Mama Diaries

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Shakespeare According to Mama

The other day, my daughter had to take some lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth and translate them into English that people these days would understand.

"Mom," she said staring at the words, "I have no idea what this is about."

I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. Here's what it said:

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well 
It were done quickly. If th’assassination 
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch 
With his surcease success: that but this blow 
Might be the be-all and the end-all, here, 
But here upon this bank and shoal of time, 
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases 
We still have judgement here, that we but teach 
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return 
To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice 
Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice 
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust: 
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, 
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, 
Who should against his murderer shut the door, 
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan 
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been 
So clear in his great office, that his virtues 
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against 
The deep damnation of his taking-off, 
And pity, like a naked new-born babe, 
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed 
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, 
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye 
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur 
To prick the sides of my intent, but only 
Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself 
And falls on th’other.

"Whoa," I said. "'Tis mighty long-winded!"

"What's he saying?" my daughter asked.

"I think some dude is thinking about killing someone. But he's thinking there might be consequences. And maybe he's thinking it would be a bad example to others. And maybe he thinks it would come back and bite him in the butt."

"That makes sense. Why couldn't Shakespeare say it the way you did?"

"Because people back then wouldn't have understood a word I just said."



What about you? Do you remember reading Shakespeare in school? Could you understand what he was talking about?

33 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Can't say I was a fan of reading Shakespeare, either.

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  2. HA! Good job.

    Yes, I remember reading Shakespeare in school, and I'm one of the weirdos who loved it. He obviously didn't have an eagle-eyed editor to manage his wordiness and flowery prose, though, did he?

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    1. Apparently, they spoke a lot differently back then.

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  3. Hi, Sherry!

    Hey, those are MY writings and I did not give you permission to post them! :)

    Actually, dear friend, I cheated and looked up the quote. It is taken from Macbeth Act 1, Scene 7, and I found this explanation:

    Even if Macbeth isn't caught after he murders King Duncan, he'll be punished in the afterlife (the "life to come"). So why does he decide that temporary, earthly power is worth eternal damnation?

    Surely you are correct, Sherry. The flowery language of the past is Greek to us, but today's lingo would be just as difficult for people of that period to understand.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, dear friend!

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    1. Thanks for your astute cheating. The afterlife part wasn't as clear to me. I have been enlightened!

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  4. It's interesting to see Shakespeare performed. It's like watching a movie in a language you've studied but don't fully understand. You get the gist, but not quite all of it.

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    1. Exactly. People back then probably would experience the same thing if they had to watch our movies.

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  5. Yes I can recall Shakespear and the very old English way of speaking......took me back a few years. Lovely story Sherry.

    Yvonne.

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    1. I'm not sure even the English can understand it well.

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  6. I was just glad when that part of English class was over, ugg. So hard on the head.

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  7. It was difficult to understand the first time I was introduced to that high style of writing, but then it became a challenge and I'd stay up late trying to figure out what one or two sentences meant, never mind the other 500 gazillion sentences. :-) Funny I'm still alive and my brain still works – sometimes.

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    1. Haha! I'm sure Shakespeare has fried a lot of brains!

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  8. I remember hating my English class for some reason!

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  9. Nope, never could understand Shakky Wills and I'm a professor of English literature LOL

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    1. Haha! Maybe he needed you to teach him a thing or two about writing.

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  10. I remember reading Shakespeare and enjoying it. One of the things we had to read in school, which was so hard to understand, was The Cantebury Tales.

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    1. You are one of the few who enjoyed Shakespeare. The only thing I liked was building a globe theater for a project. :)

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  11. Replies
    1. The flowery language isn't easy to understand!

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  12. Yeah, I struggle with Shakespeare. I like that movies tend to make it more understandable with visual context.

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    Replies
    1. Cliff's notes work pretty good, too.

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  13. I also struggle with Shakespeare English.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad people don't write like that any more!

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  14. I had to read Shakespeare in high school and I did struggle with it. I had an awesome English teacher who helped make it easier- but on my own- yikes.
    ~Jess

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    1. That's good you had a good English teacher to help you. Most of us end up using Cliff's Notes or something similar to understand it.

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  15. This is a cute post! LOL!
    And, nope, Shakespeare, was not my friend! LOL!
    Big Hugs and Happy Easter!

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  16. Your translation is spot on. Shakespeare would send you kuddos.

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  17. Yes, I read the Shakespearean plays then, and yes I pretty much understood what was being said. It was a matter of concentrating hard. I certainly didn't get every nuance, but I had the general flow. Footnotes helped.

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