Badly Translated Shakespeare is Awesome

So I spotted a post on Reddit that was clearly in a language I did not know, but also obviously said Hamlet, so I had to check it out. Wasn’t sure if maybe it was a link to a video production I had not yet seen.

Found a wall of text. Thought maybe it was an academic article. So I grabbed the first paragraph and ran it through Google Translate, only to discover that it appears to be your typical summary of Hamlet. Only…wait a second…

The story takes place at the Elsinor Castle in Denmark. Prince Hamlet reveals his father’s spirit and learns the truth that his father has murdered his uncle Claudius, who soon married Hamlet’s mother after his father’s death. Hamlet, who longs for revenge on his father, pretends to be mad.

Ok, this new version of Hamlet sounds awesome. Hamlet reveals his father’s spirit, apparently he was keeping it hidden somewhere. Then we learn that it was indeed Hamlet’s father who killed Claudius! Awesome. Claudius, soon after he was murdered apparently, marries Hamlet’s mother. For pointing all of this out to him, Hamlet wants revenge on his father.

I have to get more of this. I start cutting and pasting more paragraphs:

Because he had no evidence, he organized a theater performance to find out the truth, of course, it was a show of murdering his brother.


Hamlet working out his issues, organizing a performance of him murdering his brother.

Hamlet went to his mother to explain to her how things were and unwittingly kills Poland, the Supreme Chamberlain.


Farewell, Poland. We shall not see your like again.

Claudius was called upon to fight against Lear,

A new player has entered the game! That’s hardly going to be a fair fight, one would think.

Unfortunately the rest of the translation isn’t as good, dissolving into the usual auto translation gibberish. But that was a fun little diversion!

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Let The Sunshine In

Galt McDermott, composer of HAIR and Two Gentlemen of Verona, has passed away. As we like to do here on the blog, let’s take a moment to appreciate and celebrate the man’s contribution to Shakespeare. Forget about the obvious for a minute. I mean, come on, the man wrote a musical Two Gentlemen of Verona that won the Tony for Best Musical in 1971 (beating out Grease). If you’ve only ever known HAIR as a “tribal love rock musical,” then you haven’t been listening closely enough.  One song is entirely Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man” speech: (The song isn’t in the movie, you either need to know the soundtrack, or see the live show.) My favorite, though, is the big finale number, typically known as “The Rest Is Silence / Let The Sunshine In”.  The Hamlet reference is right there for everybody to see … but if you listening very closely, the background singers are on a whole different play:
Eyes look your last Arms take your last embrace And lips oh you the doors Of breath… seal with A righteous kiss Seal with a righteous kiss The rest is silence
That’d be Romeo and Juliet.  The hippies are layering one Shakespeare tragedy on top of another.  Which then segues seamlessly into the big celebration that is Let The Sunshine In. Ready for the best part of this story?  My middle daughter is really into her vinyl (album) collection right now.  She’s a huge fan of musicals, but she’s also into the classic rock that I’ve introduced her to.  I’d forgotten, until today, that for my birthday a number of years ago a friend had presented me with a framed HAIR album.  It’s been sitting in my office ever since. So I called my daughter from work and said, “You want to go on an adventure? There’s treasure to be found.” She was up for the challenge. I texted her the bright orange and green picture of the cover and said, “Go find this picture.”  She found it.  I said, “Open it.” “It’s a record!” she squealed.  “It’s HAIR.  Can I play it?” “Of course,” I told her. “That’s the treasure.  It’s my favorite.” “I know,” she replied. “And it’s very special today, because Galt McDermott, the man who wrote it?  He died.” “Oh.” “So I want you to have that.  I want you to play it, loud, and when I get home tonight I want to listen to it with you.” “I’ll do that right now. I’ll wake people up.” “Perfect.” Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Mr. McDermott.  For others I might say “The rest is silence” here, but you brought too much music into the world, so we’re going to play you out with much volume and celebration. Let the sunshine in!  
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Bringing Back The Jubilee

An argument can be made that were it not for David Garrick‘s Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, none of us would be here today singing Mr. Shakespeare’s praises. Speaking of singing, much of the music from the celebration found its way into Garrick’s The Jubilee, staged later that year and running for 90 performances. Have you ever heard it? Neither have I.  Retrospect Opera, a small UK charity that makes professional recordings of important musical theatre works from Britain’s past, would like to change that.
Although the Jubilee is a seminal moment in Shakespeare’s reception history, and marked the consecration of Stratford-upon-Avon as a centre for literary pilgrimages, most of the music – which is consistently fresh and delightful – has never been recorded before. We want to create something that is at once scholarly, with appropriate supporting documentation, and musically and theatrically done to the highest level, capturing how much fun it all was.
They are currently fundraising and looking for backers to help see them over the finish line. Stephen Greenblatt and Jonathan Bate have already endorsed the project.
If you would like to donate to this project, you can use this link.
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Palimpsest for Life

I know the search engine optimization (SEO) game is an ongoing battle for Google to stay one step ahead of everybody, but this is getting ridiculous.  This story only has a little Shakespeare but I couldn’t pass it up. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a book channel of sorts at my day job.  We have a book club that does the traditional “one book a month that we vote on” type of thing, but because of the amount I read, I have my own channel where I just brain dump book review after book review.  Last year I think I read 70 books? Something like that. Anyway, just this morning I’d finished writing up Perdido Street Station by Chia Miéville, and made a comment about the author’s vocabulary:
I read a review that said “the author writes like he swallowed a thesaurus” and had a laugh because that’s quite true. Some words are just so out of the ordinary that they leap out of the page and yell “Remember when this word was on a vocabulary quiz back in high school!” I haven’t heard “palimpsest” in years, but over the last couple of weeks of reading this one he used it probably 4 or 5 times.
Later that day I was talking to Bardfilm about interpretations of Ophelia (doesn’t everybody do that?) and I learned something, so I had reason to google “olivier’s ophelia” – as in Sir Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of a particular scene with Ophelia.  Here’s what google gave back: Note the third result returned, if you’re not getting it. TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD. If it turns out that Google is actually ordering search results based on the fact that I searched “palimpsest” earlier that day (once, to confirm the dictionary definition), then I just give up trying to win the SEO game.  That’s crazy. Somebody else search “olivier’s ophelia” for me and tell me if palimpsest shows up, or it was just for me?   This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.
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Titus Andronicus : The Sequel (No, Seriously!)

We’ve often joked about which Shakespeare plays provide the best take-off point for a sequel.  There’s even a movie called Hamlet 2  which had some interesting ideas, when they got to the actual Shakespeare (think time machine … and sexy, rocking Jesus). But what about Titus Andronicus?  Room for a sequel there?  A whole bunch of Tony Award winners think so.  Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin are set to headline Taylor Mac’s Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus this spring:
The play takes place just after the conclusion of William Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus. Set during the fall of the Roman Empire, the years of bloody battles are over, the civil war has ended, and the country has been stolen by madmen. There are casualties everywhere and two very lowly servants (played by Lane and Martin) are charged with cleaning up the bodies.
It already makes me think it’s taking a cue from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”  Which is suitably ironic, because I can’t wait for the first people to make the connection that Nathan Lane played the voice for Pumbaa in Lion King, which is supposed to be Disney’s animated Hamlet, where they represent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so in a way, Lane has already played the role! Oh I will kill you.  
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