Saturday, May 03, 2008


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!


Pamela Heywood said...

Kids already understand and speak like this, which is a sign of a healthy, alive language, so it's inevitable, but I suspect the reason the RSC approves is because any means that makes Shakespeare more accessible and relevant today is good and they felt that the ideas presented in his work are more important than being pedantic over the exact words.

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Shakespeare in slang!?!


Nickers and Ink


SandyCarlson said...

I think the comic book idea can be exciting. This seems to be a popular format for novels these days. It would be a bit like a storyboard, wouldn't it?

Appropriating the language is something else again, though. I wouldn't want it.

Marion said...

Macbeff! Oh my.

Naomi said...

I agree Pamela many kids do talk and understand street slang so it will probably make it more accessible. Just can't imagine Shakespeare's work being re-written like this!

My sentiments exactly Linda - Shakespeare in slang - Ugh! Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed your visit here.

Sandy the comic book idea is going ahead already in some schools but not sure about this type of language - doesn't really fit with a classic like Shakespeare.

That made me smile Marion. Macbeff! It's enough to send poor Will Shakespeare spinning in his grave!

ted de stratford said...

Personally, I have never been able to understand this obsession with Bill. I live in Stratford, have worked backstage at the RSC and have seen some amazing actors doing the Bard. However, for me it was always the new writers that excited me and the modern plays the RSC used to put on. Of course there will always be a place for Shakespeare but too much is unhealthy, and takes our attention of what's more important, the future of dramatic writing.

Naomi said...

I think there has always been a big obsession with Shakespeare as his works are "classics" and featured as set works by examination boards. I do like Shakespeare myself and remember seeing A Midsummer Nights Dream performed at the RSC as a student. It was excellent. I agree there are some very good up and coming writers and it's always interesting when new writer's plays and works are showcased. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed your visit here.