A "Grand Possible": Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Translations of Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound

April 2006
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Spring2006, Vol. 12 Issue 4, p507
Academic Journal
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), one of the most enduring Victorian poets, published two distinct translations of Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound over a span of seventeen years. While best remembered for her meditations on love in Sonnets from the Portuguese and on the poet's vocation in her blank verse novel Aurora Leigh, she had an abiding love for and extensive knowledge of classical languages and writers, especially Greek. The first translation of Prometheus Bound, with a preface and end notes, was published anonymously in 1833. Shortly after its publication, Barrett Browning expressed reservations on the grounds that it was a literal translation and therefore did not do justice to Aeschylus's or English poetry. The substantially rewritten second translation was first published in her 1850 edition of Poems and revised in both the 1853 and 1856 editions. This consideration of the composition and publication history of the translations examines Barrett Browning's study of Greek, the influence of Hugh Stuart Boyd and Robert Browning, her impressions of Aeschylus and Prometheus, and her views on the practice of translation in light of the place of Greek learning, the reception of Aeschylus, and theories of translation in nineteenth-century England.


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