Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

A Bard In Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush or There’s No Bardness Like Slow Bardness

Shocking. The tremors from the announcement that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be futzing with the Bard are rippling through out various literary communities. It’s one thing to sneak No Fear Shakespeare into the classroom when teaching Hamlet  and company to students, it’s quite another to go to the theater and pay good money to hear modernity instead of Bardinator verse. If you haven’t heard the news, hear it here: Shakespeare is undergoing translation, and yes, I do believe something will be lost along the way.

“I suspect that Shakespeare himself, in his eagerness to reach audiences, would be perplexed by the idea that our job today is to settle for only half understanding his work. Let’s embrace Shakespeare for real and let him speak to us.”

So says Dr. McWhorter who teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy and music at Columbia University.

Just because we haven’t kept up with Old English doesn’t mean it should be changed to meet our needs. There are plenty of analysis experts who have provided handy translations of Shakespeare’s works. We just need to take the time to read them. Or better yet, figure it out on our own. It’s called learning.

What really concerns me is if this could be a trend towards other changes. Sophocles? That old dead writer of Mediterranean vintage who wrote about the son who inadvertently married his mother? Yeah, it’s Greek to me too–better change it up so we can understand his plays. Then there is Emily Dickinson. Dash it all, she really doesn’t understand how to properly use punctuation, better to get grammar check suggestions for her. She’s still in public domain, so she won’t mind. Honestly, if we quietly allow Shakespeare to be mucked about with and don’t fuss about how *presto chango* his beautiful verse and prose gets shazzamed into everyday slings and arrows, then we will surely watch all the old classics become literature lite. Less calories, less filling.

How do you feel about those Oregon Shakespeare folk messing about with Shakespeare?

Here’s the article. Let me know what you think. *grumble grr*

Me thinks it’s piteous to mess with the muse.

image: morguefile/johninportland TRANSLATION: Roses are the prettiest flower out there. Nope, it just don’t float.

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10 thoughts on “A Bard In Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush or There’s No Bardness Like Slow Bardness

  1. That’s not the only travesty taking place. My kids are in high school and have barely read any Shakespeare. How does this happen?

  2. I’m with you. We’ve managed to get by on the way it is for the last 400 years, so why go and change it now? Completely unnecessary.

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  4. I’m in two minds here, I do kind of think there’s room for both in the world, as long as it is both and the original isn’t lost. This reminds me of when I went to see an opera a few years back, I never go to the opera but I had won some tickets. What I hadn’t realised (as I never go) is that you often get a translation now, so there was a screen above the stage that translated what was sung into English, but there was no attempt to replicate the beauty and poetry of the words – so on stage somebody would be singing this beautiful Italian phrase, and then on the screen it would say something like “Here comes Bob”. Again, I was in two minds with this, I appreciated being able to understand everything that was happening but the magic was lost.

    • Yea, singing about Bob in Italian is definitely lovelier than reading a translation about Bob. But I still want to know it really is Bob that they are singing about. I’m trying to reconcile the two Bob thing as well. Wait a minute–nope, I think I can figure it out. The Bard is the best at Bob lines. [yes, it is late and yes, I am tired]

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