"Shakespeare in Modern English" provides side-by-side translations of plays

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good idea Mar 12

Although there will inevitably be cries of "dumbing down", I think anything that makes the Bard more accessible to 21st-century students and/or readers is a positive move.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:57
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Dumbing down Mar 12

neilmac wrote:

Although there will inevitably be cries of "dumbing down", I think anything that makes the Bard more accessible to 21st-century students and/or readers is a positive move.


The Bard is totally accessible. All it requires is a bit of effort by the public. Alas, these days it seems everything has to be homogenised and turned into pap so that it can be ingested without thinking.

The whole point about Shakespeare is his marvellous use of the English language. Something profoundly stupid is at work here.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nothing new here Mar 12

It seems to me that there is nothing particularly new here, as I remember seeing such side-by-side editions of Shakespeare in the US at least 15-20 years ago.

I also agree with Neil that this is a good idea to facilitate accessibility to the Bard. And I think such editions do a better job of such facilitation than those with mere footnotes.

The point here surely is not that the modern paraphrase is somehow an improvement on the original. Instead the idea is to communicate, in a rudimentary and thoroughly understandable way, the meaning of language that is now 400 years old, and that is not fully accessible to the uninitiated.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:57
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It has always been done Mar 12

... more or less.

I had two brilliant English teachers who complemented each other very well. First we had Mrs B., who had a gentle humour and a great ear for poetry. Later, we had the more flamboyant Miss M., who did not blush at explaining the adult humour, and who could make modern English sound Shakespearean or advise us on just where to read up about what Shakespeare actually meant. It was a privilege that many more could have benefited from, if their wisdom had been passed on in print.

The 'effort on the part of the public' requires some guidance, and if Shmoop is giving that guidance somewhere, then it is doing an essential job. A 'crib' like that, by making Shakespeare accessible to beginners, will also enable many of them to go on reading his works without the crib later.

My father was not only a bible translator but a theologian and expert on liturgy, and he was passionate about the revision of the Book of Common Prayer. (Largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, and roughly contemporary with Shakespeare).
Cranmer himself expected that the text would need to be renewed, as it was to some extent in 1662, but would probably have been surprised that his language survived until the 20th century.
It was indeed a great era, when important writings like those of Shakespeare, the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer formed and stabilized the English language, but nevertheless, they gradually became difficult for modern readers to understand as they were intended.
They were written in the normal language that was spoken all the time, and the main objective of the religious writings was that they should be understanded of the people (sic). When they ceased to be normal, if elevated, language, they were to be revised.
The texts were working documents, not primarily literature, so there is every argument in favour of revising them as well as keeping the originals for scholars.

When Shakespeare too has become archaic and difficult to appreciate, he is not, in fact, as accessible to modern readers as he was to his contemporaries. Just as he has to be translated for those who do not understand English at all, he has to be explained somehow to those who are not fluent in 16th and 17th century English. It would be ironic if Germans, Indians and Chinese could understand Shakespeare as easily as the Elizabethans, but modern English readers could not!

[Edited at 2017-03-12 21:27 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Actually, it's just a summary Mar 12

The press release (that was picked up by several outlets) states: "Shmoop’s Shakespeare in Modern English gives students the best of both worlds: reading the original text right alongside a modern English translation and summary" but in reality there is not modern translation -- only a modern summary:



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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Tom Mar 13

Christine Andersen wrote:
When Shakespeare too has become archaic and difficult to appreciate, he is not, in fact, as accessible to modern readers as he was to his contemporaries. Just as he has to be translated for those who do not understand English at all, he has to be explained somehow to those who are not fluent in 16th and 17th century English.

[Edited at 2017-03-12 21:27 GMT]


Hear hear. My point exactly. Apparently today's youngsters can't hold a candle to polyglot intellectual luminaries of the post-war baby boom like us, so they need help. To withold it would be churlish.


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:57
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Great idea! Mar 14

When I was about 10 years old I found in the village library a beautifully illustrated book containing summaries of some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. To each play also came excerpts of the most well-known lines: original Swedish translation and a simplified version children could understand. So I was 10 years old when I fell in love with Shakespeare. I have read him ever since; both original texts and translated texts translated by different translators.
Would I feel the same had my first encounter been different, less comprehensible?
I don’t know…


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