We are producing new Chinese translations of Shakespeare’s plays for theatres, actors and audiences.

We hope our long-term project to translate Shakespeare’s plays individually will result in a new folio edition of Chinese translations, in time to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's First Folio in 2023. We plan to complete translations of 36 plays, some as full translations while some will be subtitles to our Live from Stratford-upon-Avon screenings of Shakespeare's plays in China.

The translation process begins in our rehearsal rooms where we invite Chinese translators and theatre makers to work together, before testing the translation through workshops and rehearsals in China. This process brings the two languages and cultures together so we can discuss the meaning, character and pacing in Shakespeare's original text.

A man in white cradles the body of a young woman.
King Lear cradles the dead Cordelia in the 2017 production at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, in association with the RSC as part of the Shakespeare Folio Translation Project.
Photo by Gao Shang © RSC Browse and license our images

Creating new Chinese translations

Our translation process draws on our unique expertise and resources to ensure the new translations are grounded in theatre practice, and will provide countless future opportunities for performance and interpretation. 

Instead of simply engaging a translator to work with the text, we invite a company of actors, directors and playwrights from the UK and China to work with us in our rehearsal rooms. Together they unpick the clues about meaning, character and pacing that Shakespeare put into the text that have been ignored in previous translations.

The new translations from English to Mandarin transform the meaning, tone, character and volume of the language, as well as the theatrical rhythm and momentum. This is a new approach to translating Shakespeare's dramatic language.

After being in the RSC rehearsal room, the Chinese theatre makers and translators can mirror the process in China, where possible under the direction of a RSC Associate Director.

We also draw on our archive of different production edits (including cuts, textual transpositions, and doubling or combining of characters) going back over 50 years. This long history of actual theatre practice, and our practical understanding of the challenges arising from these 400-year-old texts, will guarantee that the translations are theatrically effective to a modern audience.

Group of people in a classroom style setting taking notes at a long wooden table
As part of our Shakespeare Folio Translation Project, we ran a series of workshops for Chinese translators, actors and directors as part of Wuzhen Theatre Festival in October 2017. 
Photo by Gong Jiani © RSC Browse and license our images

Commissions and translators

  • Henry V - translated by So Kwok Wan, polished by Nick Yu Rongjun based on a literal translation of Zhang Chong
  • King Lear - translated by Daniel SP Yang, edited by Li Liuyi
  • The Tempest - translated by So Kwok Wan
  • Hamlet - translated by Li Jianming
  • Twelfth Night - translated by So Kwok Wan
  • Antony and Cleopatra - translated by Shen Lin
  • Julius Caesar - translated by Shen Lin

Commissions for 2018-2019 will be Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida, The Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It.

We've also created subtitles for our Live From Stratford-upon-Avon broadcasts for Chinese audiences. Titles include Henry IV Parts I and II, Richard II, Love's Labour’s Lost and Love's Labour’s Won.