The article investigates the role of Shakespeare translation for post-war cultural development in France and the two Germanys in the 1950s. It shows a marked contrast between the French and the German case, which is interpreted in terms of the respective Shakespearian traditions in the two cultures.
Throughout the 1950s, German Shakespeare translation continues to be enmeshed in the past: there are only individual attempts at new Shakespeare translations, whereas, both in terms of publications and of critical reception, the Schlegel-Tieck version continues to dominate. This situation seems to attest to an inability, or an unwillingness, to break with the tradition and, in particular, to question the close relationship between German nationalism and Shakespeare reception that had obtained in the past. Hence, Shakespeare translation in 1950s’ Germany appears as a reinforcement of a traditional German identity, rather than as an active cultural renewal.
Conversely, through novel translations, 1950s’ France sees a renewed dialogue with the English Bard. Building on an enhanced translation activity in the first half of the 20th century, Shakespeare translation represents a seat of cultural dynamism and renewal. There are collaborative translation projects (such as the edition in the Club français du livre) and, not least because of the way in which young creative writers are involved in these enterprises, Shakespeare translation in the 1950s constitutes a motor for French cultural development in general.