Saturday, September 14, 2013

Translating Shakespeare: Helpful or Hurtful? by Cheyanna Colborn

“A sorry sight,” “I have not slept one wink,” and “there’s method in my madness,” are all relatively easy phrases to understand. Perhaps surprisingly, all three were introduced by Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare.

While these expressions pop up fairly regularly in the English language today, there are many lines in Shakespeare plays that the average student may struggle to understand. Thus, when reading Shakespeare, many feel the need to turn to modern translations for answers. However, using these resources, typically websites, can often leave students “lost in translation,” so to speak.

“The sites with the paraphrased [modern translation] versions of Shakespeare are second-rate to a class experience,” Don Hedrick, professor of English and departmental Shakespearean, said.

A new help site has emerged, created by Paul W. Collins, called Shakespeare Right Now!, in which the plays are converted to prose stories, with speeches in the original language.

“It is interesting because it is still using Shakespeare language, but in a novel form,” Hedrick said. “This is great for students, because it still allows the opportunity to understand the voice and rhythm of Shakespeare’s writing while having a reading flow that more students are used to.”

Not only are there changes to the language, but Collins adds in extra information as well. For instance, hair color and other descriptors are added to the stories that were completely invented by Collins. Hedrick said that if used very carefully as a supplement to a class, the site could be helpful, but if a student were to use the transformed version solely, it could be damaging to the student’s grade if they include the additional information or quote incorrect lines ultimately making their assignments inaccurate.

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