You may remember a post I did a while ago about Shakespeare’s plays being published in a comic strip format to appeal to a wider audience of young people. Well now a Dorset author has gone a step further and has re-written some of the Bard’s works in street slang. Some of the words spoken could quite easily have come out of the mouths of characters such as Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional comedy alter-ego) or the character of Lauren (featured on The Catherine Tate Show). Satirist Martin Baum’s book, “To Be Or Not To Be, Innit”, includes “Macbeff” and “Two Geezers of Verona”, amongst fifteen abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays. Surprisingly The Royal Shakespeare Company have given Mr Baum’s book the thumbs up. They are currently running a campaign, “Stand Up for Shakespeare”, to introduce more people to the Bard’s works. Reading this book will certainly make people stand up, that’s for sure. It’s enough to send poor William Shakespeare spinning in his grave!
Call me old-fashioned but I’m not sure I like what this writer has done to Shakespeare’s work. Surely part of the fun of learning Shakespeare is reading the plays in Shakespearean English and learning what all the terms mean. I enjoyed studying Shakepeare's plays at school. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare containing all his plays still takes pride of place on my bookshelf. Much of the beauty of the Bard’s work lies in the language more than the actual plot. Many of Shakespeare’s plays contain finely crafted passages. These will now be reduced to quick, snappy phrases written in street slang. I wouldn’t have thought many parents would want their children to grow up speaking like this. Whatever happened to the Queen’s English? Apparently next on the list to get the street slang treatment is the works of Charles Dickens. Apparently Mr Baum is looking forward to giving Charles Dickens, “a good seeing to” if you know what he means! Oh dear!