No Fear Shakespeare?

Just found this site: No Fear Shakespeare

According to their website, “No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.”

Of course, it doesn’t help my impression when I see that the Spark Notes homepage is “swept away” by a rollercoaster from the site’s sponsor, Six Flags.  Rollercoasters.  Six Flags.  Content that gets blown away.  yeah, right… I’m totally trusting my academic understanding to these guys.

OK, so this is from the folks at Spark Notes, the online competition for the cheat sheet, er, study guide for my generation, Cliffs Notes.  Right off the bat, I’m hard-pressed to be impressed… I’ve seen this kind of side-by-side “translation” before, back when I was teaching Romeo and Juliet.  And the experience was awful.  Sure, the meaning of the words were there (sorta, more on that later), but do we really read Shakespeare for the words?  If so, then why present the Shakespeare at all?

Anyway, let’s take a look at one of the most famous speeches in Shakespeare and the English-speaking world:

To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them?


The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all?

Wow.  “Nasty things.” That’s really… impressive?

OK, that’s a pretty serious speech.  Let’s see if a comedy fares any better… here’s a snippet from next month’s play:

Good morrow, Kate—for that’s your name, I hear.
Good morning, Kate, for I hear that’s what you’re called.
Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing.
They call me Katherine that do talk of me.
Is that what you’ve heard? Then you’d better get your ears checked. I am called Katherine by those who have any business using my name.
You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst,
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate—
For dainties are all Kates—and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation:
Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded—
Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs—
Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife.
Liar. In fact, you’re called Kate, plain Kate—and pretty Kate, and sometimes Kate the shrew. But it’s definitely Kate—the prettiest Kate in the world, Katie, Kitty, Kat-woman, the Kate-ster—and so, Kate, here’s my pitch: that having heard your charming disposition praised—not to mention your beauty and your virtues, though none of them as richly as you deserve—I find myself driven to propose. I want you for my wife.
“Moved,” in good time. Let him that moved you hither
Remove you hence. I knew you at the first
You were a moveable.
“Driven?” Really? Well, let whoever drove you here drive you back again. I had you figured for a piece of furniture.
Why, what’s a moveable?
What do you mean by “furniture”?
A joint stool.
A nice stool.
Thou hast hit it. Come, sit on me.
You’re right, actually. Come sit on me.

“My super-dainty Kate” becomes “Kate-ster”?  Really?  Part of the joke there is that a dainty is type of cake.  There’s a double entendre there (sure, you’re sweet… I’d love to eat you)… but no, we get some warmed-over Saturday Night Live reference…  WTF?

No Fear?  More like no brain…

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