"Ainsi la tolérance du poête est vaste comme l'humanité": tolerance and Anglo-French reconciliation in François-Victor Hugo's French translation of Henry V

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Already in the nineteenth century, Henry V was deemed one of Shakespeare’s most
nationalistic plays, expressing strong anti-French sentiments and a desire to conquer France.
With the nineteenth century being both a time of nation-building and of internationalisation of
the myth of Shakespeare as a genius author, one may wonder how French translators of Henry
V reconciled this admiration for Shakespeare with the play’s supposed xenophobia, especially
when handling multilingual scenes and the perceived satirical uses of French. This paper
expands on this issue through the case study of François-Victor Hugo’s 1865 translation of
Henry V’s French-speaking scenes. Drawing on Dirk Delabastita’s (2002) and Rainier
Grutman’s (2012) studies of the translation and adaptation of Shakespeare’s French scenes into
French, this paper aims at expanding their perspectives by addressing the question of how
perceived national identities, affinities, and characteristics may have influenced the translator’s
choices. Combining elements from translation studies and the discipline of imagology, and
looking more closely at the paratext, this paper argues that Hugo’s linguistic decisions are in
line with, and participate in, his narrative of absolute Shakespearean tolerance toward France.
Through his linguistic choices, the translator thus recasts the play’s perceived imperial claims
as an appeal to peaceful cohabitation and cultural exchanges.
Period8 May 2021
Event titleBreaking Down The Walls of Babel: Dialogues in Translation
Event typeConference
LocationCoventry, United KingdomShow on map


  • Translation Studies
  • Shakespeare, translation
  • Multilingualim