I’ve had it. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I just don’t get Shakespeare. I’ve studied him to A level at school, seen a couple of his plays live and watched loads of film adaptations, and I can only conclude that he blows chunks.
I’ve just wasted half an hour watching yet another film adaptation of Shakespeare and I spent most of it straining to understand what the hell people were saying, who anyone was or just generally what the fuck was going on.
Fine, I accept that this may make me a philistine and that I’m spitting on my national heritage, but I stand by my statement: Shakespeare is shit.
Stop straining. You don’t have to understand every word (as I keep telling my husband during Primeval), just get the gist. Your brain will switch into Shakespear mode if you relax. It won’t if you’re tense.
I agree that Branagh’s movies are spectacular. He has a real gift for bring out the ability in most of his actors to make Shakespearian dialogue seem just like people talking. And Much Ado… is one of the most modern of Will’s plays, IMHO. Try that one for first, and then move to Branagh’s Hamlet. After that much subconscious language training, even the histories become penetrable.
OH! And watch Shakespeare in Love. It’s Stoppard, not Shakespear, but it has a lot of the same rhythms and style. It’s sort of Shakespearesque. It might help you slip into the flow. Plus, it’s a great movie and you get to see Gwyneth Paltrow’s boobies. (And Joseph Fiennes’ neck. Nom nom nom.)
I wouldn’t post at all if your thread title had been “That’s IT, I give up! Shakespeare - I don’t like you!”
You are under no obligation to like Shakespeare, or anything else for that matter.
I’m not going to offer alternative versions to lure you to the Shakespeare loving side. We don’t all have to like everything. I can listen to someone passionately defend his notion Italian opera is superior to German opera, that Caruso’s is the best ever recording of La donna è mobile, and once I hear it, it will unlock the secret magic that will make me love opera as all right thinking persons should.
But it won’t. I don’t like it. It’s not for me. Just as I have inferred that Shakespeare is not for you. However, regardless of our dislike, neither Shakespeare nor opera…suck.
One detail of note is that while the play-within-a-play is rife with the flowery dialog the OP has trouble grasping, the conventional off-stage dialog of the characters is more coherent. I suppose future generations will watch our movies and TV shows and ask “Did people really talk like that?”
Anyway, a good annotated version will dispell a lot of the frustration and time wasted wondering what the hell a “paten” is.
Well, the play-within-a-play is R&J, so of course that’s Shakespeare himself (more or less, there were some edits. Gwyneth was cheated out of Juliet’s full death scene in the best interest of SiL’s pacing, for example.)
The offstage dialogue is, I think, easy for the modern ear to grasp, yet still reminiscent of Shakespeare, which is why I think it’s good for familiarizing your brain with the cadence and convolutions of Shakespearean speech. Someone with more book learnin’ will have to explain exactly how it’s like and not like Shakespeare’s own writing (meter, perhaps?), but even an offstage bit like Viola’s romantic starry eyed exchange with her nurse about the nature of love and theater is Shakespearish:
Not Shakespeare. But sort of Shakespeare. Shakespearesque language - training wheels, if you will, for the Shakespearian ear.
Absolutely. I already wonder that of the sonorous tones of leading men and newscasters in the 50’s.
In high school I always thought Shakespeare kinda sucked, he always went for the cheap joke and his characters were sometimes so totally dimwitted (Romeo & Juliet for example? Why the hell didn’t they just steal some of daddy’s money and run off together?) it made the plot lose something vital. Unless Romeo & Juliet is actually a comedy, then it sort of makes sense…Anyway, I always heard his plays were really popular with common folks and back then you could drink at the theater. My readings of Shakespeare have led me to observe that many of his plays were most likely perfect for a theater full of drunks. Some of his more serious stuff is better/deeper, but for the most part I agree - sucks. Just because someone is a dead, white guy and in the English canon doesn’t mean his stuff is good. Maybe I’ll try reading Shakespeare again someday, because I do realize that time can change one’s perception of things. Well anyway, that’s my unbidden and probably unread two cents. Oh, and also Catcher in the Rye sucks.
Can you understand the following? It’s Hamlet basically considering whether it is better to live and fight tremendous odds, or die(kill himself) and gain eternal sleep(but possible go to hell). It’s probably Shakespeare’s most famous set of lines and can’t be that hard to understand.
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? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
I’ve watched Shakespeare in Love and I enjoyed it very much, I’m not averse to non-contemporary language but Shakespeare is just so incredibly impenetrable to me. I accept that this is very much about me, as he’s not considered one of the greatest playwrights ever for nothing. Still, it frustrates me that whenever I try to appreciate what I’m told repeatedly is literature/drama gold I’m left feeling unsatisfied and defeated.
The one Shakespeare production I really enjoyed was the film version of Titus Andronicus staring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange - loved that film so much and have bought it as gifts for others. Ironically enough TA is considered one of Shakespeare’s weaker plays, apparently. Clearly my tastes are at odd with most of western civilisation.
I’m just IMing with a friend of mine who says he hates Shakespeare too except for Much Ado, so maybe I’ll give that a go (my last attempt!).
Yes I can - it’s not that I can’t understand a word that’s being said, it’s that I can’t follow much of what is said and it makes it hard to really know what is going on. And whilst I can pretty much muddle along with the plays, I just get tired of being told that every word of Shakespeare is gold when I’m reading it like it’s in a second language. I just feel like I’m failing in an area that I really enjoy - I love classic literature, drama and history, yet Shakespeare = fail.
I think the sad thing lies in the real problem that these people likely have: it isn’t that the words themselves are hard to understand, but that understanding the words requires paying attention and pondering their meaning.
For those who say they can’t understand Shakespeare, I’d advise turning off the TV and disconnecting the Internet for a month or so, and devote that time to reading. If it’s easier simply to wallow in the poverty of your intellectual life as it stands, I won’t spend time arguing with you.
Oh to be as towering an intellectual giant as you Koxinga. You’re right, my diet of reality TV, celebrity gossip magazines, pulp science fiction/fantasy novels and addiction to online first person shooters is to blame. You know I’m amazed I can even read Shakespeare at all, what with my mayfly attention span. Clearly the fact I don’t like Shakespeare is yet another symptom of my below-average IQ.
Mahaloth, I wonder if part of the problem with Shakespeare in print is the funny line structure. I mean, it’s done that way in scripts to help actors breathe and find the right pacing, but when reading silently, maybe this would be easier:
Still, better with an actor. Shakespeare wasn’t meant to be read any more than Star Wars or Lost. Their scripts look awkward on paper too, I bet.
A gist, but not word for word, modern “translation” might be something like: To live, or to die, that’s the question. Whether it’s better to just let stuff get to you and take it, or to fight it and risk getting killed. Death is like sleeping, right? That’s all. And when you’re asleep, you’re not bothered by the heartache and trouble of life. Who wouldn’t want that? To die, to sleep…to sleep…to dream. Shit. There’s the catch. If death is like sleep, what might we dream of when dead? That’s gotta keep you up at night. That fear is why we keep living through the suffering.
Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, eh? The beauty really is in the words, once you let yourself not worry about what each one means and just let it wash over you. The man never wrote an original story, he just strings better words on them than most people can. If you’re not a word nerd - if you’ve never savored a word like anaphylaxis - completely independent of its meaning, just as a beautiful word - then maybe Shakespeare isn’t for you. Not 'cause you’re stupid, but just 'cause you’re not turned on by language.
As a last gasp, try watching the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged).”
But I feel for you. Shakespeare, even lesser Shakespeare, is The Word Of Man Writ Large.
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—
nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.