

No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en.

In brief, sir, study what you most affect.               40



[1.1] Squilla la tromba. Entrano LUCENZIO ed il suo servo TRANIO.



Tranio, visto che per il mio grande desiderio

Di vedere la bella Padova, culla delle arti,

Sono giunto nella feconda Lombardia,

L’amabile giardino della grande Italia,

E grazie all’amore e all’assenso di mio padre sono armato

Del suo ben volere e della tua buona compagnia –

Mio fedele e devoto servitore –

Fermiamoci ora qui e magari principiamo

Un corso sull’apprendimento e sugli studi liberali.

Pisa, famosa per la serietà della sua cittadinanza,

Diede i natali a me e ancor prima a mio padre –

Un mercante in grandi affari con tutto il mondo –

Vincenzo, disceso dai Bentivogli.

Io, figlio di Vincenzo, cresciuto a Firenze,

Soddisferò ogni speranza in me riposta

Accrescendo la sua fortuna con le mie virtuose gesta.

E quindi, Tranio, in questo tempo di studi,

Mi applicherò alla virtù e a quella branca della filosofia

Che tratta il raggiungimento della felicità

Proprio tramite la virtù.

Dimmi cosa ne pensi, poiché Pisa ho lasciato

E a Padova sono giunto, come colui che lascia

Un basso fondale per tuffarsi nelle profondità,

E cerchi di placare la sua sete con sazietà.



Pardonnez-moi, mio gentile padrone,

Sono coinvolto in tutto questo come voi,

Perciò sono felice che continuiate così con il vostro intento

Di sfamarvi con i frutti della fruttuosa filosofia.

Solamente, mio padrone, mentre ammiriamo

Questa virtù e questa disciplina morale,

Non diventiamo né stoici né stupidi, vi prego,

O così devoti agli insegnamenti di Aristotele

Che Ovidio diventi un emarginato quasi abiurato.

Dissertate di logica con i vostri conoscenti

E praticate la retorica nel parlare comune;

Musica e poesia usate per ravvivarvi;

Matematica e metafisica,

Studiatele a seconda del vostro appetito.

Nessun profitto cresce dove nessun piacere è seminato.

In breve, signore, studiate ciò che più vi aggrada.



Translation Analysis

The very first translation problem I found is in lines 3 and 4 and it is a phonological one: “I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy,/ The pleasant garden of great ItalyThe rhyme between “Lombard-y” and “Ital-y” is pretty clear, but I could not do the same in Italian, since the translation is “Lombard-ia” and “Ital-ia”, two words with ad identical written ending but with a different intonation due to a different accentuation[1].

In the translation I could not find a way to maintain this rhyme, since there are no synonyms for these two proper names, perhaps I should have inverted the order of the words to find a rhyme that could fit, but I did not want to twist that order and I wanted those two words to be the final words of their respective lines to keep the bond between them: both are proper names, Lombardy is in Italy.

Not only for this reason though, the main reason is again connected to the rhyme scheme.

In l. 6 it is possible to read: “…With his good will and thy good company.”We have again a final word that ends with –y, and this word fits perfectly with “Lombardy” and “Italy”, thus, if it is hard to find a rhyme in Italian for the first two words we have seen, it is possible instead for “company” since I translated it simply with “compagnia”, that is a word that rhymes with “Lombardia”. This way at least one rhyme is maintained.

Lucentio has arrived in Padua thanks to his father’s “good will” (l. 6), by what he probably means his money, but in English is not explicit, so I thought it would not have been elegant to point it out and underline it in Italian, even because it would have contrasted with Lucentio’s way of talking, that is not straightforward.

That is why I chose “ben volere”[2], thinking that the connection to money could have been rendered in a live performance with a gesture (i.e. pointing the pocket) or with the tone of voice. Just before this line, in l. 5 we have another phonological problem, but this time it is not at the end of the line but in the middle: “…And by my father’s loveand leaveam armed”. Actually this is a morphological problem too, since not only are “love” and “leave” pronounced in a similar way but also written. Thus I decided that I had to try to render the same effect of the alliteration or at least that I had to find a solution not too far from the source text.

That is why I opted for three words starting with –a: “E grazie all’amoree all’assensodi mio padre sono armato”.Probably it loses something in terms of musicality and the alliteration is weaker, but the repetition of the first letter is kept.

For what concerns Lucentio’s style I found an interesting point in l. 8 with the verb “institute”, that in this case means simply “begin” and not “establish” or institute in the sense of creating something new.

As we have seen, Lucentio speaks in a poetic way that often may sound too pompous, indeed, the verb “institute” appears just twice in the whole Shakespeare corpus[3], and that means that it is not a common word, moreover it is a word with Latin roots[4]. As explained in the notes to the text edited by Barbara Hodgdon, it’s likely that Lucentio is being pedantic and, as I’ve said earlier, pompous; this element can lead to a comic effect, so it is important to have it on the target text as well, to understand better the features of this character and the way he behaves[5].

Thus I looked for a word that could be an equivalent for “institute”, a word not as common as “iniziare” or “cominciare”.

At first I thought that “diamo inizio” could be a good solution, but eventually I put “principiamo” in the translation, since it is not a verb used in the everyday language anymore and it sounds quite old-fashioned.

Talking about equivalence, I found a lexical problem with l. 12, where Lucentio says that his father is “A merchant of greattrafficthrough the world”. A direct equivalent would be “…di grandi traffici” or “…che traffica con…”, but they both sound ambiguous and pejorative, or, if not negative, closer to a more popular world, whereas Lucentio has to have a higher tone, even when talking about his father.

That is why I decided to opt for an indirect equivalence that sounds more neutral in the target language but that still keeps the positive adjective and also the double –ff– sound: “Un mercante in grandi affaricon tutto il mondo”.

At one point (l. 14-16), Lucentio starts talking about himself in the third person, thus confirming his peculiar style:

“Vincentio’s son, brought up in Florence,/ It shall become to serve all hopes conceived/ To deck his fortune with his virtuous deeds.” I could have left this grammatical structure, but I preferred to put again the first singular person (and the first possessive pronoun) in the translation, because I thought it was more natural and fluent in the TT and with the TL, but to maintain the register and the tone I tried to make Lucentio sound as if he was introducing himself as a very important person, as if he was a king making a vow.

I tried to achieve this effect by adding “Io” at the very beginning of the line, giving to this part of the speech a strong and mock-heroic vibe. Moreover, I ended this section with the rhyming of “ripo-sta” and “ge-sta”, that is absent in the ST, but I added it to compensate the fact that I had changed the grammatical structure of the sentence and omitted “it shall become to”: Io, figlio di Vincenzo, cresciuto a Firenze,/ Soddisferò ogni speranza in me riposta/ Accrescendo la sua fortuna con le mie virtuose gesta.”

The last 4 lines of Lucentio’s speech are challenging and very interesting because there are repetitions of /p/ that I tried to maintain in the TT; when I did not manage to keep the sound repetition on the same words I tried to displace the effect by adding the same sound (/p/) on other words of the TL.

Let us see the English version first: “Tell me thy mind, for I have Pisa left/ And am to Padua come, as he that leaves/ A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep/ And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.”Here my translation: “Dimmi cosa ne pensi, poiché Pisa ho lasciato/ E a Padova sono giunto, come colui che lascia/ Un basso fondale per tuffarsi nelle profondità,/ E cerchi di placare la sua sete con sazietà.”

That is why I translated “mind” with “pensi” and “quench” with “placare”, for example, but also because I was not able to maintain the alliteration of l. 23 where we have an onomatopoeic pattern too formed by /sh/and these words:

“A shallow plashto plunge…”To compensate this phonological  loss I decided to translate trying to leave a phonetic pattern[6], even if with a different sound repetition: “Un basso fondale per tuffarsi nelle profondità”.

Moreover, to end Lucentio’s speech nicely, and to underline even more his poetic style, I took some liberties and I put a final rhymed couplet (l. 23-24) that is absent in the ST. To do this, in the TT, I moved the word “satiety”, translated with “sazie-tà”, to the end of the verse to make it rhyme with “profondi-tà”, that is at the end of the previous verse as well. This way we have a nice ending for Lucentio’s speech, with a rhymed couplet that makes us understand that now it is Tranio’s turn.

Tranio’s speech soon starts with a puzzling lexical problem:Mi perdonato, gentle master mine.”To Italian readers it is clear that “Mi perdonato” is wrong Italian, but to English readers it is not; it sounds Italian and it is enough to give an “exotic” vibe to the text and to underline that the play is set in Padua. However, the question was if translating with a misspelled Italian word too or if using another strategy.

Firstly, the translation is already in Italian, so we surely miss the “exotic” vibe to be found in the ST.

Secondly, a misspelled Italian word could be a solution, but Tranio does not seem like a character that makes grammatical mistakes, and actually his tone is quite high (as his master), so a mistake could lower down his style. This may create a comic effect, true, but, in my opinion, it could also create a jarring effect.

A dialectal form from Pisa (Lucentio says that he has left Pisa to come to Padua) could be another interesting solution, since it could underline the Italian setting of the play through an intralingual translation and domestication, but it would of course lose the foreignizing approach that is used in the ST and we do not know if Tranio comes really from Pisa.

Thus, eventually, I decided to stay closer to the ST by using foreignization, but not through an English word: I thought that French would fit better, since it is a language that may sound elegant and refined to our ears, probably more than English, and this is perfect for two characters such as Lucentio and Tranio.

At first I used “pardon”, that is very common and comprehensible, but in the end I wrote “pardonnez-moi”, that it is linked to the register of the speech, since Tranio, in the TT and in the TL, addresses his master by using “voi” and not “tu”, and “pardonnez” is conjugated right to the second plural person.

Moreover, we can see how even in the ST the two characters use pronouns in a different way: we can see how there may be a change in register, since Lucentio uses the thou-form (l. 21, “Tell me thymind”), whereas Tranio uses the you-form (l. 27, “Glad that youthus continue yourresolve”). This underlines the master-servant relation between the two and can be better understood with David Crystal’s words:

The usual thing was for you to be used by inferiors to superiors – such as children to parents, or servants to masters; and thou to be used in return.[7]

I found some of the most interesting translation problems of the whole dialogue in l. 28 and it is a phonological one,

but not only: “To suck the sweetsof sweet philosophy”. As we can clearly see, the sentence is based on the alliteration of /s/ and on the repetition of “sweets/sweet”; I did not want to lose this pattern, because it is so well done that omitting it would have been a great loss.

To overcome it I decided to make some changes both in the phonological level and in the lexical one. First of all I had to find a series of words containing the same sounds, so that I could maintain the alliteration (even if not with /s/), then, to achieve this result, I decided not to translate literally the line, preferring to render the sense and the phonetic pattern rather than the exact translation, also because I decided to put nouns that work better in Italian. With the exact translation I would have lost almost everything, since “suck àsucchiare” but “sweets àdolci”.

Thus I translated this way: “Di sfamarvi con i frutti della fruttuosa filosofia.”In the ST we had five repetitions of /s/, in the TT we have five repetitions of /f/. I translated “sweets” with “frutti” not only for phonological reasons, but also because I think that in Italian is more common to say “i frutti di qualcosa/di un lavoro…” rather than “i dolci di…”, and, by consequence, and to maintain the repetition, I put “fruttuosa” instead of “dolce”. Moreover, I like this version because it creates a semantic link with Lucentio’s speech, precisely with l. 3-4, where he speaks about “fruitfulLombardy” and “gardenof Italy”.

To strengthen this link I decided to take some liberties more ahead in Tranio’s speech, in l. 39, where we can read:

“No profit growswhere is no pleasure ta’en.”. Apparently there is nothing here that could make us think of a connection to fruits and gardens, but that “grows” made me think that I could create it myself by translating the line this way: “Nessun profitto crescedove nessun piacere è seminato.”By reading these lines the image of a cornucopia came to my mind, since it is a symbol of abundance and richness often represented as full of fruits.

This, then, made me think to Renaissance and especially to Italian Renaissance, so I wanted to create a link between fertileness, abundance and richness with Arts and with Italy, back then seen as the cradle of culture. Art as a nourishment. If we think about it, this is just what Lucentio and Tranio are talking about.

However, Tranio warns his master to be careful in his pursuit to virtue and tells him (l. 31): “Let’s be no stoicsnor no stocks, I pray”. Here again there is a phonological and a morphological pattern, since the two words in bold are pronounced and written in a similar way.

I tried to render at least the phonological level by translating: “…né stoici né stupidi…”, keeping the st– sound at the beginning of the correspondent words in the TL. There is also a double negation to emphasize the concept, but I avoided it thinking that it would have been redundant in Italian and not useful. I could have added ad adversative conjunction, for example, to have “…né stoici ma neanche stupidi…”, but I still think that it loses something in fluency;

I wanted the repetition of “né” that works also better with the alliteration described few lines ago, since it keeps those two words closer. To conclude, I took again some liberties when I translated l. 33: “As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured.”Here there are no rhymes or phonological patterns, but I decided anyway to put an internal rhyme for no particular reason, indeed only because I thought that it sounded good: “Che Ovidio diventi un emarginato quasi abiurato.”

To sum up, I would say that I tried not to change the nature of the text and I tried not to paraphrase it

and I also kept the same number of lines trying to maintain the verse structure of the play (but with no syllabic schemes), without transforming it in a half-prose translation. Prose is something I wanted to avoid. That is why I tried to remain faithful to the words in the ST, even if I took some liberties when I put a couple of extra rhymes (to compensate the absence of a syllabic scheme) and I changed things more than once, but only in order to give a clearer and, why not, nicer translation where the words may have changed but the general sense is kept. Or at least this was my target.




David Crystal, Think On My Words, Cambridge University Press (2008)

William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, edited by Barbara Hodgdon, Bloomsbury Arden; Third Series (2005)



Traduzione di

Cristiano Morgia


[1]“Lombardìa”, “Itàlia”.

[2]“Buona volontà” is another option.

[3]The other instance is in Henry VI, Part I


[5]William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, edited by Barbara Hodgdon, Bloomsbury Arden; Third Series (2005), p. 160.

[6]Juxtaposed to the /p/ repetition in the other lines anyway.

[7]David Crystal, Think On My Words, Cambridge University Press (2008),p. 193

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