Translating Ancient Drama: Workshops

We have run the following workshops as part of our Translating Ancient Drama project. For more information about the project, click here

Current Theatre Translation Workshop: War in Fragments

For the second year, dramaturg and Marie-Curie fellow Estelle Baudou and Leventis research fellow Giovanna Di Martino are running a theatre translation workshop for master’s and DPhil students. The workshop consists of weekly practice-based sessions where participants’ translations of ancient texts are challenged with theatrical exercises. This year's topic will be the representation of the Trojan War through a selection of passages and fragments from ancient Greek tragedy and epic. The aim of the workshop is to produce translations of these fragments for the stage. 

If you are interested in participating in the workshop next term, please email us and

Theatre Translation Workshop on Aeschylus' Agamemnon

Academic year 2019-2020 - University of Oxford
Participants: Masters students, PhD students and researchers in Classics and Classical reception
Direction: Giovanna Di Martino and Estelle Baudou

This workshop consisted in weekly practice-based sessions where we challenged the participants’ translations of the parodos of the Agamemnon with theatrical exercises. The primary aim was to produce a script of the parodos in English through a dramaturgical process combining philological observations with theatre practice. Indeed, we wanted to create a space where the translator directly interacted with the stage, working hand in hand with dramaturgical practice. As a consequence, the main material objects of our workshop were ancient Greek and theatrical exercises.

It was a slow process within which we shared methods, theories, views and preconceptions emerging from Classics and Theatre studies about translating ancient Greek tragedy in general and the Agamemnon, in particular. Interestingly, by embedding translation into the dramaturgical process, we built a communality, i.e. a method  and a language that could be shared by classical scholars and theatre practitioners on an equal footing. 

Bodily explorations of the text allowed us to question the reception of this play in the twenty-first century. We eventually came up with key-findings about power, gender, story-telling and communality. 

When lockdown began in the UK, we were in the middle of this workshop. The quarantine stopped us because we couldn’t do it remotely, since theatre practice is almost impossible if you’re not in person in the room, particularly if you’re not a professional. However, we decided to use Zoom to transform our acting workshop into a more dramaturgical work by discussing our reception of the text (and particularly of the carpet scene), sharing documents (sounds, texts, images) and using association of ideas to explore the meanings of the text. In other words, our workshop remained a creative and practical one preparing us, and our texts, to go back to the stage. Actually, it allowed us not only to keep practicing but also to create a new way to embed translation of ancient tragedy into the dramaturgical process.

Selected bibliography

Barnette, Jane (2018), Adapturgy: The Dramaturg’s Art and Theatrical Adaptation, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Bassnett, Susan (2006), ‘Writing and Translating’, in Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush (eds), The Translator as Writer, London: Continuum: 173-83.
Biet, Christian and Triau, Christophe (2006), ‘De la lecture dramaturgique à la dramaturgie’, Qu’est-ce que le théâtre?, Paris: Gallimard, Folio Essais, p. 631-639 (2019, What is the Theatre, London: Routledge).
Danan, Joseph (2010), Qu’est-ce que la dramaturgie?, Arles: Actes Sud.
Lianeri, Alexandra and Zajko, Vanda (2008), ‘Introduction’, in Alexandra Lianeri and Vanda Zajko (eds), Translation and the classic: identity as change in the history of culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1-23.
Macintosh,  Fiona  (2013),  ‘Theatre  Translation  and  Performance’, in Georgios K. Giannakis (ed.), Encyclopedia  of  Ancient  Greek  Language and Linguistics, Brill Academic: Leiden: 1-4. 
Romanska, Magda (2014), ‘Introduction’, in Magda Romanska (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy, New York: Routledge: 1-14.
Trencsényi, Katalin (2015), Dramaturgy in the making, London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.
Venuti, Lawrence (2008), ‘Translation, Interpretation and Canon Formation’, in Alexandra Lianeri and Vanda Zajko (eds), Translation and the classic: identity as change in the history of culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 27-51.

16th- century translations Iphigenia at Aulis in the 21st century

28th-29th November 2019 - Maison Française d’Oxford
Participants: Marcus Bell, Fanny Bloc, Annaïg Briand, Giovanna Casali, Cécile Dudouyt, Marie-Gabrielle Pelissie du Rausas, Marchella Ward
Direction: Estelle Baudou, Giovanna Di Martino

In this practice-based research workshop, Estelle Baudou and Giovanna Di Martino explored the performability of three sixteenth-century translations of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis: L’Iphigène by Tomas Sébillet (1549), Ifigenia by Lodovico Dolce (1551), Iphigenia at Aulis by Jane Lumley (ca. 1553). Dramaturgical work on these translations was carried out between September and November 2019, when it was decided to focus on two passages from the tragedy in the three translations specified above. On 28 November, we explored these two passages with the workshop’s participants with theatrical exercises and eventually performed the results of the workshop on the next day at the conference On Translating Greek Drama in the Modern Period.

The workshop consisted of two parts. The first had as its main textual object the French and English translations of the fourth episode of the tragedy (lines 1098-1208), when Clytemnestra confronts Agamemnon on his intention to kill Iphigenia. Throughout several exercises, we explored the dramaturgy of both texts by means of questioning the uses of power (who is dominating and when?), space (is it a public or a private space?), chorus (who are they supporting?), and Iphigenia (how does she influence the situation?) developed therein. As it emerged from our bodily exploration of the language employed and the power dynamics of the characters’ relationships, whilst the French version was discovered to act ‘circularly’, the English one, on the contrary, seemed particularly stable, straightforward and concise: indeed both of these discoveries determined our staging of the two scenes.

The second part of the workshop focused on the uses and meanings of the chorus in the last stasimon (1509-31). As we were trying to build a multilingual chorus using the Italian, French and English translations of the tragedy’s last stasimon, we realized that these texts were not telling the same story, each insisting on different aspects of the situation: the French version highlighted Iphigenia’s glory, the English the military ritual of Iphigenia’s sacrifice, whereas the Italian text was looking ahead and expressed mourning. When we bodily tested each of these linguistic solutions, we achieved three very different results.

It was through performing these translations that we discovered how much they resonated with famous later tragedies, a discovery that is backed by recent scholarship on these texts (see below). The French participants at the workshop recognised in Sébillet an old-fashioned precursor to Racine’s use of language and dramaturgy in his own tragedies (cf. Philippo 2013 and Miola 2020). In the discussion ensuing the workshop’s performance, some audience members remarked upon the resonance between our staging of Lady Lumley’s translation and Shakespeare’s dramaturgy (cf. Craik and Pollard 2013 and Pollard 2017). Indeed, our reception of these sixteenth-century translations was passing through the modern and neo-classical canons, whilst at the same time highlighting the reception of Greek tragedy into these canons. Whether Shakespeare and Racine were actually familiar with these texts or not, our experience of Sébillet’s and Lumley’s translations implied, and put them in, the same (shared) context. Such context was built and discovered from within the physical and bodily encounter that we had with these texts; in other words, it was through performing these translations that we came to the same conclusions scholars attained to by reading them.

Selected bibliography

Primary Texts:
Sébillet, Thomas, L'Iphigène d'Euripide, poete tragique tourne en Francois [...]  (Paris: 1549), p. 52v-57r & 71r-72r.
Dolce, Lodovico, Ifigenia. Tragedia (Venice: 1551), p. 65-72 & 93-95.
Lumley, Lady Jane, The Tragedie of Euripides called Iphigeneia translated out of the Greake into Englisshe (ca 1553) = H. H. Child (ed.), Iphigenia at Aulis Translated by Lady Lumley (London: 1909),  p. 26-28 & 37.

Secondary Reading:
Miola, Robert S, ‘Early Modern Receptions of Iphigenia at Aulis’, Classical Receptions Journal, 12 (3) 2020, 279–98.
Phillippo, Susanna, ‘Accidental Creativity: Scribes, Scholars, Translators and the Iphigenia Dramas of Seventeenth-Century France’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. Supplement (2013) 126-2, 381-399.
Pollard, Tanya, Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages, (Oxford: 2017).
Pollard, Tanya & Craik, Katharine (eds), ‘Conceiving Tragedy’, Shakespearean Sensations, (Cambridge: 2013).
Schleiner, Louise, ‘Latinized Greek Drama in Shakespeare's Writing of "Hamlet"’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 41 (1) 1990, 29-48.