Dante's The Divine Comedy (whose English title appears to basically be the same as the original Italian title, Divina Commedia) is titled in Japanese 『神曲』. Why is this? Naturally, translations need not be literal, but a title meaning roughly "The Divine Song" (or "The Divine Poem"?) seems a bit odd when something along the lines of 「神喜劇」 could've been done.

I read the section 題名『神曲』の由来 in the Wikipedia article, which indicates that Mori Ougai's translation of Hans Christian Andersen's novel The Improvisatore contains the passage 「神曲、吾友なる貴公子」 and Mori's choice of 『神曲』 stuck. That explains the history of it; so my question is really more, why might Mori have chosen this translation? Did 曲 mean something closer to "comedy" at the time he wrote it (c. 1902)?

  • I'm not sure why he choose this translation, but I think that 曲, although is usually used to indicate a musical composition, indicates another types of compositions as well, apparently teatrical ones. You can read for example 曲 as くせ (long segment of a noh play forming its musical highlight), and find words as 戯曲{ぎきょく} (play;  drama).
    – CrisCM
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 3:26
  • 1
    そもそもダンテの時代の "commedia" と、現代英語の "comedy" の意味合い自体が違っているので、そのあたりの下調べなく、フツーの英語話者の感覚のみで質問している気がしてなりません。やや残念です。
    – user4032
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 4:09
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    @l'électeur I agree that "commedia" in Dante's Italian wouldn't match the most common modern English sense for "comedy", but the classical sense of "comedy" (which I assume is close to Dante's sense) is still understood by well-read English-speakers. My mistake was in thinking that the same "classical" sense was present in 喜劇, but apparently it is not, as naruto's answer indicates.
    – senshin
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 4:13

1 Answer 1



ただしコメディ(Comedy)の西洋における元義は、悲劇(英: Tragedy )の対照を成す意味での演劇である(例えばギリシア悲劇に対するギリシア喜劇)。従って本来は必ずしも笑えるものだけを意味するとは限らない。 例えば、ダンテの『神曲』も原題は「羅: La Divina Commedia 」であり、日本語で通常の直訳では「神聖な(もしくは神の)喜劇」となるが、笑えるものを意味しているわけではない。

対照的に、「喜劇」という日本語は comedy の訳語ではありますが、ほぼ常に「お笑い」を主体とするものを指します。「喜劇」という言葉は作品の性質に合わず、誤解を招く危険があるため、森鴎外も敢えて訳さなかったのでは、と推測します。



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