Persian (Farsi)

Dr. Bahman Zarrinjooee and Dr. Leila Baradaran Jamili (Assistant Professors of Islamic Azad University, Boroujerd-Branch, Iran) have gathered four translations, presented here in chronological order (date of their first publication). These examples are followed by a brief comment, two additional translations of their own, and a short essay on "The Translation of William Shakespeare’s Othello in Persian (Farsi)". Please scroll down.  Their original contribution (emailed as a pdf document) is attached at the foot of this page.

1. Abu’l-Qāsem Khan Qaragozlū Nāṣer-al-Molk (1865-1927), or Abolghasem Khan Nasser-al-Molk (trans.), Othello: The Tragic Story of Moorish Othello in Vandick, Paris: Matbaee Meli, 1961 (1st ed.), 2nd ed. Tehran: Niloufar P., 1996.

دوک     بسیار خوب، شب بهمه خوش. (به برابانسیو) اگر خوی نکو دلبند و زیبا است داماد شما را

          پاکیزه روی باید خواند نه سیاه گونه. (پرده اول مجلس سوم 

no rhyme, prose )


Duke: All right, good night all. (To Brabansio), if good habit is beautiful and delightful your son-in-law should be called virtuous not black. (Act I Scene III 20)

This version considers the beauties of ethics; in this sense, we can admire Abolghasem Khan Nasser-al-Molk’s translation, because he plays with words very aesthetically, and it seems that his ability in selecting the proper equivalents to convey the intended meanings has had no rival.

2. M. Eʿtemādzāda (M. A. Behāḏīn, 1st ed. 1958), or M. A. Behazin (trans.), Othello, Tehran: Dotbook, 2009 (4th ed.). Publisher website:


فرمانروا       باشد، شب بر همگان خوش باد!

                                         (به برابانسیو)

                 خوب، سینیور عالیقدر، اگر مردانگی عاری از زیبایی و دلفریبی نباشد، پس داماد شما بیش از آن که

                 سیاه باشد زیباست. (پرده نخست/صحنه سوم

37 no rhyme, prose)


Governor: Yes (OK.), have a good night everybody! 
(To Brabansio)
Well, senior signior, if masculinity does not lack fascination and beauty, then your son-in-law is more beautiful than black. (Act I Scene III 37)

In spite of the fact that in his introduction to the translation, M. A. Behazin claims that his translation has properly reflected the style of Shakespeare’s writing, versification, and aestheticism; and he adds that it is on the whole a perfect translation, some words and connotations are missed. In this translation, Behazin’s focus is on an ironic wordplay concerning gender and aestheticism.

3. Ala’uddin Pasargadi (trans.), Othello: Black Arab of Venice, from The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare, Vol. 2. Tehran: Soroush P. 1999 (1st ed.). Reprint 5th ed. Tehran: Soroush P., 2010. (1141-1220). Publisher website:


دوک     بسیار خوب، شب همه به خیر [به برابانتیو] مرد شریف، اگر فضیلت فاقد زیبایی نیست داماد شما سیاه زشتی نیست، بلکه زیبا است. (پرده اول صحنه سوم 1153no rhyme, prose .)


Duke: All right, good night all [To Brabantio] nobleman, if virtue does not lack beauty your son-in-law is not an ugly black, rather [he] is beautiful. (Act I Scene III 1153)

In this version the translator is focusing on racism and power because he uses his presupposition for the black people as “ugly” by using the phrase “not an ugly black, rather is beautiful” (siah zeshti nist balke ziba ast) for “far more fair than black.”

4. Abdolhossein Nooshin (trans.). Othello. Tehran: Nashreghatreh, 2009 (3rd ed.). First ed. is unknown. Publisher website:


فرماندار      بسیار خوب! شب به همه شما خوش (به برابانشیو) آیا راست است که پاکدلی و بزرگواری زیباست؟

برابانشیو     البته!

فرماندار      پس داماد شما از زیباترین مردم جهان است! (پرده اول سن هفتم 31 no rhyme, prose)


Governor: All right! Good night to every one of you (to Brabanshio) Is it right that purity and generosity are beautiful?
Brabanshio: Of course!
Governor: So your son-in-law is the most beautiful person in the world. (Act I Scene VII, 31)

This translation is concerned with the problem of family and the translator’s rendering suffers from his own feeling for “son-in-law” as a member of family; thus, Othello’s position and identity is ignored. It seems that his identity as a black man whose action is virtuous has been completely marginalised.

A Comment on the Preceding Four Translations

Generally, none of the stated translations can claim to be a true replica of Othello; since the selected lines, indeed, float in so much ambiguity, punning and wordplay. Unstylishly, none of them pays perceptible attention to the paronomasia, puns, double entendre or duality of meanings in their translations. There are many reasons for such deviations; first, because translators between different languages, especially English (having Germanic origin) and Persian (being Indo-Iranian), should “set themselves against linguistic and cultural problems” (Horri 94), so there are many linguistic and cultural gaps between these two languages; second, because of the untranslatability of puns. As Chrystopher Taylor states, “the pun may justifiably remain untranslated” (1992: 343, cited in Horri 99), and even though the Persian translators might be aware of the presence of the puns in Shakespeare’s Othello, they have left most of the puns untranslated. There is, obviously, plenty of scope for further investigations and improvements, especially by Persian and non-Persian scholars of Shakespeare and translation studies. (B.Z., L.B.J.)

Two Additional Translations 

Bahman Zarrinjooee:

1.      گر جَوانمَردی از زیبایی و دِلفریبی بَری نَبُوَد

            شُوی دُخت اَت نیک سیرت بُوَد نِی زَنگی سِرِشت. (rhyme, verse)

If virtue is not devoid of beauty and beguiling
The husband of your daughter is fair not black in nature.
In this translation, the 14 words in Othello involve ethics, gender, aesthetics, family (based on the Persian culture), colour and race.

Leila Baradaran Jamili:

1.      گر فَضیلَت عین زیبایی بُوَد،

            شُوی دُختَت دادخواهی در سیه رویی بُوَد. (rhyme, verse)

If virtue is the same as beauty,
The husband of your daughter is fair not black.

In this translation, the 14 words in Othello involve ethics, gender, aesthetics, family, and colour.

The Translation of William Shakespeare’s Othello in Persian (Farsi)

by Bahman Zarrinjooee and Leila Baradaran Jamili

The first steps towards modernisation were taken in Persia during the long reign of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (1848-96). “It was not before the nineteenth century that Persian culture and literature gradually began to open up to Western influences and currents of modernisation” (Zarrinjooee and Jamili 211). The Persian Shah was interested in learning about the history of neighbouring lands and the lives of famous historical figures as well as in travelogues, of which he commissioned translations. Even though most were originally in French, a few were in English; when the translations were completed calligraphers copied them and they were bound in leather before being presented to the Shah. Fortunately, most of these manuscripts have survived and are kept in the Golestān Library in Tehran.
    During the period of modernisation, “almost all advocates of modernism in Persian literature were inspired by the developments and changes that had occurred in Western, particularly European, literatures” (ibid 211-12). In addition, the number of printing presses in the major cities increased, and a modest number of books were published, especially by the government printing and Translation House. Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana (q.v.), a learned courtier who had served in the Persian legation in Paris for three years, directed its operations for a quarter-century (1871-96), but most of the translations undertaken at his behest were nonfiction titles from French.
    One translator, who worked for the Government Translation House for a decade before joining the Persian foreign ministry, was Āvānes (Hovhannes) Khan Maseʾīān (1864-1931), a French educated Armenian who translated a number of works from English and French into Persian, particularly Henry Morton Stanley’s African journal Through the Dark Continent; Sir Anthony Sherley; His Relation of His Travels into Persia; Persia and the Persians by the first American envoy, S. G. W. Benjamin; and J. W. Kaye’s A History of the Sepoy War in India 1857-58 (Emāmi: Iranica). He is also said to have translated a number of William Shakespeare’s plays into Armenian.
    The translations of Shakespeare’s “plays into Persian date back to the early twentieth century, beginning with [an Oxford educated translator of merit in the Qajar Period] Abo-al Qassem Khan Nasser-al-Mulook” (1865-1927), a courtier who rose to high office, serving twice as a cabinet minister and briefly as Prime Minister, in September 1907 (Zarrinjooee and Jamili 212). He undertook the challenge of rendering Shakespeare’s Othello into Persian; although generally considered one of the pinnacles of literary translation in the Qajar Period, this work remained unpublished until it was issued by his son Ḥosayn-ʿAlī Khan Qaragozlū in a limited edition in Paris in 1961. Nāṣer-al-Molk is reported also to have translated The Merchant of Venice, but the manuscript remains in the possession of the Qaragozlū family and is still unpublished. Moreover, one might refer to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, translated by P. Nātel Ḵānlarī, (n.d., probably in the 1930s), Much Ado about Nothing, translated by ʿA. Nūšīn in 1950; and Othello, translated by M. Eʿtemādzāda (M. A. Behāḏīn) in 1958.
    The outbreak of World War II and the subsequent occupation of Persia by Allied forces in 1941 caused more than political chaos in the country. It put an end to the dominance of French as the favoured foreign language and the European language to be taught first in secondary schools. With British and American forces in the country, learning English acquired practical value, and later many Persian students went to England or the United States to complete their education. English thus replaced French as the foreign language of choice in Persia, and translations of literary works from English became more and more frequent.
    Some of the most learned Persians who found themselves in England are well-known today, like Mojtabā Mīnovī, whose famous Persian rendering of Hamlet’s soliloquy “To be or not to be”  was (is) widely read and had (has) a strong influence on a younger generation of literary translators, especially in the universities of Persia, and among academic people.
    Abbas Horri, in the second part of his Doctoral dissertation titled “The Influence of Translation on Shakespeare’s Reception in Iran: Three Farsi Hamlets and Suggestions for a Fourth” (2003), states that

Shakespeare has chosen the most striking and visible means to arouse the sentiments of the audience—Othello’s blackness. He enhanced the situation by yet a stronger factor—his hero’s Moorishness. The Moors were considered barbarous which led people to believe that they were dangerous. In his translation of Moors, (OTH I.i.40) Behazin has made a detour to avoid the problem of hurting his Muslim readers’ religious feelings by choosing [the Persian word] کفار koffar (heathens) for Moors. (84)

Horri’s analysis is focused on the historical, cultural and somehow religious considerations of the existing translations.

Works Cited
  • Horri, Abbas. “The Influence of Translation on Shakespeare’s Reception in Iran: Three Farsi Hamlets and Suggestions for a Fourth.” Doctoral Dissertation.  Middlesex U, 2003. Pdf online at Middlesex University.
  • Pfister, Manfred and Jürgen Gutsch (eds). William Shakespeare’s Sonnets for the First Time Globally Reprinted. A Quatercentenary Anthology 1609-2009. Dozwil TG Schweiz: SIGNAThUR, 2009.
  • Taylor, Chrystopher. The Translation of Paronomasia. Parma: Edizioni Zara, 1992. (Cited by Horri; not found.)
  • Zarrinjooee, Bahman and Leila Baradaran Jamili. “The Reflection of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets in Persia.” in William Shakespeare’s Sonnets for the First Time Globally Reprinted. A Quatercentenary Anthology 1609-2009. Eds. Manfred Pfister and Jürgen Gutsch. Dozwil TG Schweiz: SIGNAThUR, 2009. 211-19.

Tom Cheesman,
26 Sep 2011, 09:44