Honestly, I’m pretty reactionary when it comes to language, etc. but the great thing about theater is that every play is different. If you play Shakespeare in modern English to make it more appealing to certain audiences (presumably that is the goal), that doesn’t mean these audiences can’t graduate to Elizabethan English or that you or I can’t go to plays in Elizabethan English.
Also, as a non-native English speaker who got it into his brains to read Shakespeare in the original as a preteen, Elizabethan English can be a significant barrier to entry.
Yes, playing Shakespeare in modern English isn’t Shakespeare, but neither is Sophocles in non-ancient Greek, in an indoor arena and without 1-yard platform shoes and masks…
“You know what would be cool? A production of Hamlet based on a text produced by running the original (good quarto? folio? bad quarto?) through babelfish into Chinese, and then back into English.”
You know what’s cool? That you don’t actually have to mount this production. 99.9% of the art happens simply by writing down and then publishing the concept. Actually producing it is largely superfluous!
1) Is that poem really D.H. Lawrence? I’m not qualified to say this definitively, but am I right that it’s awful? It’s like something Ogden Nash would write after a blow to the head.
2) I also completely disagree that Shakespeare’s characters are boring. The characters and plots are often oddly compelling, which is one of the reasons why works like Ran or West Side Story are so effective. (Josh Hartnett’s version of the “What you know you know” bit at the end of O just brought tears to my eyes, and all it took was remembering the scene, 10 years later).
3) That said, you’re right on the essential point. Take away the language, and you’ve got Ran or West Side Story, which is a worthwhile exercise but not Shakespeare.
Yes, that’s Lawrence. In many of these poems he takes this deliberately awkward and simple style. He shows you that it’s deliberate by the occasional striking line, like the last one in that poem. He’s doing an anti-Shakespeare thing in that poem, intentionally refusing Shakespeare’s vivid and unexpected language.
Lawrence was an extraordinary poet. See ‘Snake’, for instance.
Prof. Jacobs, if you have the time (being an English professor and all), would you mind commenting on this section from the end of Lawrence’s “Snake”?
“For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.”
The poem seems to me largely a celebration of natural beauty or the world of nature (perhaps based on a real-life incident), leading up to an implied rejection of human culture (the vulgarity of it) in favor of the nobility (or something like it) Lawrence sees in the natural world, and which he would like to cultivate in himself. First of all, is this reading more or less on target?
About those lines. “A king in exile” was Pascal’s metaphor for mankind after the Fall. The serpent plays a role in that story, which of course is one of associations conjured up by the subject & title of this poem. Nevertheless, “the snake-as-evil” would seem against the grain of the poem, if it weren’t for Lawrence’s conscience telling him to be a man and kill it. Is Lawrence in fact alluding to this famous image from Pascal, maybe through some third source, or is it just a coincidence? “Underworld” probably refers to the actual snake’s natural habit, with a connotation (to my ears at least) of the classical underworld, Plutonian & chthonic deities, etc. Why the snake is “uncrowned” but “due to be crowned again” I have no idea. If these notes sound confused, that’s because I am. What do you think these elements add up to, and what is their place in the rest of the poem?