|RSC Production of As You Like It|
No playwright is more translated and adapted than Shakespeare, as (almost) every culture seems to have an insatiable need to meet his work half-way, inspiring many of the great writers and poets (and directors) to coin their own Shakespearean language. Given this, you would think that English speakers praise their lucky stars to be have this amazing literature born from their mother tongue, which requires no artful translation or extravagant staging. You can simply crack open King Lear or The Tempest and have at it. And yet, so many English-speakers, and chief among them students, groan at the very mention of Shakespeare and his all-but-unreadable language, which they often claim is “old English.” A Shakespeare play no longer draws throngs of eager pilgrims as it once did, as many claim the plays are too remote, too obscure, and require someone explaining all the business on stage. If only he could just speak “English” so it would all make sense! Indeed, many audiences find themselves lost in a labyrinth of language which leads them in circles, at least until they grasp at the coattails of a plot. This has inspired many theater companies to severely edit the plays, removing strange references and shortening lengthy speeches of verse. Some go even further and attempt a complete translation, making Shakespeare’s characters speak “our” language (wherever “we” are at the moment), so the audience can enjoy a simple night’s entertainment without having to pull up Spark Notes on their cell phones.