“Survive or be destroyed: This is the question worth considering.” That’s one version of how Hamlet — a.k.a. Hamuleite, Hamengleite, or Hanmolaide — sounds in Chinese, a language in which “to be” just doesn’t translate.
“Not having anything can only result in not having anything,” says the Chinese King Lear, instead of “Nothing will come of nothing” — because Chinese, like many languages, hasn’t made a noun out of “nothing.”
And the Hamlet line “Brevity is the soul of wit” may be at its briefest in one Chinese translation: just four syllables long.
Already a phenomenon in China, William Shakespeare — known locally as Shashibiya or even Old Man Sha — is about to get a major boost. In September, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced an initiative to translate the Complete Works, all 37 plays and 154 sonnets, from Elizabethan English into modern standard Mandarin, the world’s most-spoken mother