Dramatic & Opera Translations

The Misanthrope

By Molière, translated and directed by Robert Cohen

A rhyming translation set in the play’s time (1666) but with a contemporary energy; staged at the Trinity University and the University of California, Irvine, and published (January 2009) by Eldridge Publishing, which authorizes all amateur production rights.

Review Excerpts

“Cohen has directed a refreshing, lunatic production, using his own highly entertaining translation. It is proof, among other things, that there is room for another equally fluent, stageworthy version of Moliere’s rhymed couplets, but one with a 1990s flavor full of colloquial yet literate pungency. …I’ll go with Cohen [over the traditional Wilber translation].” — Los Angeles Times

“cleverly juxtaposes contemporary slang and 17th century language.” – Michelle Wad, Literary Manager, —Washington Arena Stage

Sample dialogue

ORONTE

So I write BADLY! Oh, I cannot bear it!

ALCESTE

I DON’T SAY THAT! But, if the shoe fits, wear it!
Why must all men possess this urge to rhyme?
To see oneself in print! ‘Why, it’s a crime,’
I told him, ‘to publish all this drivel,
Unless to earn your living! It’s uncivil!
Take my advice,’ I said, “Resist temptation
And find a more – rewarding occupation!
And don’t, for God’s sake, seek to thwart
The reputation you’ve achieved at court,
Just ‘cause some cunning publisher might hint
That ‘now’s the time to rush you into print!’
You’ll just appear ridiculous!’ I said!

ORONTE

To HIM, to HIM! But talk of ME instead!
My sonnet, ‘Hope.’ What do you think of it?

ALCESTE

What do I think, Oronte? I think it’s sh–allow!
Unnatural, mere verbiage, corrupt!
Your hackneyed phrasings make my blood erupt!
And what is ‘trust my hope’ supposed to mean?
Or ‘Holds my joy between her shores?’ Obscene!

“If you want I’ll wait forever
…Follow you – well – wheresoever”

We all can see you’re grabbing for your rhyme!
And that ‘Well!’ – ‘Well,’ it’s just a stall for time!
It’s just a meaningless non-syllable
To make the meter seem – ‘Well!’ – fillable!
This modern style that everyone adores,
With bogus, sentimental metaphors,
It’s only affectation: plays on words;
It leaves you wholly empty afterwards!
I hate this century and all its fashions

Our ancestors, though coarse, had deeper passions.
And I still love – above all poems today,
This old refrain my grandfather would say:

‘Old King Henry
Gave me Paris City
Gave me Paris City
So he could have my Girl!

‘No, King Henry,
Keep your Paris City!
Keep your Paris City!
For I shall keep my Girl!’

It’s not much of a rhyme; the style is crude
And certainly the imagery’s rough-hewed,
But listen to this junk that’s now called Art!
At least ‘King Henry’s’ spoken from the heart!