I’m very pleased to announce the launch of 莎士比亚.org – beautiful and readable copies of Shakespeare plays in Chinese.
If you would like to help, the text is available on GitHub for people to correct.
I’ve long held a fascination with Shakespeare – hence the name of this website. At university I studied Mandarin as my minor degree. I was a clumsy student, but enjoyed the regularity and poetry of the language.
I discovered the Chinese writer Zhu Shenghao had translated many of Shakespeare’s plays before his untimely death in 1944. I couldn’t find any comprehensive collection online, so I gathered together what I could find and reformatted it in what I consider to be a beautiful format.
According to Chinese copyright law the rights expire fifty years after the author’s death.
So, I’ve learned how to use PHP’s domDocument to manipulate atrociously formatted HTML, discovered more than I ever wanted to know about different methods of encoding Chinese characters (UTF-8, GB2312, big5, etc) and how to convert between them, got my head around Ruby to parse XML and spit out HTML, and a whole bunch about font subsetting in order to reduce the size of the webfonts.
On the issue of fonts, I’ve chosen four different fonts – each for different heading or body texts. The fonts used for the titles range from 20KB-360KB. The main body font is 3.2MB. That’s probably far too large. They’re subsetted down to the the bare minimum number of characters needed, but I’ll have to find a way to improve on that.
I showed the pages off to a couple of native Chinese speakers and they confirmed that the fonts were legible.
Why not .中国?
I had originally registered an International Domain Name ending in .中国 – sadly, the Chinese Registry rejected the name. According to the Chinese Trademark Registry there are a dozen companies who have registered “Shakespeare” as a trademark. And, unless I was prepared to pay over $500 for a trademark I was out of luck.
I’m sure that the translations aren’t necessarily formatted in the correct way. There are also likely to be plays missing. My design ambitions exceed my skills.
If you would like to help improve this service, please pop along to the GitHub repository. There, you will be able to leave a report if something is wrong or even make the changes yourself.
Or, drop a note in the comment box below!