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“Keep it Shakespeare, stupid”
Posted: 15 November 2017 11:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/10/keep-it-shakespeare-stupid

We’ve discussed this topic before. An opposing viewpoint from McWhorter’s.

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Posted: 16 November 2017 02:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I believe that if an actor who knows what the words mean does a good job of acting, the audience will get the meaning.

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Posted: 16 November 2017 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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What’s the alternative? Go back to Globe-like theaters, performing in daylight in Elizabethan dress with no sound systems? Let’s not film Shakespeare as that doesn’t conform with the Bard’s vision.

All sorts of adaptations of Shakespeare have taken place over the years, including changes to the language--every edition of Shakespeare you can buy modernizes the language to some extent. None print it in the original. (Not to mention that the “original” is a tricky thing to determine. In most cases, we have posthumous reconstructions of the plays. Shakespeare has always been edited.)

And there is this: “We push back against translation not because the text is sacrosanct, but because the text is successful.” Seriously? A good portion (probably at least half) of the audience of any Shakespeare play is there because it’s the “Bard,” it’s high-culture, not because of the language. If you don’t believe that, just look at how many attend performances of Marlowe (if you can find one), a playwright who was equally skilled at wordsmithing. Bardolatry permeates everything having to do with the plays.

And of course, modernizing the language doesn’t mean that the original language is going away. There will still be performances in the original, in fact most will still be.

I see nothing wrong with a modern language adaptation. If it’s good, it will get more people to appreciate the greatness of the plays and serve as an entry to the original language. If they make a hash of it, it will fail, like so many experimental productions before it. I’m skeptical of their ability to do an adequate job, but I don’t knock them for trying.

(Note, the linked article is from 2015.)

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Posted: 16 November 2017 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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One question: Does anyone think that the author, Sergeant, meant something slightly different in his usage of “get/getting” instead of “understand/understanding”? His words seem to imply a different meaning with his usage of the quote marks.

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Posted: 16 November 2017 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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All sorts of adaptations of Shakespeare have taken place over the years, including changes to the language--every edition of Shakespeare you can buy modernizes the language to some extent. None print it in the original. (Not to mention that the “original” is a tricky thing to determine. In most cases, we have posthumous reconstructions of the plays. Shakespeare has always been edited.)

Keep in mind; Shakespeare was a notorious plagiarist, as were many great writers of his time. (Note, plagiarism was not considered an offense at the time.) Therefore, what sets Shakespeare and many great writers apart is how they make it their own, by their language and unique style.
After all, Romeo and Juliet is exclusively associated with Shakespeare’s famous play, but in actuality there are numerous versions of the story beginning with Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Pyramus and Thisbe) and years later by Arthur Brook’s translation which was the primary source for Shakespeare’s version. 

My point being that if we translate Shakespeare’s works then we can’t recognize it as being specifically a Shakespeare play, because there are so many other versions. Again, it’s his personal style and language that sets him apart, not the storyline.

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Posted: 17 November 2017 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My point being that if we translate Shakespeare’s works then we can’t recognize it as being specifically a Shakespeare play, because there are so many other versions. Again, it’s his personal style and language that sets him apart, not the storyline.

Shakespeare was not what we would today call a plagiarist. He adapted works. The other plays on similar subjects are very different from his.

What you say of the language is true of any translation. You wouldn’t see this reaction if you translated Marlowe (and I’m sure people have, but Marlowe is generally ignored by the general public, so I’m not aware of a particular example). Chaucer is translated all the time and no one objects. Cervantes, Montaigne, and Moliere are routinely read in translation. No one objects. The only other work that gets a similar degree of reverence is the King James Bible. It’s bardolotry, pure and simple.

And Shakespeare’s inventiveness is overblown. With each update of the OED, his list of first citations grows smaller. (Besides, Chaucer has always beaten him on that score.) Don’t get me wrong; he is great, just not as great as the public imagination makes him out to be.

[ Edited: 17 November 2017 04:31 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 17 November 2017 06:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Shakespeare was not what we would today call a plagiarist. He adapted works. The other plays on similar subjects are very different from his.

Also, the word plagiary/ism/ist has always carried a clear connotation of wrongdoing: literary theft. This is absolutely not applicable to Shakespeare’s plays; nobody going to a new play or the reading of a new narrative poem in his time expected that it would contain a new story. In fact, the making up of original stories by writers had only recently become acceptable: one of the difficulties of tracing the origins of medieval literary themes such as the Grail legend is that medieval writers weren’t supposed to be inventing their material - so whenever they did they were obliged to claim they had got it from an unspecified ‘Frensshe’ book or a mythical earlier troubadour.

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Posted: 18 November 2017 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And Shakespeare’s inventiveness is overblown. With each update of the OED, his list of first citations grows smaller. (Besides, Chaucer has always beaten him on that score.) Don’t get me wrong; he is great, just not as great as the public imagination makes him out to be.

Right, Shakespeare wasn’t noted by his colleagues for neologisms. The playwright that was so noted was John Marston and he was roundly mocked for it by Ben Jonson in his 1601 comedy The Poetaster. In the play Horace, representing Jonson himself, gives Crispinus (Marston) an emetic which makes him spew up all the words he’s created. It’s a very funny scene.

Cris. O—!

Tib. How now, Crispinus? C

Cris. O, I am sick—!

Hor. A bason, a bason, quickly; our physic works. Faint not, man.

Cris. O———retrograde———reciprocal———incubus.

Caes. What’s that, Horace?

Hor. Retrograde, reciprocal, and incubus, are come up.

Gal. Thanks be to Jupiter!

Cris. O———glibbery———lubrical———defunct———O———!

Hor. Well said; here’s some store.

Virg. What are they?

Hor. Glibbery, lubrical, and defunct.

Gal. O, they came up easy.

Cris. O———O———!

Tib. What’s that?

Hor. Nothing yet.

Cris. Magnificate———

Mec. Magnificate!  That came up somewhat hard.

Hor. Ay. What cheer, Crispinus?

Cris. O! I shall cast up my———spurious———snotteries———

Hor. Good. Again.

Oris. Chilblain’d———O———O———clumsie———

Hor. That clumsie stuck terribly.

Mec. What’s all that, Horace?

Hor. Spurious, snotteries, chilblain’d, clumsie.

Tib. O Jupiter!

Gal. Who would have thought there should have been such a deal of
filth in a poet?

Cris. O———balmy froth———

Caes. What’s that?

Cris.———Puffie———inflate———turgidious———-ventosity.

Hor. Balmy, froth, puffie, inflate, turgidous, and ventosity are
come up.

Tib. O terrible windy words.

Gal. A sign of a windy brain.

Cris. O———oblatrant———furibund———fatuate———strenuous—-

Hor. Here’s a deal; oblatrant, furibund, fatuate, strenuous.

Caes. Now all’s come up, I trow. What a tumult he had in his belly?

Hor. No, there’s the often conscious damp behind still.

Cris. O———conscious———damp.

Hor. It is come up, thanks to Apollo and AEsculapius: another; you
were best take a pill more.

Cris. O, no; O———O———O———O———O!

Hor. Force yourself then a little with your finger.

Cris. O———O———prorumped.

Tib. Prorumped I What a noise it made! as if his spirit would have
prorumpt with it.

Cris. O———O———O!

Virg. Help him, it sticks strangely, whatever it is.

Cris. O———clutcht

Hor. Now it is come; clutcht.

Caes. Clutcht!  it is well that’s come up; it had but a narrow
passage.

Cris. O———!

Virg. Again! hold him, hold his head there.

Cris. Snarling gusts———quaking custard.

Hor. How now, Crispinus?

Cris. O———obstupefact.

It’s instructive too to see the words that took hold and those that didn’t. If Shakespeare had been even half as much a coiner of new words as some people make out it certainly wouldn’t have escaped the notice of his contemporaries, especially Jonson. As for his greatness Shakespeare has always, since at least Dryden in the 17th century, been praised or denigrated in extremes (see Tolstoy for an example of the latter ("an insignificant, inartistic writer").  Shakespeare’s reputation stands aloof, impervious to it all.

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Posted: 18 November 2017 08:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Shakespeare was not what we would today call a plagiarist. He adapted works. The other plays on similar subjects are very different from his.

Also, the word plagiary/ism/ist has always carried a clear connotation of wrongdoing: literary theft. This is absolutely not applicable to Shakespeare’s plays; nobody going to a new play or the reading of a new narrative poem in his time expected that it would contain a new story.

Why would Shakespeare not be called a plagiarist today, and why is it not applicable to Shakespeare’s plays? Please elaborate.

If Shakespeare were alive today he would have spent the majority of his life in court fighting off all kinds of lawsuits based on copyright infringement because pretty much all of his plays were stolen or adapted from other people’s work.  Plagiarism can sometimes have legal repercussions in addition to a damaged reputation.

Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.

The famous description in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is taken almost verbatim from a translation of Plutarch’s life of Mark Antony. In Romeo and Juliet, the storyline is not very different from the stories of Pyramus and Thisbe, in fact, the similarities are numerous and the plot is essentially identical. There were no copyright laws during Shakespeare’s time and in his time everyone borrowed, copied and rarely created new material, but many criticized or condemned this practice; it seems that playwright Robert Greene was quite accusatory of Shakespeare’s plagiarism.  Regardless, today Shakespeare would have been undoubtedly accused of plagiarism and the damage would have been irredeemable.

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Posted: 18 November 2017 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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"Why would Shakespeare not be called a plagiarist today, and why is it not applicable to Shakespeare’s plays? Please elaborate.”

Because today the word “plagiarist” does not mean someone who adapts the work of others. People don’t call Kenneth Branagh a plagiarist because he made a movie of Murder On The Orient Express, or Alan Moore a plagiarist because he wrote a graphic novel featuring Jekyll and Hyde.

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Posted: 18 November 2017 09:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I doubt that Shakespeare would lose any court case in our time as a plagiarist. There are so many writings that contain similar content to other peoples’ works and are routinely ignored by judges all the time when tested. Scenarios are repeated all the time that duplicate other’s similar thoughts. It is almost impossible to say that one person’s story is exactly the same as another one’s unless every word were copied exactly. I don’t even know that “plagiarism” is a word used in any court.

Telling a story that is similar to how someone else told it is not plagiarism if you put it into your own words. Your take is your view, as was Shakespeare’s.

[ Edited: 18 November 2017 09:49 PM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 19 November 2017 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Getting back to the original point, there are aspects of Shakespeare’s language that were obscure to the point of incomprehensibility even in the 18th century. Coincidentallty a few months back I posted an analysis of a couple of lines from Henry IV part 2, Act III, Scene 3, where Falstaff, talking about a potential recruit for the king’s forces, declares: “He shall charge you, and discharge you, with the motion of a pewterer’s hammer, come off and on swifter than he that gibbets on the brewer’s bucket.” Commentators from Samuel Johnson to today have assumed that “bucket” means “pail”. Johnson explained the passage in his annotated edition of Shakespeare’s works, published in 1765, as meaning “swifter than he that carries beer from the vat to the barrel in buckets hung upon a gibbet or beam crossing his shoulders”. In fact the bucket IS the gibbet: it’s “bucket” meaning “a beam or yoke on which anything may be hung or carried”, probably from Old French “buquet”,meaning “‘trébuchet” or “balance”, and “to gibbet-on” seems to mean “to attach to a cask the hooks that hang by chains from the bucket”. You can see a man in the act of gibbeting-on here. Presumably that was a familiar sight to Shakespeare’s contemporaries, but the phrase was lost on Johnson, even though he actually had a room where he stayed at Henry Thrale’s huge brewery in Southwark, and must have seen draymen “gibbeting-on”.

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Posted: 19 November 2017 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The famous description in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is taken almost verbatim from a translation of Plutarch’s life of Mark Antony. In Romeo and Juliet, the storyline is not very different from the stories of Pyramus and Thisbe, in fact, the similarities are numerous and the plot is essentially identical. There were no copyright laws during Shakespeare’s time and in his time everyone borrowed, copied and rarely created new material, but many criticized or condemned this practice; it seems that playwright Robert Greene was quite accusatory of Shakespeare’s plagiarism.  Regardless, today Shakespeare would have been undoubtedly accused of plagiarism and the damage would have been irredeemable.

Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra’s barge is definitely a close cribbing of North’s Plutarch, there’s no denying that. But the storyline of Romeo and Juliet is quite different from Ovid. Shakespeare has no lion or cracked wall dividing the lovers, and Ovid no Mercutio, Tybalt, or feuding families. And Greene did not criticize Shakespeare’s copying, he criticized his poetic skills, saying his ability to produce blank verse was pedestrian and workmanlike, not elevated and noble: “[He] supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum” (jack of all trades).

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Posted: 19 November 2017 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra’s barge is definitely a close cribbing of North’s Plutarch, there’s no denying that.

Isn’t there? I mean, Plutarch is a historical source, considered in Shakespeare’s time as authoritative: using available historical sources for a play about historical people and events is surely not cribbing. (If it were, every movie or TV show that has Good Queen Bess giving her Tilbury Speech would be ‘cribbing’!) Shakespeare took the information given in the North translation, combined it with embellishments of his own and put them into blank verse: that’s not cribbing, in my book.

Also, let’s note that North himself had translated the Lives not directly from Plutarch’s Latin, but from the French of Jacques Amyot! Would anybody call that ‘plagiarism’?

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Posted: 19 November 2017 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Shakespeare took his Romeo and Juliet not directly from the Italian novellas but via Arthur Brooke’s Romeus and Juliet, 1562, not a bad poem in its own right and the parallels in wording show that Shakespeare knew it well, just as he knew Ovid through Golding’s wonderful translation of the Metamorphoses (as Jonson commented Shakespeare had ‘small Latin and less Greek’).

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Posted: 19 November 2017 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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OP Tipping - 18 November 2017 09:24 PM

“Why would Shakespeare not be called a plagiarist today, and why is it not applicable to Shakespeare’s plays? Please elaborate.”

Because today the word “plagiarist” does not mean someone who adapts the work of others.

Nor did it mean plagiarist during Shakespeare’s time, because adapting someone’s work is not considered plagiarism if one cites the source, even though Shakespeare and other writers rarely, if ever, did.

People don’t call Kenneth Branagh a plagiarist because he made a movie of Murder On The Orient Express, or Alan Moore a plagiarist because he wrote a graphic novel featuring Jekyll and Hyde.

Naturally, because adapting the works of others is not plagiarism as long as the source is cited. Branagh and Lumet who made movies adapted from A. Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express, were required to acknowledge her contribution in the credits. Alan Moore did not plagiarize because he did not copy the story of Jekyll and Hyde based on the book by R.L. Stevenson. I’m also assuming that he did not copy passages from Stevenson’s novel. Keep in mind, names, or titles, do not need to be cited.

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