Great Lines of World Literature
in North Korean Translation: The
Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene

Prick us, do we not bleed?

Last year the Globe Theatre performed Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. For China-based fans of ‘The People’s Bard’ (see Nancy Pellegrini’s recent book of the same title on the history of Shakespeare in China), the showing was a real treat, featuring elegantly designed sets and costumes, passionate acting, and the world-renowned Jonathan Pryce as Shylock. Yes, that’s the High Sparrow himself as Shylock and Pryce no doubt channeled some of the Game of Thrones* character in his performance. Shylock’s climactic conversion in Venice had echoes of the Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing.

*If you don’t know what I am on about, go start Game of Thrones Season I Episode I right now and come back in a few days. If you are not into Game of Thrones, well, maybe I can entice you by saying that world of Games of Thrones shares some remarkable parallels to Korean history. That is a blog post for another time.

For now, here are Shylock’s famous lines in The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene I:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

And in the original North Korean from <<베느스의 상인>>:

내가 유태사람이기때문일세. 그래 우리 유태사람은 눈이 없나? 유태사람은 손도, 코도, 귀도, 입도 없나? 오장륙부가 없나? 감가도 감정도 정육도 없단 말인가? 유태사람은 예수쟁이와 같은 음식을 먹으며, 같은 겨울을 추워하며 같은 여름을 더워하지 않는단말인가? 우린들 찌르면 피가 안나겠나? 간지르면 웃음이 안나겠나? 독약을 먹으면 죽지를 않겠나? 모욕을 당하면 복수를 안하겠나?

As might be able to imagine, the rhetoric and word choice of Shylock's speech lends itself particularly well to the North Korean context.

Note the North Korean translator's choice to translate 'Christian' with the the derogatory '예수쟁이'.

'Merchant of Venice' playbill image source:

Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection

The Pyongyang Review of Books (PYRB) is a modest literary review of books from the DPRK and Korea related topics. Regular visitors and browsers of Pyongyang’s bookstores. Follow us on Instagram: pyongyangreviewofbooks.

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