Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Original Klingon

I’m sure most geeks know that Shakespeare translations have been available in Klingon for years.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard about anyone trying to perform it in Klingon, however.  They’re just doing selections (Hamlet and Much Ado), but still, it could be interesting to watch.  I wonder if they’ll be dressed up in Klingon garb?

By the way:

The company will speak the verse in both English and Klingon with the lines in iambic pentameter.

Iambic pentameter defines how it is written, not how it is spoken.  If they’re saying that the Klingon translation is also in iambic pentameter I’ll be impressed, but I also expect that it’ll be about as poetic as the typical syllable counting that goes on with most people that any 5-7-5 poem counts as a haiku.

9 comments:

william sutton said...

Beg to differ but Iambic Pentameter does determine how the line is spoken, not just how it is written! It is the rhythm, the heartbeat of the line, not some cold poetic deadness.

Done badly, it is soporific, done well, why even Klingon must sound good in it.
yours,
Will

Duane said...

True, Will, but I'm not sure it's bi-directional. That is, if something's written in iambic pentameter you do still have to make effort to speak it that way (and can choose not to), but if it's not written that way, is it possible to deliver it that way?

JM said...

Speak this out loud:
"In sooth I know not why I am so sad"

Now this:
"Never, never, never, never, never."

And this:
O for a Muse of Fire that would ascend

Try speaking the latter two with the infamous dah-DUM beat.

Only one is 'technically' iambic pentameter. One begins with a trochaic reversed front foot; one is the exact opposite of iambic pentameter-- 'technically' trochaic pentameter. Yet all fall within the scope of the 'heartbeat' Will speaks of. This is Shakespeare's genius. He was a jazz musician amidst the stodginess of convention. Variation is possible in speaking iambic pentameter. The exceptions not only prove the rule; in Shakespeare's case, they enhance it.

Mark said...

Variation in verse form is always significant in Shakespeare. I find that, especially in the US, not enough attention is paid to it. Actors and students alike are taught to treat it like prose. But every time the meter changes, it means something -- perhaps that the character is uncertain of the words s/he's speaking, for example.

JM said...

I agree Mark. Ironic isn't it, that paying attention to the variations is what gives the verse its conversational and or "realistic" tone when it's needed. Yet lots of people, as you say, attempt to layer it with "naturalistic genius" first, without even taking that into account. Pure egotistical laziness assumes many forms. And many actors and directors in the U.S. have it in spades when approaching Shakespeare.

Mark said...

You are harsher on them than I'd be, JM. :P

But your overall point I agree with. My background in Shakespeare is mostly academic, not theatrical. But I started working for a theatre company recently, and my director is a big believer in classical verse form. She really opened my eyes to the importance of verse.

JM said...

Maybe I've hung out with more actors and directors than you have Mark :)

Although principally a theatre person, my real edifying experiences began from adopting a hybrid approach to Shakespeare. I believe that a marriage of the academic and the theatrical, the technical and the lyrical, emotional and the nuts and bolts, provides us with the best vantage point from which to appreciate and understand him and, ultimately, to perform him. I think HE was a hybrid, which is why there has tended to be a division into "camps" between the literary and theatrical sets. There's enough matter of both kinds to sustain the 'division', if you will.

Strangely enough, I've found the most resistance from those in my own profession, which is perhaps why I'm so hard on them.
One of the most receptive responses to approaching the Form of the work came from a 91 year old former head of a well-known major university English dept., who told me that if he had known about some of the things I was revealing to him, it would have been much easier for him to have taught Shakespeare with more success.
On the other hand, Method devotees and theatrical professors have, out of hand, many times rejected the notions I speak about and the technique I teach, preferring to think they "know better already" without devoting any time to exploring the verse form technique. "So, what's this all about?-in 10 words or less, please."
Then they wonder why someone in the cast who happens to know something about it wipes the stage with the rest of the mumblers while they try to "feel" what's going on first.
So yeah, maybe my axe is rather large :)
BTW, like your blog.

Alexi said...

Shockingly, I'm agreeing with JM. This year at YCTC (Young Company Theatre Camp-it's associated with the American Shakespeare Center) my directors emphasized using verse as an acting tool more than I've done in the past, and I think it had a very positive effect on my performance. One director told me to pay close attention to the words which end verse lines, to which it's often a strong choice to give emphasis. To whit, as Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra, I said "...you shall find there/ a man who is the abstract of all faults/ that all men follow." The enjambment there creates a complete thought, but Caesar has to add on an extra phrase to it. Anyway, I think my delivery was greatly improved by a better understanding of verse, and I'll have my actors pay close attention to it as I direct Macbeth this year (which should fun, given the trochaic tetrameter the Witches use.)

Mark said...

"Although principally a theatre person, my real edifying experiences began from adopting a hybrid approach to Shakespeare. I believe that a marriage of the academic and the theatrical, the technical and the lyrical, emotional and the nuts and bolts, provides us with the best vantage point from which to appreciate and understand him and, ultimately, to perform him. I think HE was a hybrid, which is why there has tended to be a division into "camps" between the literary and theatrical sets. There's enough matter of both kinds to sustain the 'division', if you will."

It's quite incredible you say this. My company runs a Shakespeare podcast, and this was the very first topic that was discussed on the very first episode -- the fact that both disciplines would be better if there were dialogue between the two, and not divisiveness. I have always believed that. Glad you're on board!