Felicjan Medard Faleński (1825–1910) was a poet, playwright and prose writer. He made considerable contributions to Polish letters as a critic, translator, journalist, letter writer, memoirist and textual editor. He only translated one Shakespeare play in its entirety – The Merry Wives of Windsor (Wesołe mieszczki z Windsoru) – which was published in instalments in 1875. He also translated sonnets and excerpts from five plays. His work did not exert a significant influence on the reception history of Shakespeare’s drama, but in his own time he played a significant role in shaping the reputation of Shakespeare as a poet and dramatist, particularly among the readers of literary journals.
Faleński’s Wesołe mieszczki z Windsoru was the second Polish version of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was completed with a view to its being staged in Warsaw. No production came to pass, but the translation appeared in a weekly journal, Tygodnik Mód i Powieści. Faleński translated Shakespeare into prose, finding dynamic equivalents for the comic elements. He introduced lots of Polish names and removed unfamiliar cultural references. The prose is fluent and lucid, enlivened by a jovial, “Sarmatian” sense of humour inspired by the culture of the Polish nobility in the 17th and 18th centuries. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Faleński was not so much a fan of foreign authors, but was minded to create a literary canon. He had a coherent sense of the responsibilities of a translator at a time when literary translation was undergoing a sudden increase in popularity. His translations of literary masterpieces involved a kind of transposition, making use of the richest resources of his native language, including the literature of previous centuries.
Faleński’s The Merry Wives of Windsor has never been the subject of literary-critical analysis. Published at the same time as the first Polish collected Shakespeare edited by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, his text was not able to secure its own place in the literary landscape. It has not appeared in book form, nor has it been the basis of a theatrical production.
Bibliography of translations
[William Shakespeare], Wesołe mieszczki z Windsoru. Komedya w pięciu aktach podług Szekspira [Wesołe kumoszki z Windsoru], tłum. Felicyan [Felicjan Faleński], „Tygodnik Mód i Powieści” 1875, nr 16, s. 181–183; nr 17, s. 193–194; nr 18, s. 206–208; nr 19, s. 219–220; nr 20, s. 231–233; nr 21, s. 243–245; nr 22, s. 256–257; nr 23, s. 268–269; nr 24, s. 280–281; nr 25, s. 291–293; nr 26, s. 304–305.