Fortunately (for my sanity, if not my wallet), the design requests have tapered off this week, which leaves me time to study lines. Would that they were in English, but they’re not. They’re in Shakespearean, which, while it bears a striking resemblance to English, is something apart.
Here’s a minor example: “And these few precepts in thy memory see thou character.” Character? Is that a transitive verb? What exactly happens to something when you character it? Oh sure, taken in context, the word might mean “keep,” as in “these few precepts in thy memory see thou keep.” But that’s not what it means. Scroll down to the twenty-fifth definition of the word at dictionary.com and you’ll find that one of its two archaic meanings is “to engrave, inscribe.” Shakespeare’s plays are rife with this kind of flapdoodle. Every third or fourth thought expressed requires contextual inference, if not outright translation.
My character could say, “And these few precepts in thy memory see thou cantaloupe” or “see thou gleptify” or “fropterize” and still expect to be understood in context. My complaint isn’t that 21st century audiences can’t follow the broad arc of a Shakespearean plot. My complaint is that the language makes so many of the details of the journey a bewildering dumb show for the vast majority of our patrons. How is that good for them or good for theater? I’d really like to know.
Peace and love to our director, Rick St. Peter, for trimming the play to roughly half its original length. And please understand that I’m happy to perform in plays that I’d avoid like the plague as a playgoer. In this as in so many aspects of my life, I’m a hypocrite.