First Korean Translation of the Complete Works of Shakespeare Published

■ Humanities /

First Korean Translation of the Complete Works of Shakespeare Published

“All’s well that ends well” for honorary professor as 10 years of work finally pays off


“Shakespeare is a poet. Most of his plays are written in verse. That makes him both a poet and a playwright,” says Yonsei University Department of English Language and Literature honorary professor Lee Sang-seop, who recently published the complete works of the world’s greatest playwright from England, William Shakespeare.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (셰익스피어 전집) is Korea’s first compilation of all forty-four works in one book, with 2016 marking 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. Though collectively his plays have all been published by various publishers in separate volumes, this is the first book to include the complete collection.

Professor Lee who oversaw the translation project emphasizes moving past the notion of Shakespeare the playwright and focusing on Shakespeare the poet. To encourage this approach, Lee included extensive explanations of the poetic characteristics of the works in his publication.

The translation of the famous soliloquy from Hamlet was altered for this same purpose. The well-known line, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” was translated to simultaneously maintain metered rhythm in Korean while appropriately convey young Hamlet’s philosophical anguish about existence that the author intended. Likewise, the spirit of Shakespeare’s play on words in the original English text, such as the rhyming of “tide” and “tied,” was preserved through careful substitution with Korean expression.

The content of Lee’s book is an accumulation of ten years’ worth of work late in life, nearly seventy years after he encountered his first Shakespearean play. In the words of William Shakespeare, “all’s well that ends well.”

Updated in Feb 2017