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In Remembrance Of “The Hungarian Shakespeare” – János Arany Was Born 200 Years Ago Today

Robert Velkey 2017.03.02.

On the 2nd of March 1817 János Arany was born as the youngest of ten children. Because of tuberculosis running in the family, only two of the siblings lived beyond childhood. Beyond his hard family history, he lived in a turbulent period of Hungarian history as well. In spite of all this, he became one of the most important writers and poets of  Hungarian classical literature, and he is often said to be the “Hungarian Shakespeare” as well.

János Arany lived when “courageous and dedicated patriots striving for reforms decided to take their fate into their own hands,” Áder János said on the opening ceremony of the memorial year. The Hungarian President marking the 200th birth anniversary of the great Hungarian poet and writer János Arany (1817-1882) in native town of Salonta (Nagyszalonta), today in western Romania, on Thursday. He said the message hinted by Arany’s statue in front of the National Museum in Budapest is that “those can be part of a heroic fight” who serve “not by standing in the front line,” but by writing works that would last forever.

Nagyszalonta, 2017. március 2. Áder János köztársasági elnök beír az emlékkönyvbe az Arany János szülõhelyén álló tájházban a partiumi Nagyszalontán a költõ születésének 200. évfordulóján, 2017. március 2-án. MTI Fotó: Czeglédi Zsolt

Although reserved as a character, Arany still “became part through his writings of the greatest undertaking of the 19th century: the re-establishment of the Hungarian nation,” the Hungarian president said at a commemoration in the local Town Hall.

Arany worked as teacher and newspaper editor in his native town, as well as in Debrecen, Budapest and Nagykőrös. He was elected a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1858 and served later as its secretary-general. He also served as director of the Kisfaludy Society, the greatest literary association of Hungary.


Arany wrote over 40 ballads, including his most famous, the Bards of Wales, which served as an allegorical criticism of Absolutist Habsburg rule over Hungary after its ill-fated 1848-49 revolution. His epic poem, the Toldi trilogy, was inspired by nobleman Miklós Toldi, remembered as a legendary hero in Hungarian folklore. Toldi served in the army of King Louis the Great in the 14th century. He translated three Shakespeare dramas, namely A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and King John, into Hungarian.

The early death of his daughter, Julianna, in 1865 marked the beginning of a break from poetry on the part of Arany. He did not write any original works until the summer of 1877, when he began working on his poetic cycle, entitled Őszikék. Őszikék is substantially different from Arany’s previous works, concerning themes like aging and the imminence of death.


János Arany, elderly and world-weary,  died on the 22nd of October, 1882, in Budapest. The bicentenary of his birth will be marked by several events during the upcoming year. To get information about the programs visit the official page of the memorial year.

Here you can read poems and works of the ‘Hungarian Shakespeare’ in many languages, including English.

via: engilsh.mti.hu; wikipedia.org; kronika.ro; arany200.eu

photos: alfahir.hu; Zsolt Czeglédi / MTI; hir.ma; en.wikipedia.org; arany200.eu