Last week, our department – along with the rest of the world – celebrated Shakespeare as Saturday April 23rd marked the 400th anniversary of the Bard of Avon’s death. Why death, you ask? Well, because we do not know his exact day of birth, and in order to celebrate, we need a date! So, a date with Shakespeare it was on Friday, when the department celebrated with toasts and a jubilee lecture. The merriment began with a toast and a speech by Professor Joel Kuortti, who chronicled some ways in which Shakespeare has figured in his life, culminating in the words of Macbeth: “I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table”.
Followed by the toasts, the guest speaker, Helsinki University’s Senior Lecturer, Nely Keinänen gave a fascinating lecture on how Shakespeare’s plays were translated into Finnish and performed in Finland from the 19th century to the present day. We learned about the rich tradition of performing Shakespeare in Finland which interestingly coincided with and helped develop Finnish as a literary language. Translating Shakespeare into Finnish was seen as a great national victory for Finns, who now saw their own language take its place as a proper European language of culture. Shakespeare translations were and are yet another way for us Finns to prove ourselves that we are “most worthy friends” of English, French, and the rest.
Shakespeare, then, was crucial to making Finnish a language of sophistication, culture, and the arts, and our little gathering helped celebrate that fact among others. For a celebration of death, it was a very jolly occasion indeed, marking 400 years of the Bard’s “charmed life”.
Text and photos by Elina Valovirta
Quotes from Macbeth
p.s. Stay tuned for more information on the Faculty of Humanities’ joint Shakespeare 400 lecture course in Q2 next academic year. For more info on Shakespeare festivities in England, go to www.shakespeare400.org.