This story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution almost slipped past me, but the Cranky Professor steered me straight:
“Et tu, Brute?”
“And you too, Brutus?” is what students read in a new genre of study guides that modernize the Elizabethan English found in “Julius Caesar” and other plays by William Shakespeare.
These guides move beyond the plot summaries found in other study aides by providing line-by-line translations in modern-day English.
Once barred from school, the new translations now are being used in classes across metro Atlanta.
But not everyone thinks they belong there. Some educators say the beauty of Shakespeare rests in the writer’s eloquence and poetry — something missing in the translations.
“Shakespeare without language is like a movie without sound,” said Paul Voss, who teaches Shakespeare at Georgia State University.
The translated study guides can be found in a class for struggling readers at one Fayette County high school. Henry County teachers also assigned it to students with lower reading skills. And some DeKalb County high school teachers use it as a supplement.
Shakespeare can intimidate students because of unfamiliar syntax and strange character names. Modernized versions give students the confidence to tackle the work, said Connie Kollias, who had her sophomores at Sandy Creek High in Fayette read a translated “Julius Caesar” aloud in class.
“We’re not dumbing down lessons for these students,” Kollias said. “We are giving them tools that allow them to do the same work as everyone else.”
“Tut, I am in their bosoms, and I know wherefore they do it.” — Act 5, Scene 1.
“I know how they think, and I understand why they’re doing this.” — Same scene, “No Fear Shakespeare” translation….
Read the whole thing here.
This isn’t an open-and-shut case. As I’ve told any number of people whom I took to see their very first Shakespeare plays, the Bard is harder to read than he is to watch. (Which is why the teachers quoted in this piece ought to be showing a Shakespeare film or two–or three–to their kids.) I’m not necessarily opposed to the judicious use of “translations” in a classroom setting. It depends on the circumstances.
What made my hair stand on end were these two words: “Some educators…” Are there really English teachers in Atlanta who don’t think “the beauty of Shakespeare rests in the writer’s eloquence and poetry”? Has it come to this?
Don’t answer that. In the immortal words of me, all slopes are slippery.