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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1143  Wednesday, 16 May 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 09:59:37 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

[2]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:19:54 -0400
        Subj:   Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

[3]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:19:54 -0400
        Subj:   Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

[4]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 May 2001 02:18:05 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 09:59:37 -0700
Subject: 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

I agree with everything Tony Burton, and everyone else, has said about
the problems of _translating_ Shakespeare into modern English, but you
know what, we're going to lose in the end.  And we should.

Professors now teach students to read Chaucer in something close to his
original words.  (The texts are usually edited, and where are his
manuscripts, anyway?)  Yet, Penguin Classics publishes a modern language
version of Chaucer.  Few really object to that for the untrained,
because we understand it takes a bit of exposure to Middle English to be
able to read Chaucer with any fluency.  Shakespeare's language is not as
unfamiliar as Chaucer's, so we judge it differently.

Someday our language will evolve to the point where only those trained
to read Shakespeare can do so.  Then Penguin Classics, or someone, will
bring out translations of Shakespeare in that future state of English.
Some scholars will still decry them for their mistakes and
simplifications, but books will be available to that are readable the
person on the street.  On balance, this will be a good.  The questions
are when the language will have evolved enough to warrant this, and who
will do the translations.  I hope it will be the future equivalents of
Stanley Wells, Richard Proudfoot, and David Bevington.  I hope they will
reason the need.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:19:54 -0400
Subject:        Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

Tony Burton writes:

>What "Hamlet" had in it "to please the wiser sort" is ALWAYS lost in
>misguided attempts to create modernizations, which fail anyway because
>words change their meanings too rapidly for the editor's purpose to be
>achieved beyond the first
>school-class of readers.

And yet when Shakespeare re-staged his plays, he often did re-writes.  I
get the impression that even Shakespeare himself knew the meaning of a
play is always deferred -- are you reading this, Derrida? -- and
contingent on a given audience at a given time and place.  The chief
difference is that for him, "meaning" translated directly gate
receipts.  He had to change with the times, or else he'd lose his
shirt;  by contrast, it would appear that English teachers don't.

>If one feels that Shakespeare is too challenging to impose on the
>uninitiated without prosthetic assistance, why not simply assign Cliff
>notes, or Classic Comics summaries. . .

I take your point, which is a good one:  and yet what is an English
class but an endless stream of prosthetic devices, administered on the
assumption that the poor darlings can't speak without a crutch or two?
By contrast, Shakespeare didn't waste time learning how to speak a
language he already knew from the streets; he studied Latin.  I'd give
my right arm to have had his grade-school education.

>many of the
>contributors to this list have offered testimony that its archaisms and
>dialectical curiosities have their own special charm and attraction for
>the young student who is not positively discouraged by the prejudices of
>a weary teacher.

And yet, if I understand you correctly, we must _never_ offer our
students the Modern English equivalent of these precious archaisms, lest
they -- what?  Understand them better?  Not all attempts to translate
Shakespeare are poor, and by the same token not all 'authoritative'
editions cover the meanings of Shakespeare that we find the most
useful/relevant to our students.

My own point, lest it be misunderstood, has more to do with Shakespeare
in performance.  Shakespeare in the form of schoolroom text, amply
'prosthetized' with footnotes and glossary, can be good in the
original.  But as I understand the function of a teacher, one of the
more important things we do is to translate materials into terms our
students can understand, and hopefully get excited about.  It's not
pandering or comic-book simplification, it's simply called -- teaching.

Cheers,
Andrew White

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur D L Lindley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 13:21:48 +0800
Subject: 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

> -- what  would our Chief Executive make of Laertes's
>liberal-conceited carriages or Gertrude's liberal shepards?

I assume W would identify the former as cars with 'Re-elect Gore in
2004' stickers and the latter as tree huggers.

Arthur Lindley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 02:18:05 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

Bravo, Tony

Yours,
F. Amit

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