Friday, April 13, 2007

Is Shakespeare laughing?

Not that I believe in such foolishness, but many people insist that Friday the 13th is a bad-luck day. It's true that I've been dreading this day all week, but that's only because I promised my hunk o' burnin' love I'd stop procrastinating and figure the taxes for my home-based writing business. So maybe I was already in a bit of a sour mood when I logged on to the internet this morning and discovered that somebody's been messing with Shakespeare.

On Wednesday, I linked to a breathtakingly lame video of some guy in a dorky squirrel costume rapping--yes rapping--an unforgivably corrupted version of William Wordsworth's beloved poem about daffodils. And now, I've come across a full "translation" of Hamlet into casual English. Is it supposed to be funny? The snippets I read didn't drag any laughs out of me, maybe because the daffodil rap left such a bad taste in my mouth. Or maybe I'm just depressed because it's tax day.

I'll copy a bit of it here so you can judge for yourselves whether this version of Hamlet is funny or just plain awful:
King: What are you so bummed about?
Hamlet: Who, me? Bummed?
Queen: Good Hamlet, stop wearing your mourning clothes and warm up to the new king. Your noble father is dead and buried. Everyone dies sooner or later.
Hamlet: Well, yeah, but...
Queen: So why does it seem that this is bothering you so terribly?
Hamlet: Seems? It is. It's not just my black clothes, sighs, crying, and downcast expression. I'm hurting even more inside.
King: Well, yeah, Hamlet, mourning is fine, but everybody's father dies eventually. So don't be stubborn and mope about. It's a sin to linger on this grief. Your father wouldn't want you to go on this way. Get over it. I'll give you this advice as your loving step father. Don't go back to school in Wittenburg. It's better for you to be home with your family when you're depressed.
Queen: Please, Hamlet, my son. I don't want you to go to Wittenburg, either.
Hamlet: Oh, all right. Fine. I guess I'll stay here.
King: Good. And well said, Gertrude, dearest.
Everyone but Hamlet leaves.
Hamlet: I wish this rotten body of mine would melt away, back to dust. I wish God hadn't forbidden suicide. How weary, stale, flat and worthless this life seems! Dammit, the world is like an unweeded, ruined garden. Everything is dumb and yucky. My father, an excellent king and a good husband, has only been dead two months. Mother used to cozy up to him lovingly as if their love grew stronger every day. But a month after his death... I don't even want to think about it! A little month! Before she wore out the shoes she had on when she walked behind his coffin. Any decent person would have mourned longer. And then she marries my uncle! My father's brother! But a much worse person than my father. A month! Almost before the red had faded from her eyes from weeping. How awful that she turned around and remarried so quickly. And it's especiallly icky 'cause it's basically incest! No good will come of this. But, much as it pains me, I just hold my tounge.

Ugh. Talk about dumb and yukky. And icky.

You people go ahead and laugh if you want. I'm going to take my bad attitude and go dig out my old receipts and get busy completing my Schedule C form.


Neal said...

Brenda, I so nearly sent you this link in email a couple of hours ago. Horrible isn't it? Just serves as an illustration of why Shakespeare is Shakespeare, doesn't it?

Also, I find the whole principle rather ironic -- translate Shakespeare into modern English, the implication being that Shakespeare is Olde Englishe. It isn't. No-one ever spoke in Shakespearean language. He was as unique in Elizabethan England as he is now, and all this guy is doing is showing how he doesn't understand that, to my mind.

Shauna said...

Uh, I didn't find this funny at all. I can't believe someone would seriously do this. Tragic! The whole time I was thinking, "What?" It's neither funny, nor clever, nor witty. It's confusing. I don't get the point.

Kristin said...

Are you sure this was supposed to be funny? Hamlet is not a comedy. To me it read like someone's really bad idea of what the play would sound like in "modern" English. That's it.

I think the biggest problem with it, is sometimes they went for the very vernacular, like "bummed" and "icky" and "yucky," but then used some words that weren't particularly modern like "Your noble father" or "mourning clothes." If you truly wanted a modern translation, wouldn't you just say "father" and "stop wearing such dark clothing"? I don't know. It was just very badly done....

Marianne McA said...

Kristin, you're right. When I went back and read it again after reading your comments, it just all seemed very awkwardly written. Whoever wrote it has no ear for dialogue. You can't imagine anyone saying:

'So why does it seem that this is bothering you so terribly?'

You'd be more likely to say: 'Why is this bothering you so much?'

My oldest had to do a homework like this when she was fourteen - rewrite some of Romeo and Juliet in modern language. It's probably a useful exercise when you're starting to study the plays.

Did quite like the description of incest as 'especially icky'.

Julana said...

You procrastinator!

Brenda Coulter said...

I'll have you know, Julana, that we-filed last night, more than 24 hours before the deadline.

Brenda Coulter said...

Neal, Shauna, Kristin, and Marianne, I still don't know if that "translated" version of the play was meant to be clever. If so, it sure falls flat.