Monday 14 October 2013

For Everyone?

I see Julian Fellowes has been getting a spanking for making the obvious - but now heterodox and 'elitist' - point that Shakespeare's language is not immediately accessible to an unprimed modern audience. You might need to know a bit, to have a bit of literary/academic background, to appreciate what is arguably the greatest poetry ever written. It has to be acknowledged that Shakespeare's language, though often crystal clear, is at other times dense and difficult, employing a phenomenally large vocabulary, much of which is no longer in general (or any) use. Shakespeare is indeed 'for everyone' - that is part of his greatness - but to pretend that his language in all its richness can be readily understood at first hearing is just silly. If it was that easy, annotated editions would be a lot thinner, and the academic Shakespeare industry a shadow of its present self. Of course it would help greatly if actors (a) understood what they are saying and (b) followed the rhythms of Shakespeare's lines - but you certainly can't rely on that.


  1. Arguably, a lot of twentieth century literature and poetry would be more accessible if it were converted to Tudor English.

  2. Yes, and iambic pentameter!

  3. Quite so. Send that suggestion to Mr W Self.