Three Shakespeare works in Brussels dialect join world-famous collection
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Three Shakespeare works in Brussels dialect join world-famous collection

Three translations of works of William Shakespeare by the Brussels dialect poet Claude Lammens have been added to the world-famous collection of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham in England.

The works are translations of two of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, as well as the full text of The Taming of the Shrew.

The works in question are dialect translations of Sonnet 18, which begins, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and Sonnet 151, “Love is too young to know what conscience is”.

Bruzz has compiled a video playlist of ten Shakespeare pieces translated into Brussels dialect and read by Lammens himself.

William Shakespeare was born in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon in the English midlands, whose major city is Birmingham. The Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library was created in 1864 to mark his 300th anniversary, with the intention of becoming the world’s first great Shakespeare collection.

It is now the largest such collection held in a public library, and at one point was prestigious enough to receive a donation of 300 works from the Soviet government at the height of the Cold War.

But in recent times, according to Ewan Fernie, Chair of Shakespeare Studies at Birmingham University, the collection has attracted less attention, which is what spurred him to start the Everything to Everybody project.

We’re attempting to revitalise the collection with people and communities across the city, so it becomes something that is rediscovered and reproduced by Birmingham people now,” Fernie told The Guardian. “If we don’t do that it’s going to die, the world is changing and our culture is changing.”

Part of the project is a series of videos called World’s Stage (Act I here): seven videos featuring 140 ‘multilingual Brummies’ – people from across the city, including children, who quote passages from Shakespeare in their own non-English language.

The meaning of most of the contributions will pass us by (there are no subtitles), but what is clear is the natural poetry of the words, the cadence and music, regardless of the language being spoken.

The pieces translated by Lammens represent the 94th language other than English to form part of the massive archive of 40,000 books, 17,000 photos of stage productions, 2,000 music scores, 15,000 playbills, 10,000 posters and innumerable artworks and costume designs.