Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From Master Shakespeare to 'Just Bill'

Someone is willingly 'sparks-noting' Shakespeare.

Well maybe that's too harsh. Maybe I'm just a Shakespeare 'purist'. Maybe I think modernising the language of Shakespeare in any way is a crime against the art. I've seen plays produced where the setting and scenario were modernized, and those were fine for me. Modernize the language, however, and you lose me entirely. Shakespeare isn't Shakespeare without his language, his words, his turn of phrase. His stories are hilarious, challenging, dark, dramatic, powerful, romantic, yes all of that-- but the language is what carries them and fuels them. Take them away, and you have a lesser creature entirely.

I do feel positively towards expanding the Shakespearean readership and exposing more young folks to the great plays of Sir William than would otherwise be able to simply because of the language barrier, but this makes me cringe...

The Hogarth Shakespeare project is going to proseify Shakespeare, hiring various authors to turn the Middle English iambic pentameter and poetical lines of play and dramatic speech into non-verse form. This project will see
"commissioned authors writing prose retelling of the Bard's plays. The first two authors slated to do retellings are Anne Tyler, who will be tackling Taming of the Shrew, and Jeannette Winterson, who is doing The Winter's Tale."
The project is international, with authors coming from Canada, Spain, South Africa, and India, including two already selected to join in: Anne Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author with several films adapted from her works, which most recently include The Beginner's Goodbye and Back When We Were Grownups. Jeannette Winterson is a British writer and creator of such titles as The Lion, Unicorn and Me and The Daylight Gate.

Hogarth claims that the retellings will
"be true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature."
In my very humble opinion, this statement is a contradiction already. If you're changing the very medium by which the story is being delivered, you are changing the spirit of the original dramas. If you are reinventing them, you are not staying true. It's like the difference between a land car and a jumbo jet going cross-country. You get to the same place, maybe, but I'm sure the people at the end of the road would have different things to say about their experience. Say someone who spent five hours in first class as opposed to five others cramped in a Ford Focus for two weeks.
The titles are scheduled to come out in 2016 to coincide with Shakespeare's 400th death anniversary.
Does this seem ironic to anyone else? Or is that just me talking?
Perhaps I'll be wrong. Perhaps these stories will be just the thing to bring back the Bard. But in my opinion, Shakespeare doesn't need a new haircut. He is thriving in theaters across the land, being interpreted and performed as closely as possible to the way he always has been. My favorite theater, personally, is the Shakespeare Tavern. I have not seen a play there that didn't render me speechless with some overthrow of dramatic emotion, and always in the original language, setting, and style as the Bard meant.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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