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Shakespeare in Modern English?

 
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vu



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:44 pm    Post subject: Shakespeare in Modern English? Reply with quote

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/opinion/shakespeare-in-modern-english.html

The New York Times
Shakespeare in Modern English?
By JAMES SHAPIRO
OCT. 7, 2015

THE Oregon Shakespeare Festival has decided that Shakespeare’s language
is too difficult for today’s audiences to understand. It recently
announced that over the next three years, it will commission 36
playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.

Many in the theater community have known that this day was coming, though
it doesn’t lessen the shock. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been
one of the stars in the Shakespeare firmament since it was founded in
1935. While the festival’s organizers insist that they also remain
committed to staging Shakespeare’s works in his own words, they have set
a disturbing precedent. Other venues, including the Alabama Shakespeare
Festival, the University of Utah and Orlando Shakespeare Theater, have
already signed on to produce some of these translations.

However well intended, this experiment is likely to be a waste of money
and talent, for it misdiagnoses the reason that Shakespeare’s plays can
be hard for playgoers to follow. The problem is not the often knotty
language; it’s that even the best directors and actors — British as
well as American — too frequently offer up Shakespeare’s plays without
themselves having a firm enough grasp of what his words mean.

Claims that Shakespeare’s language is unintelligible go back to his own
day. His great rival, Ben Jonson, reportedly complained about “some
bombast speeches of ‘Macbeth,’ which are not to be understood.”
Jonson failed to see that Macbeth’s dense soliloquies were intentionally
difficult; Shakespeare was capturing a feverish mind at work, tracing the
turbulent arc of a character’s moral crisis. Even if audiences strain to
understand exactly what Macbeth says, they grasp what Macbeth feels —
but only if an actor knows what that character’s words mean.

Two years ago I witnessed a different kind of theatrical experiment, in
which Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” in the original
language, trimmed to 90 minutes, was performed before an audience largely
unfamiliar with Shakespeare: inmates at Rikers Island. The performance was
part of the Public Theater’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit initiative.

No inmates walked out on the performance, though they were free to do so.
They were deeply engrossed, many at the edge of their seats, some crying
out at various moments (much as Elizabethan audiences once did) and
visibly moved by what they saw.

Did they understand every word? I doubt it. I’m not sure anybody other
than Shakespeare, who invented quite a few words, ever has. But the
inmates, like any other audience witnessing a good production, didn’t
have to follow the play line for line, because the actors, and their
director, knew what the words meant; they found in Shakespeare’s
language the clues to the personalities of the characters.

I’ve had a chance to look over a prototype translation of “Timon of
Athens” that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been sharing at
workshops and readings for the past five years. While the work of an
accomplished playwright, it is a hodgepodge, neither Elizabethan nor
contemporary, and makes for dismal reading.

To understand Shakespeare’s characters, actors have long depended on the
hints of meaning and shadings of emphasis that he embedded in his verse.
They will search for them in vain in the translation: The music and rhythm
of iambic pentameter are gone. Gone, too, are the shifts — which allow
actors to register subtle changes in intimacy — between “you” and
“thee.” Even classical allusions are scrapped.

Shakespeare’s use of resonance and ambiguity, defining features of his
language, is also lost in translation. For example, in Shakespeare’s
original, when the misanthropic Timon addresses a pair of prostitutes and
rails about how money corrupts every aspect of social relations, he urges
them to “plague all, / That your activity may defeat and quell / The
source of all erection.” A primary meaning of “erection” for
Elizabethans was social advancement or promotion; Timon hates social
climbers. The wry sexual meaning of “erection,” also present here, was
secondary. But the new translation ignores the social resonance, turning
the line into a sordid joke: Timon now speaks of “the source of all
erections.”

Shakespeare borrowed almost all his plots and wrote for a theater that
required only a handful of props, no scenery and no artificial lighting.
The only thing Shakespearean about his plays is the language. I’ll never
understand why, when you attend a Shakespeare production these days, you
find listed in the program a fight director, a dramaturge, a choreographer
and lighting, set and scenery designers — but rarely an expert steeped
in Shakespeare’s language and culture.

A technology entrepreneur’s foundation is bankrolling the Oregon
Shakespeare Festival’s new venture. I’d prefer to see it spend its
money hiring such experts and enabling those 36 promising American
playwrights to devote themselves to writing the next Broadway hit like
“Hamilton,” rather than waste their time stripping away what’s
Shakespearean about “King Lear” or “Hamlet.”

James Shapiro, a professor of English at Columbia, is the author, most
recently, of “The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606
.”
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inkling7
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 1:19 am    Post subject: Shakespeare in Modern English? Reply with quote

I fear if they put it to modern language then it will lose the poetry and beauty of the whole thing.. What next Shakespeare being performed by rappers?
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Wildflower



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 1:33 am    Post subject: Re: Shakespeare in Modern English? Reply with quote

inkling7 wrote:
I fear if they put it to modern language then it will lose the poetry and beauty of the whole thing.. What next Shakespeare being performed by rappers?

Well, they did make a musical of Taming of the Shrew ("Kiss me Kate") and that came across OK I think (I haven't seen it).

For American actors it might be good, though, I mean put it in modern language. I remember seeing a stage production of Hamlet with Christopher Walken in the title role. He had the right look for Hamlet, but it was obvious that he had memorized his lines without understanding them. And his pronunciation was atrocious. It was painful to watch. I remember thinking he'd better stick to playing modern roles, like a mercenary in The Dogs of War, where he was pretty good. Or the villain in I can't remember which Bond movie.
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Thuy Duong



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 12:19 am    Post subject: Shakespeare in Modern English? Reply with quote

It may lose in poetry, but it would gain in understandability. I must confess I have trouble sometimes, either reading a play or watching it. I get lost. Embarassed

Even light comedies like Twelfth Night. The whole thing when the servants quabble, or plot against Malvolio... I watched a TV production of it, and I couldn't understand much of anything, although I knew the story. I mean, the plotting against Malvolio. The switch Sebastian/Viola was easy enough, and I loved the scene when they're finally both on stage. The look on Olivia's face!!! Very Happy

One thing, though. Among many inconsistencies and implausible events. When Olivia calls "Cesario! Husband! Stay!" - She didn't marry Cesario, she married Sebastian - she couldn't have married him under Cesario's name, could she? confused
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Mr. Write



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 2:25 pm    Post subject: Implausibilities in Shakespeare's work Reply with quote

Thuy Duong wrote:
One thing, though. Among many inconsistencies and implausible events. When Olivia calls "Cesario! Husband! Stay!" - She didn't marry Cesario, she married Sebastian - she couldn't have married him under Cesario's name, could she? confused

A lot of Shakespeare's plays wouldn't find a publisher today. Plots too far-fetched. The above is an excellent example. super grin
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:28 pm    Post subject: Implausibilities in Shakespeare's work Reply with quote

His portrayal of Richard III! Very Mad

Mind you, in some of the lines, it seems like he's telling the reader/spectator not to believe everything he says. There's a scene on that, where someone, I can't remember who, tries to tell the Princes in the Tower that not everything is like it seems, or like people tell them they are.
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inkling7
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 1:10 am    Post subject: Implausibilities in Shakespeare's work Reply with quote

Yes poor old Shakespeare got a few historical stories rather wrong it seems especially Richard 111 and Macbeth... but I suppose he was writing from the stories the Tudors put out about Richard and I don;t think much was really known about Macbeth then so he sort of made it up.... super grin
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:58 am    Post subject: Re: Implausibilities in Shakespeare's work Reply with quote

inkling7 wrote:
Yes poor old Shakespeare got a few historical stories rather wrong it seems especially Richard III and Macbeth... but I suppose he was writing from the stories the Tudors put out about Richard and I don;t think much was really known about Macbeth then so he sort of made it up.... super grin

As far as Richard III is concerned - Shakespeare wrote under the Tudors' reign, it wouldn't have been politic to give a picture that would have made his patrons usurpers and liars. But like Kerowyn said, he tried to subtly let people know that what he wrote was bunk.
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inkling7
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:04 am    Post subject: Shakespeare Reply with quote

Yes Lily if he wrote what really happened it might have been a case of 'Off with his head' for Shakespeare as the Tudors seemed fond of doing that to anyone who might disagree with them let alone malign them and you are both right he might have been subtly leading people know what he really thought of that Prince's Dying in the Tower and their evil Uncle Richard... We now know it wasn't really like that so Shakespeare being clever with words put that message in his play maybe with the hope that future readers of it would understand it.... super grin
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Jessica A



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2016 3:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Shakespeare Reply with quote

inkling7 wrote:
Yes Lily if he wrote what really happened it might have been a case of 'Off with his head' for Shakespeare as the Tudors seemed fond of doing that to anyone who might disagree with them let alone malign them and you are both right he might have been subtly leading people know what he really thought of that Prince's Dying in the Tower and their evil Uncle Richard... We now know it wasn't really like that so Shakespeare being clever with words put that message in his play maybe with the hope that future readers of it would understand it.... super grin

The Tudors did lope off the heads of anyone who displeased them... They kept the executioner busy, starting with killing anyone with even a shadow of a claim to the throne. Those Plantagenets that Henry VII missed, Henry VIII caught. Shakespeare wouldn't have lasted very long if he'd written anything approaching the truth about the king whose throne the Tudors usurped. See also how they treated Richard III's corpse after he was defeated. Henry VII had no honor, no scruples, not a single redeeming feature in his make-up.
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