Józef Szujski

Biographical Outline

Józef Szujski (1835–1883) was a historian, journalist, playwright and translator. As a professor and the rector at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and as the general secretary of the Academy of Learning (Akademia Umiejętności), he was engaged in the political and cultural life of the era. He translated one Shakespeare play in its entirety – Richard III (Ryszard III). He was however responsible for several theatrical versions of Shakespeare’s plays, and was an insightful theatre critic. From 1860 he exerted a growing influence on the reception of Shakespeare on the Kraków stage, and indirectly on performances elsewhere.


The translation of Richard III was produced strictly to meet the demands of the theatre. In the published version some lines are missing, and even entire scenes. This kind of approach was in keeping with Szujski’s general practice, calibrated to introduce Polish theatre audiences to the masterworks of foreign literature. Szujski used a free-flowing, rhymed, 11-syllable line, firmly delineating the characters’ emotions and rhetorical expressions.


The translation of Act I appeared in 1860 and Szujski finished the play for the theatre in Kraków in 1866. The complete translation was published posthumously in 1887. It was also performed three times in Lwów. The contemporary press rated Szujski highly. He was praised by, among others, his friend Stanisław Tarnowski. In later years the translations were not the subject of critical analysis. The play has not been republished nor has it returned to the stage.

Bibliography of translations

[William Shakespeare], Życie i śmierć Ryszarda III. Dramat historyczny Williama Shakespeare, tłum. Józef Szujski [w:] Józef Szujski, Dzieła. Seria I, Tom 5, Dramata tłumaczone, w drukarni „Czasu” Fr. Kluczyckiego i Spółki, Kraków 1887, s. 379–490.