Thursday, January 14, 2010

Keep His Language Alive

When I spotted an article entitled “Teach Shakespeare However You Want – Just Keep His Language Alive” I knew I’d found a kindred spirit.  When I noticed that the article comes from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, it almost makes me forgive him for Jar Jar Binks.  Almost.

There’s not a great deal that’s new in the article, it comes off more as a plea to not forget the greatness of the language.  I’ll just paste one quote, which sums it up quite nicely for me:

Those who value the craft of writing do not take this lightly. C.K. Williams, an award-winning poet who teaches at Princeton University, told me, "The very thought of William Shakespeare being rewritten makes me ill."


Brian said...

Years ago I re-worked Henry V for a Boy Scout troop I had. I just changed some of the more antiquated words and shortened the play to a half hour. I think for younger students it is okay to reword but not rewrite.

Duane said...

The difference often has to do with the motivations of the translator. If you start with the idea "No one will understand this, I have to change it" then you're in one camp. But if your approach is more "I will expose the audience to as much of the original as I can, and it pains me to make the few changes I feel I must" then you are in a very different one altogether.

Everybody edits. Simple fact. Not only are there few "original text" productions going on these days, but for most places there's not even an original text to work from, they must be conflated across several editions. So a change or an edit here and there is not the end of the world. It's the central premise that Shakespeare *should* be translated, because it is no longer relevant or valuable in its original form, that we take issue with.

Mystic said...

My opinion is you don't have to change a single word! I teach my high school students Hamlet. In addition to the written text, we use Branah's Hamlet, and it follows the text almost verbatim. You don't have to re-work or reword what they read, you just have to take the time to teach and discuss!

Duane said...

My point in another thread was that there is no definitive "the text". You are inherently making decisions about which version to go with, even when you decide whether to go with "To be or not to be that is the question" or "To be or not to be, is that alle? Aye, all..." So if you have to make some decisions to begin with, where is the line drawn about how many you are allowed to make?

JM said...

I think the 'line' should be drawn before unnecessarily changing the punctuation or the verse structure-- indenting the lines-- to make 'good poetic form'. It makes for bad acting (and even reading) choices. (Original spelling is also vitally important to me as a director and teacher, but the debate still rages on that item. It's a difficult concept to get across without in-depth analysis.)

As far as the 'edits' are concerned, whatever 'version' I come up with comes from Folio One (1623)--and Quarto conflation, if legitimately (historically) and analytically applicable. Anything beyond those sources is working with 'edited versions' which have, in my opinion, already 'crossed the line'.
Of course, as Brian notes, I believe that we can push the envelope (and I have) with versions for children. Most of the changes I make come in the form of in-between-scene narration and time formatting. The kids handle the words and the verse quite well when shown what's up.

I commented here on what's known as literal "translation" earlier (I forget the thread title). It's totally unnecessary, counter-productive to much of what's important about 'learning about Shakespeare' and what he was doing, and underestimates and insults the intelligence of the student. --Other than that, it's okay :)