Marge George and old Shakespeare

There seems to be a mushrooming of discussion on William Shakespeare, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of his death.

I saw an interesting documentary last week that looked at how little was actually known about Shakespeare the person, questioned why he wasn’t imprisoned like other playwrights of the time, and suggested the author’s name may have been a pseudonym for someone close to the royal court.

The arguments will probably continue as long as the playing of the plays.

An interesting post at Oxford Dictionaries – Language matters: Why Shakespeare is even funnier than you thought

To be honest I never found Shakespeare funny in the first place. I thought the plays I have studied while at school – Macbeth and Romeo Juliet – were tedious.

This may in part be explained by this Oxford post that explains that English was pronounced significantly differently four centuries ago in England.

For example George rhymed with charge (George has changed).

We’re all familiar with at least some Shakespeare, but the chances are that we’ve only either read his words on the page, or heard them spoken with modern pronunciation.

This, however, does not entirely match how Shakespeare and the original casts of his plays would have spoken. Even modern British English is not the same as what is known as Original Pronunciation.

Historical linguists have reconstructed Original Pronunciation, often based on conclusions that can be drawn from spelling and specific instructions given in 16th-century grammar books.

In these videos David Crystal, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespeare Pronunciation, explains how Original Pronunciation recovers the original rhymes and puns that are otherwise missing in modern performances of Shakespeare’s plays.

Puns in Original Pronunciation

Rhymes in Original Pronunciation

I find language and it’s continual evolution far more interesting the the writings of whoever used the pseudonym William Shakespeare.

I had an aunty Marge. If she had been a George in Shakespeare’s England (she actually came from Chelsea but 300 years later) her names would have rhymed.

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29 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  29th April 2016

    Jarge was around for a long time after that-it had filtered down to the lower classes by Dickens’ time. I thought it was a bit later-probably c.18 when it was fashionable to give words odd pronunciations which were lower class a couple of generations later. Dickens’ ear for usages filtering down was unerring, sheer delight for etymologists. Mrs Gamp’s cowcumbers were not her malapropism but a much older usage. Mrs Wardle’s use of words like ‘ ‘ooman’ and ‘darter’ were of her generation-she was of the landed gentry and as the grandmother of adult grandchildren in 1837 would have been been a young woman in the 1780s,

    I can’t imagine finding Shakespeare remotely tedious, he’s arguably the greatest ever English playwright and his words sing off the page. He also does the best insults of anyone. ‘Thou whoreson, beetle-headed, flap-eared knave !’ ;The son and heir of a mongrel bitch.’ ‘Thou whoreson zed-thou unnecessary letter !’ (whoreson was a favourite expression of the time) ‘The devil damn thee black, thous cream-faced loon !’ ‘Go to the devil, and say that I sent thee thither.’ ‘Thy lips rot off !’ The vulgarity of someone saying that Desdemona’s father should be told that ‘an old black ram is tupping his white ewe.’ is still shrink-making. And yes,Lear’s ‘every inch a king !’ does have a double meaning.

    It was some time before I caught on to the implication of ‘sound a recheat in’s forehead’ and why Elizabethans would have found this hllarious. It was an unrefined age in many ways.

    Who but Shakespeare would have thought of the heartbreaking loveliness of the juxtaposition of ‘Now, boast death. in thy possession lies/A lass unparalled…’ ? Magic.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  29th April 2016

      I couldn’t hack Shakespeare but I enjoyed your highlights Kitty. 😎

      Reply
    • I’m aware that many people think that Shakespeare prose still its the right chord but it has never appealed much to me.

      Sure there are many very clever phrases that have endured, but but too much of it – like more than a line or two – is hard going for me and always has been.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  30th April 2016

        There’s no reason why he should have been imprisoned-he didn’t commit any crimes. Being a playwright wasn’t a crime or there’d have been a lot more prisoners.I think that the Earl of Oxford theory can be safely dismissed, too much against it to make it remotely credible-and it writing plays was a ticket to prison, only a fool would put their name on plays.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th April 2016

          There’s a prize for anyone who can tell me which quote Winston Peters used about himself. which play it was from and who said it in the play. You’ll have to give yourself the prize, but it’s the thought that counts.

          Reply
          • patupaiarehe

             /  30th April 2016

            “There is no fool like an old fool”? No, that was someone else about Peter Dunne. Not sure if it was even Shakespeare who said that originally… 😀

            Reply
          • Ratty

             /  30th April 2016

            some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them

            Twelfth Night

            Reply
            • Ratty

               /  30th April 2016

              Malvolio

            • Gezza

               /  30th April 2016

              If you’re right are you giving yourself a new jag as your prize?

            • patupaiarehe

               /  1st May 2016

              My favourite line is from Othello, which I had to study for Bursary English, “…the old black ram is tupping your white ewe.”

              Please tell me it isn’t that one…. 😀

  2. Studied Shakespeare in school, and never thought too much of it. I found this version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ very enjoyable though, within a modern context the old English made a lot more sense to me….

    If you are too cheap to pay $5, here is a free low quality version, the speed needs to be increased to 1.25x to make it play properly

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th April 2016

      Spare me.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  30th April 2016

        LOL, about the reaction I would expect from you Kitty. Whilst it might not appeal to the ‘purists’ amongst us, this version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ did get a lot of folk interested in “Billy Wigglestick”, who wouldn’t have been otherwise……

        Reply
  3. Missy

     /  30th April 2016

    I always remember my stats teacher at school telling us how his wife – an English teacher at another school – was abused by parents because she was teaching the kids a modern play about drugs and suicide, the parents thought she should be teaching them classics like Shakespeare. His wife informed hem that Shakespeare had more drugs, violence, sex and suicide references than any modern play. 😄

    My favourite line is from Othello, which I had to study for Bursary English, “…the old black ram is tupping your white ewe.”

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th April 2016

      An old black ram, I think.I may be wrong. I misquoted it as ‘his white ewe’.

      What would those people think of Titus Andronicus ? Among other acts of violence-Rape by two brothers of a young wife on her her murdered husband’s body, after which she has her tongue cut out and her hands cut off so that she can’t tell who did it (she does, by holding a staff between her stumps and ‘writing’ on the ground) The murderers/rapists are then killed by her father (Titus) and cooked-their mother and her husband are invited to a feast and given this dish to eat…when they have, he tells them what’s in it. The play ends with more deaths…it makes modern dramas look like Disney films.

      The charming songs about country pleasures don’t seem so innocent when one knows that this is a pun-and yes, it does mean that.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  30th April 2016

        And you enjoy these tales Kitty??? You would have to go to the bible for a more strange & sordid story than that…….

        Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  30th April 2016

          I really hope you aren’t halfway through e-mailing Pete ATM Kitty, accusing me of slurring your good character. Your story just brought the tale of poor old drunken Noah, & his lovely daughters to mind… 😉

          Reply
  4. Zedd

     /  30th April 2016

    I heard the ‘Grand Bard’ was really the ‘Grand Plagiarist’ ?

    ..pinched all his ideas from ‘lesser writers’ & other commonly known stories of the time ?? :/

    btw; I studied ‘The Merchant of Venice’ for 6th form English Lit. * It is a good story; brought ‘the pound of flesh’ saying, into the language !

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  30th April 2016

      Well even if he was Zedd he spotted a market, either was or knew entrepreners who put money & effort into a business venture, produce good shows, satisfied his customers & presumably did ok out it.

      Reply
    • Pretty much every writer takes ideas from other writers and commonly known stories, that’s how they learn to write.

      Reply
      • Zedd

         /  30th April 2016

        @Gezza & PG

        I agree.. they say many of the greatest people in history.. ‘stand on the shoulders of others’ (or something like that) 🙂

        Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  30th April 2016

        That is the great fallacy of software patents as well. Along with the war on drugs one of the worst intellectual failures of our age – both courtesy of the USA.

        Reply
    • You reminded me of this:

      Familiar prose has long been caught
      a thousand years a million thoughts
      so nothing can be new today,
      the same old words, a different play.

      All here: https://yournz.org/2016/04/30/flow/

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th April 2016

      Reusing plots-especially well;known ones-wasn’t seen as plagiarism. He didn’t pinch other people’s exact words, after all. Everyone knew Plutarch and the others-he was simply rewriting an old theme.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  30th April 2016

        And Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and others were historical figures.

        It’s not seen as plagiarism now when people write new versions of fairytales, myths, legends and such stories. How many Cinderellas have there been ? It IS plagiarism when someone like Colleen McCulloch assumes wrongly that LM Montgomery’s The Blue Castle won’t have been read by anyone but herself and so won’t be recognised if she uses much of it word for word. It has been and it was. This is not like Graves writing ‘I, Claudius.’

        Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  30th April 2016

        ‘There are only two or three human stories, but they keep repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.’

        Reply
  5. Pickled Possum

     /  30th April 2016

    This is my favorite quote from William

    A fool thinks himself to be wise,
    but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.

    and

    There is nothing either good or bad
    but thinking makes it so.

    Marge is such an earthy name. 😉

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th April 2016

      The first-from As You Like It, I think-is slightly misquoted.

      Reply
  6. Ratty

     /  30th April 2016

    I have been to three of them at The Pop Up Globe.. exceptional entertainment, especially Twelfth Night

    Reply

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