An e-note from an occasional reader:
“Dear Mr. Ennis,
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about how great Shakespeare was. And I hear we don’t even know if he wrote his own plays! I admit some of them are based on true stories, or so I’ve been told, Julius Caesar for example. But give me a break, a lot of those stories he just made up. Not that there’s anything wrong with making up stories, which are lies by definition, at least in some people’s opinion, for example my wife’s. Anyway, I was starting to say some of his plots are interesting, such as when the girls dress up like boys, but so what? Not all of them have happy endings, I’m thinking now of Hamlet, where everybody ends up dead and the stage is scattered with corpses, or maybe I should say wannabe corpses because the actors are just pretending. Not that life always has a happy end, I admit. And speaking of Hamlet, the story could be told in half the time if Shakespeare, if that’s who it really and truly was, wasn’t trying to show off his education by all the fancy language that nobody can understand and even so-called ‘scholars’ spend half their lives trying to figure out what all the words mean. I suggest that somebody rewrite Shakespeare’s or whoever’s plays so they can be understood. For instance when Lady Mcbeth says ‘Out, damned spot’ why couldn’t she just say ‘Geez, I’ve got some blood on my hands’ and then go wash it off? If they can do it with the Bible I don’t see why they can’t do it with Shakespeare. Think of the people who would start enjoying Shakespeare. What I’m saying is, let’s bring the old guy up to date.
“What do you have to say to that, you upgraded robot?
Dear Mr., etc., Reeder,
“Upgraded robot.” A nice turn of phrase, that. It tingles in the ear more lithely than does “android.”
Yes, Mr. Reeder, I’ll admit you have a point. Like, Shakespeare’s plays could be greatly improved upon, just by like translating them into the going lingo.
“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, etc.”
Yeah, Hamlet’s soliloquy would go over really really big these days if instead of saying these lines, and more—33 all told—he’d just get to the point:
“Maybe I should just like kill myself.
On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t.
Well, I guess it depends on that afterlife bit.
Nah, I guess right now I just don’t have the guts.
Maybe I should stick around till the fifth act.”
And so Hamlet the Dane, Prince of Denmark, would hold off on dying until his play was over and our butts were just beginning to get sore. In a good modern translation, that would take no more than like maybe forty-five minutes.