So after the “Shakespeare Gifts” chat I’m on Amazon looking for books for the kids. It’s important to me, as you may have guessed, to not just grab anything that says Shakespeare-for-kids on it. Being public domain, Shakespeare’s easy fodder for anybody to just slap a title on it and ship it out there. Besides, I’d like to think that my kids have got a jump on the competition just a little bit by having the geeky dad that they do.
I’m looking at one book, the title not important (it’s a version of Romeo and Juliet), and using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature. I see some of the words in the text are footnoted. Cool. Then I see what’s actually written:
2. Mutiny: discord.
3. Star-crossed: illfated.
Does that not seem silly to anybody? Can you imagine the conversation?
“Daddy, what does mutiny mean?”
“Well, sweetie, there’s a note of explanation, so let’s just look…it means discord.”
“What’s discord mean?”
“No idea, sugar. There’s no footnote.”
That’s one big reason right there why I don’t even attempt to get my kids into the original text. You have these cases where someone’s decided that “mutiny” needs explanation, so why not “ancient grudge” as well? Is “civil blood” self-explanatory enough? You could really go crazy trying to keep the text and yet still managing to explain it in a way that a first time reader will get it.
I see it as two audiences. People who’ve never heard of the stories before have no obligation to see them first in the original text. Once they know the story, then they can learn to appreciate the quality of the original, and it will make infinitely more sense.
And if you don’t happen to agree with me on that one, you need to go home and throw out all your Disney merchandise, and read your children Grimm’s tales instead. :)