if you don’t he’s not a real punk boy;

My sister fair comes out with some lines of utter genius. It’s essay time again, and this month we’re looking at humanism in relation to Shakespeare’s plays, specifically King Lear. Last night we were lying on the floor with our elbows in a pile of textbooks, digesting a particularly fine tomato pasta she’d cooked with chicken and red peppers, and she said, “I love Shakespeare so much I almost don’t want to spoil it by actually reading the plays.”

Which sounds ridiculous, but is fair comment I suppose from Marie-Clare’s point of view of the importance of the particular language used in transmitting what at Napier we always referred to as “the message”. Much of my sister’s understanding of the tragic story of King Lear comes from the additional reading she has done on the play. “I don’t speak the language,” she says. Still, if you take a work and ‘translate’ it, if you will, into contemporary language, is what you are left with anything like the same product? The BBC would certainly agree, and I was miffed at having to work late on Monday night and miss most of the first installment in their ShakespeaRe-Told season. From what I did see it was a fairly slick product, with enough of the Bard’s own lines worked naturally into the script to leave the viewer in no doubt as to what they were witnessing. I say that having once been given a scene from Romeo and Juliet to bring up to date in drama group, which went on to feature the immortal line: “You’re a pure good kisser.” Hardly that which we call a rose…

My sister’s desperate to see the real version now though, almost as desperate as she is to see Wicked ever since I popped a few tracks from the musical onto the iPod for her, and there is no denying the power and poetry of some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches – whatever Tolstoy might have said.

It’s bright and cold today and, hatless, I find myself hunching up my shoulders to hide my ears in the fake fur of my coat collar. I was going to comment here after Monday night about how much I love bad weather – the kind that whips up your skirt and turns your hair inside out, wild and unmistakeable and uncontrollable – but since I left my brolly on the train yesterday I don’t want to tempt fate.


1 Comment

  1. amber
    November 16, 2005 / 1:38 pm

    Shakespeare uses such evocative language; it’s amazing how much of the English language he has influenced. He was obviously a man who loved words and experimented with them in his writing.
    I think we’ll always be interpreting his language; it’s definitely a challenge, even for the best of us

    But the thing is, does a contemporary method of performing Shakespeare using modern language, like we have seen on the recent BBC 1 series Shakespeare Told, actually work? My answer would have to be no. Surely it is not Shakespeare if it’s not set with his language; it becomes merely an interpretation of his work. I’m not a fan of ‘modernist Shakespeare’ but I understand that stories have to be re told to reach a wider audience.

    I watched the dark and brutal Macbeth on Monday night, but I didn’t enjoy much of it because of the vomit inducing scenes of blood and carnage. Did they have to have big swelling lumps of meat in every scene? Twas all too much for my poor delicate and vegetarian self to take. : (

    James McAvoy was quite pretty to look at though.