Jan Komierowski

Biographical Outline

Jan Komierowski (1798– 1882) was a landowner and civil servant, educated as a lawyer. He translated and wrote introductions for ten of Shakespeare’s plays, which appeared anonymously, in three volumes published in Warsaw in 1857–1858. It was the most significant edition of Shakespeare in the period before the appearance of the canonical collection edited by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski in 1875–1877. Twentieth-century criticism mistakenly attributed the achievements of Jan Komierowski to his relative Józef Komierowski (1813–1861), an émigré poet living in Paris. In 1844 Jan Komierowski published, with an introductory essay, previously unknown Baroque poetry by Andrzej Morsztyn (1621–1693).


Jan Komierowski’s initial translations were coherent in terms of their conception and style. They were accompanied by an extensive critical commentary. Komierowski used an unrhymed 11-sylable line, observing the division of the original into prose and verse. There is a sprinkling of archaisms, some old Polish diction and constructions, but an avoidance of ostentatious anachronism. In semantic terms the text followed the descriptive and metaphorical richness of the original, without making any concessions to the romantic poetics of his day. Komierowski’s many years of work on Shakespearean drama were the result of his individual aspirations. His translations and paratexts (supplementary materials) are not distorted by the pressures of publication or critical reception.


Jan Komierowski was a well-known contemporary figure, but the decision to publish anonymously bore significant consequences. From the beginning of the twentieth century their erroneous attribution – unquestioned until now – was recorded in bibliographies and Shakespeare studies. In the period directly after their publication Komierowski’s translations were received with respect, but coolly, as questions were raised over their fluency and clarity. They were used, however, in more than a dozen productions, typically adapted for the stage by Józef Szujski or amalgamated with translations by Leon Ulrich and Józef Paszkowski. This was particularly the case with the comedies, including the first ever performance in Kraków of Much Ado About Nothing (Wiele hałasu o nic) in 1867, with Helena Modrzejewska in the role of Hero.

Jan Komierowski’s translations were never reissued nor have they been the subject of detailed critical analysis.

Bibliography of translations

[William Shakespeare], Dramata Willjama Shakespeare’a. Przekład z pierwotworu , Tom 1: Hamlet, Romeo i Julia, [tłum. Jan Komierowski], w drukarni S. Orgelbranda, Warszawa 1857.

[William Shakespeare], Dramata Willjama Shakespear’a. Przekład z pierwotworu , Tom 2: Makbet, Król Lear, Wieczór Trzech Króli i Krotochwila z pomyłek [Komedia omyłek], [tłum. Jan Komierowski], w drukarni S. Orgelbranda, Warszawa 1858.

[William Shakespeare], Dramata Willjama Shakespear’a. Przekład z pierwotworu , Tom 3: Ryszard III, Ukrócenie spornej [Poskromienie złośnicy], Kupiec wenecki i Wiele hałasu o nic, [tłum. Jan Komierowski], w drukarni S. Orgelbranda, Warszawa 1858 [1860].