English and Shakespeare

 

 

 

as-you-lke-it-cover.jpg

William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”; paperback; Washington Square Press, 1960; note the price of 35 cents

 

 

I am extremely grateful that English is my native language.

In my humble opinion — it’s been said countless times — ’tis a glorious language.

So rich in its origins and vocabulary; the history and shades of meaning that so many of our words have.

The wonderful admixture of earthy, pithy Germanic words from the Anglo-Saxon and high flown, mellifluous Latinate ones, mostly from French, plus borrowings from so many tongues.

I have often said to myself, and to others, that I am grateful for having English as my native tongue if for no other reason than that I can read and appreciate Shakespeare in the original.

I first read Shakespeare, like most students, in high school. My first Shakespeare play was As You Like It — which I loved and have since retained a special affection for — followed by Hamlet.

There was some trepidation about reading the Bard. Would he be difficult?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was NOT difficult and was readily comprehensible and enjoyable. He was pleasurable to read and actually easy.

Shakespeare is, of course, admired the world over — in Russia and Japan, for example. But I would guess that foreign readers of him and the producers and consumers of foreign films and foreign stage productions in which his works are presented in translation are focusing on — are enjoying — the marvelous, intricate plots and the dramatic interest of, say, his tragedies without being able to be ravished by the marvelous language.

In watching English language films of Shakespeare, I have thought to myself, it is hard — in some respects — to go wrong. There is always the verbal richness.

It’s hard to conceive how some schools and publishers can embrace the idea of Shakespeare simplified and “translated” into 21st century English.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

 

 

 

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There is something beautiful in a language where at the very beginning on a cold, rough shore, users were calling the ocean the “swan-road” and the “whale-road” and the word for poet was the word that became today’s “shaper.” It is amazing to see that even in times when human endeavor has been at its most self-destructive, the language has been able to flower and step forward.

 

— review of Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerner, posted by a reader on Amazon.com

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts a websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin.
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