Transcription and back-translation by Lily Kahn, Lecturer in Hebrew, UCL

Hebrew (translated by Isaac Eduard Salkinson, Vienna, 1874)

אִישׁ חַיִל כַּבֵּד אֲכַבְּדֶנּוּ, כָּל עוֹד בִּי חוּשִׁי

וְעַל חֲתָנְךָ הִנְנִי אֹמֵר: קָרַן עוֹר פְּנֵי הַכּוּשִׁי.


A man of valour indeed I shall honour him, as long as I have sense (lit: as long as my sense is in me)

And regarding your son-in-law I hereby say: the face of the Moor (or: African) shines.

(Note: in Hebrew this is a rhyming couplet.)

Lily comments:

The Salkinson translations are really interesting, and the whole story is fascinating. He was a Lithuanian Jew who immigrated to London, where he was converted by missionaries and became an Anglican minister. He then was sent to Vienna by the church in order to prosletyze among the Jews there and translate the New Testament into Hebrew, but ended up becoming friends with a prominent Hebrew writer, who persuaded him to translate Shakespeare into Hebrew. I have also wondered why he chose Othello and Romeo and Juliet; there isn't anything written about it, but I guess it may be because both plays were among the most famous and the themes were ones that Jews could easily relate to (i.e. forbidden marriage, outsider ethnic status, etc.). Apparently he was going to translate more plays, but another member of his church in Vienna reported him to his superiors in London because he was spending all his time on the church's salary translating Shakespeare into Hebrew instead of bringing in converts and translating the New Testament, so they suspended his pay until he finished the New Testament translation and he died a couple of years later. It's really a shame - if he had continued, we might have a whole collection of nineteenth-century Hebrew Shakespeare translations!

Biographical information from: Almagor, Dan. 1975. 'Shakespeare in Hebrew Literature in the Haskalah and Revival Periods: A Bibliographic Survey and Bibliography,' in Simon Halkin Jubilee Volume, ed. Boaz Shahevitch and Menahem Perry, Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 721-84.