In addition to his success as a poet, Richard Wilbur has won acclaim as a translator. Interspersed among his own poems are translations of Charles Baudelaire, Jorge Guillén, François Villon, and many others. His interest in drama is most notably shown in his translations of four Molière plays: The Misanthrope (1955), Tartuffe (1963), The School for Wives (1971), and The Learned Ladies (1978). In 1957, Random House published Candide: A Comic Operetta with lyrics by Wilbur, book by Lillian Hellman, and score by Leonard Bernstein. Wilbur admits that he attempted to write a play in 1952, but he found its characters unconvincing and “all very wooden.” He turned to translating Molière, thinking he “might learn something about poetic theater by translating the master.”
Wilbur has edited several books, including A Bestiary, with Alexander Calder (1955), Poe: Complete Poems (1959), and Shakespeare: Poems, with coeditor Alfred Harbage (1966). In 1976, Wilbur published Responses, Prose Pieces: 1953-1976, a collection of essays which he describes as containing “some prose by-products of a poet’s life.” His essays and other prose pieces are collected in The Catbird’s Song: Prose Pieces, 1963-1995 (1997). Most of his manuscripts are in the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College. His early work is housed in the Lockwood Memorial Library at the State University of New York at Buffalo.