Understanding the Bard (Or, Really, Not)


Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 28

Thread: Understanding the Bard (Or, Really, Not)

  1. #1

    Understanding the Bard (Or, Really, Not)

    BARNARDO.
    Who’s there?
    FRANCISCO.
    Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.

    To be honest, I would have read that shallowly and thought that "unfold yourself" was redundant with stand. That wouldn't be good writing. The Oxford Dictionary says unfold means "To disclose or reveal by statement or exposition; to explain or make clear." That would be good writing -- He is telling Barnardo to verbally reveal himself.

    So, as you can see, an attempt to understand Shakespeare leads to a much better appreciation of his writing ability, and I think the scene comes alive better. And there is no problem with the first six words, as far as I know, but I don't know what "stand" means -- the characters are entering the scene and I assume already on foot. Maybe stand means to stop walking?

    BARNARDO.
    Long live the King!
    FRANCISCO.
    Barnardo?
    BARNARDO.
    He.
    FRANCISCO.
    You come most carefully upon your hour.

    Again, I would shallowly read carefully as having the same meaning as it does now, which doesn't make a lot of sense. I can see why I didn't appreciate Shakespeare. I like Oxford's archaic "Full of care, trouble, anxiety, or concern; anxious, troubled, solicitous, concerned." But this meaning seems more likely, especially the watchful and cautious part: "Applying care, solicitous attention, or pains to what one has to do; heedful, painstaking, attentive to one's work; circumspect, watchful, cautious."

    I assume the following were not cliches when Shakespeare wrote them:

    BARNARDO.
    ’Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.
    FRANCISCO.
    For this relief much thanks. ’Tis bitter cold,
    And I am sick at heart.
    BARNARDO.
    Have you had quiet guard?
    FRANCISCO.
    Not a mouse stirring.

    I would have taken relief as being more emotional, but that would be my bad reading. From Oxford: "Release from some occupation, post, or duty; spec. the replacement of a person or persons on duty, as a soldier, sentinel, watch, etc., by another or others; an instance of this."

    BARNARDO.
    Well, good night.
    If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
    The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste

    Really, the next problematic word is rivals, which cannot have it's modern meaning. (And assuming the modern meaning would make the actions of the scene confusing.) Oxford provides the answer here:
    "A person having the same objective as another, an associate. Obsolete. rare."

    I have now taken a scene that I did not understand, and turned it into a scene I understand and appreciate. I am now thinking students should be asked to understand a page of Shakespeare, or at least a half page.

    I have not yet unfolded the extent of the difficulty.


    Last edited by EmmaSohan; February 22nd, 2021 at 02:28 AM. Reason: The original had the OED definition of relief, not rival. Sorry
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  2. #2
    That was the first 73 words of Hamlet. From a little more on:

    Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
    Of unimproved mettle, hot and full,
    Hath in the skirts of Norway, here and there.

    Apparently, metal and mettle were two different spellings of the same thing. As far as I can tell. So Shakspeare presumably meant:

    Of unimproved metal.

    Which makes more sense of "unimproved". Or, really, Shakespeare would be able to do both meanings in a way we cannot.

    And,
    Long live the King! was, probably (?) a show. Or, for all we know, a common reply, though it could be a brilliant show.

    MARCELLUS.
    Holla, Barnardo!

    As writer, I draw a distinction between "Hi", "hello", and "hey". And think about it. But we cannot live in 1600 England to know the fine meaning of holla. Hello didn't exist. It come
    s from Hallo, which comes from Holla, which has a different meaning, probably "A shout to excite attention."

    And this method works only when the sentence doesn't quite make sense. It wouldn't help when the modern meaning of a word makes sense. The only one I remember: "'Nunnery; was an Elizabethan slang term for a brothel." But I am hoping these are minor. Just looking up the meaning of the questionable words makes the scene come alive.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  3. #3
    I find personally that well acted Shakespeare comes through as less archaic than simply reading Shakespeare, as somehow the actor brings the sense across with his action and delivery. I differentiate well acted Shakespeare from what I call Doing Shakespeare. Too many actors present Shakespeare dialogue with a ponderous voice and affected manner, believing they are emphasizing the importance of their selection for the role.

    Excellent Shakespearian actors simply deliver the lines as if they were modern dialogue, as real people do in normal conversation. Olivier performing and directing Shakespeare exemplifies well acted Shakespeare. I point to his film Henry V. Marvelous. Plus, the cinematography depicting the cavalry charge is breathtaking (and much copied). Also, in well acted Shakespeare, you tend to get the jokes. Presented too broadly, it can be hard to tell where the jokes are.

    Branagh, who must be commended for bringing a lot of Shakespeare to the screen, sadly does Shakespeare much of time, although that isn't true throughout his casts. I still enjoy Branagh's films, but his acting pales by comparison to Olivier. (Plus, I'll have to say I wasn't too keen on him turning Hercule Poirot into an action hero. LOL)

    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    That was the first 73 words of Hamlet. From a little more on:

    Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
    Of unimproved mettle, hot and full,
    Hath in the skirts of Norway, here and there.

    Apparently, metal and mettle were two different spellings of the same thing. As far as I can tell. So Shakespeare presumably meant:

    Of unimproved metal.

    Which makes more sense of "unimproved". Or, really, Shakespeare would be able to do both meanings in a way we cannot.

    And,
    Long live the King! was, probably (?) a show. Or, for all we know, a common reply, though it could be a brilliant show.

    MARCELLUS.
    Holla, Barnardo!

    As writer, I draw a distinction between "Hi", "hello", and "hey". And think about it. But we cannot live in 1600 England to know the fine meaning of holla. Hello didn't exist. It come
    s from Hallo, which comes from Holla, which has a different meaning, probably "A shout to excite attention."

    And this method works only when the sentence doesn't quite make sense. It wouldn't help when the modern meaning of a word makes sense. The only one I remember: "'Nunnery; was an Elizabethan slang term for a brothel." But I am hoping these are minor. Just looking up the meaning of the questionable words makes the scene come alive.

  4. #4
    I think not - Mettle - fortitude, strength of will in the face of difficulty. Metal is what it is, iron, steel, copper etc....
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

  5. #5
    For those interested in reading Shakespeare without having to go to a college class. This book might be a decent substitute. His language can be archaic a lot of the time and obscure. That's to be expected since he used old English (don't know if middle English). I found this browsing the internet some days ago, so this is a coincidence. Of course, I did take British Literature class once, and I did appreciate it.

    https://www.amazon.com/Shakespeares-...VPXDP6PEFFEQYR
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Bloggsworth View Post
    I think not - Mettle - fortitude, strength of will in the face of difficulty. Metal is what it is, iron, steel, copper etc....
    What you say seems to have become true in the 18th century, but not during Shakespeare's time. I read this about the etymology of mettle:

    1580s, a variant spelling of metal. Both forms of the word were used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in the literal sense and in the figurative one of "stuff of which a person is made, (a person's) physical or moral constitution" (1550s), hence "natural temperament," specifically "ardent masculine temperament, spirit, courage" (1590s). The spellings diverged early 18c. and this form took the figurative sense.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Just looking up the meaning of the questionable words makes the scene come alive.
    It's not practical, though. In fact, I would argue that the mere act of needing to stop reading and google [questionable word] is the antithesis of what it means for a 'scene to come alive'. Alive scenes move. Their intent, and the author's interpretation, are in harmony (if not necessarily in perfect harmony).

    And that's the fundamental problem with Shakespeare to a modern audience. It takes effort. Effort beyond mere engagement (a lot of people conflate the act of simply paying attention and using the brain to the act of having to put in real labor) and that's a fundamentally a problem in any artform. It's the same reason a lot of people find experimental jazz music and modern art unappealing. It's the same reason most people don't really like James Joyce. There is a sort of diminishing return in challenging literature. Beyond a certain point, the challenge becomes a distraction and the distraction makes one indifferent, or antagonistic even, to the story. At that point, the story fails.

    I like Shakespeare, studied it for years, know most of the plays pretty well and generally defend him to those tiresome people who complain about him. But even I will be the first to admit his writing is quite overrated. Overrated, of course, does not mean 'bad'. Overrated means 'not as good as claimed to be'. It isn't as good as claimed to be from a modern literary point of view precisely because it is unreadable to most people. Not merely idiots, either.

    Consider the most famous of Shakespeare...

    To be, or not to be--that is the question:
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
    And by opposing end them.
    To die, to sleep--
    No more--and by a sleep to say we end
    The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to.
    'Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished.
    I will defend this forever as remarkable writing for it's time. I will sneer at it forever as having great literary value to any modern audience.

    On the one hand, we can get a good deal out of this writing if we want to. On the other hand, pretty much nobody wants to. "A consummation directly to be wished"? This isn't how modern human beings talk. This isn't how modern expression happens. Just because I CAN understand what is being said and just because I CAN appreciate the linguistic dexterity with which he is saying it doesn't mean this is the BEST way by any standard to communicate what is being said and it's a lie to pretend it is. Ultimately, this kind of writing in a modern world jumps the shark into a product of elitist snobbery, of class conflict. Hugely ironic, of course, because Shakespeare was originally written to have mass appeal.
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    What you say seems to have become true in the 18th century, but not during Shakespeare's time. I read this about the etymology of mettle:
    Did you understand your own citation?

    1580s, a variant spelling of metal. Both forms of the word were used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in the literal sense and in the figurative one of "stuff of which a person is made, (a person's) physical or moral constitution" (1550s), hence "natural temperament," specifically "ardent masculine temperament, spirit, courage" (1590s). The spellings diverged early 18c. and this form took the figurative sense.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    Hidden Content






  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Did you understand your own citation?

    1580s, a variant spelling of metal. Both forms of the word were used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in the literal sense and in the figurative one of "stuff of which a person is made, (a person's) physical or moral constitution" (1550s), hence "natural temperament," specifically "ardent masculine temperament, spirit, courage" (1590s). The spellings diverged early 18c. and this form took the figurative sense.
    Yes! I wrote: "Apparently, metal and mettle were two different spellings of the same thing."

    Nowadays, we can write, "Of unimproved mettle, hot and full," which I would take as metaphorically treating mettle as if it was a metal. Or we can write: "Of unimproved metal, hot and full," which would be a different metaphor. Shakespeare apparently could do both, or use both meanings together, in a way we cannot. And for better or worse, we are not understanding that the same way the people of the time would have.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  10. #10
    Interesting points. I think of mettle as the concept of the strength of metal but in no way interchangable in the prose/poetic sense. "A man may show his mettle" is not requesting whomever to produce his armour or weaponry...
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.