Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shakespeare for the Masses

I went through a brief phase studying Shakespeare. This also tied in with my 'I can act' phase. (Hey, college is about experimentation.) Most of the time, I faked my way through.

The stories in Shakespeare are great, but the language is a terrible barrier to that world. In college, the director always 'updated' whatever Shakespeare play we were doing to make it more 'timely,' but stuck with iambic pentameter and archaic terminology.

Sometimes, I just want it told plainly.

Whenever someone dumbs down Shakespeare, I get excited. I like to understand what I'm reading and not work to translate it into Alicia-speak. Shouldn't the time come when the Bard's writings get updated for a new generation?

It's been done with Hamlet.
Hamlet as Told on the Street by Shel Silverstein.
Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition) by Sarah Schmelling

I'm not talking about movies or books that take the plot and twist it into something else. I mean taking the whole story - complete with existing characters and settings and just updating the language. (And maybe beef up some subplots.) If this was done, wouldn't more people be into reading these stories?


  1. I tell my kids when I taught Romeo and Juliet that Romeo will only say two things through out the play, "She's pretty." "I'm sad." I used to compare Romeo and Juliet to Jackie and Kelso on That 70's Show. Jackie's dumb but Kelso is dumber, Juliet is dumb but Romeo is dumber.

  2. And let's not forget Such Tweet Sorrow (http://www.suchtweetsorrow.com), the Twitter version of Rom & Jules.

    However, I think it's important to keep the language. Really, it's not so hard to understand. The most important thing to remember is that it's a play - it's not supposed to be read, it's supposed to be performed.

  3. Erinn - I love the comparison. I don't think I'll be able to get that out of my head now. Especially since Kelso has said "She's pretty" and "I'm sad."

    d - Very good point about it needing to be performed. For some reason, I always forget that.


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