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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Shakespeare Geek is Coming To Stratford

When people learn about the Shakespeare thing with me, the first question I’m asked is, “What’s your favorite play?” The answer is, “The Tempest.”

The second is, “Have you ever been to Stratford?” The answer is, “Not yet.”

That answer is about to change.

I am thrilled to announce that after running Shakespeare Geek for almost fourteen years now, it looks like our stars have aligned and the SG family will be vacationing in England this summer!  For years I’ve put it off, for a number of reasons.  Mostly because my wife actually went to England right before we got married, with her own family, and given how many places there are in the world that we haven’t seen, I wouldn’t want to make her go someplace she’s already been. That feels selfish to me. No matter how big a deal it would be for me, I don’t like putting myself ahead of my family.

Then a funny thing happened. My kids grew up. Do you want to know what they say when my wife asks where they think we should go on vacation? They say, “We’ve got to get Daddy to see Shakespeare’s birthplace.”  So basically my whole family got together and said, “It’s ok, we all want to go.”

(Just to put some icing on the cake, I got an unexpected bonus at work that’s going to help pay for the trip!  Not everything to be sure, but when Fortune says, “Dude, you’ve always wanted to go, your family wants you to take them, and here look it’s not going to be as expensive as you thought it was,” you go!)

Now comes the fun part – planning.  I am well aware that Stratford is pure tourist central and that I should brace myself for disappointment over just how gaudy it is.  I mean, come on, even Thomas Jefferson and John Adams said as much, 200 years ago.  But I am hoping that I’ve got a secret weapon that not everybody has…namely, you fine folks.

Depending on how you count, I’ve got somewhere north of twenty thousand followers who are potentially reading this. Many of you work in the business (academically or professionally). To you, it might be a regular occurrence to see shows at the Globe or visit the Birthplace. Or run into Stanley Wells or Ben Crystal or Gregory Doran on a regular basis.

But to me, this is likely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m treating it as such. Those places and those people are a big deal to me. To steal from Dead Poet’s Society, I want to go to Stratford “because I want to live deliberately. I want to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” How can I just say, “Oh look, there’s Shakespeare’s birthplace” along with a thousand other people? I’ve got most of my life telling people that “Shakespeare makes life better” and I’m about to walk into the center of the Shakespeare universe. I am prepared for the possibility that I might explode.

So consider this me asking for your assistance.  What should I do? I am wide open at the moment, and looking for literally any and all info. Where should we stay? What should we see? How long should we take?  Is there anything special we might be able to get into that is not part of the regular “everybody gets to do this” itinerary?

We are looking at the last week of August, based on work and summer camp schedules. Of course my wife and kids are going to want to go see the regular London sites, visit the castles, all that sort of thing.  But we all know that the first priority is Shakespeare, and I want to make it a trip to remember for a lifetime.


Welcome Back!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everybody!

Hope everybody had a wonderful and relaxing time celebrating whatever combination of holidays that you do, in whatever ways that you do.  I know some Russian friends here at work are celebrating today, as a matter of fact.

Anybody get or give any good Shakespeare swag? My kids never fail to disappoint…

I got Shakespeare socks! They are, as you might expect with such novelty things, quite thin and I’m sure I will rapidly wear holes in them, but who cares! Shakespeare socks!

I also got a copy of Munchkin Shakespeare. Unfortunately, my kids did not realize that we already have that one in the house.  Heck, I was a Kickstarter backer for it!  We just never really play it, I got it more to add to my collection.

I am looking to sell this second copy, which is still in the shrink wrap, so that I can purchase “Bards Dispense Profanity” instead, because I don’t have that one. If you might be interested in taking it off my hands send me a message and maybe we can work something out. I have no interest in dealing with eBay or Craigslist.  I don’t consider my long time followers to be strangers in the same way that those services would be.

How’d everybody else do?




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No Icicles Yet! Also, Not a Dutchman

For No Shave November this year I did promise some update pictures, so here you go!

It’s Thanksgiving morning (though you’re no doubt seeing this on Friday), I’m in New England, and I’m waiting in the car before the big football game. It’s going to be record breaking cold out there.

None of my kids play football, mind you. One of my girls is a cheerleader.  So I will be sitting in the stands, watching her stand on the sidelines.  Our team’s not even really very good – I think I saw two wins this year.

All of this reminds me of a Shakespeare beard reference:

…you are now sailed into the north of my
lady’s opinion; where you will hang like an icicle
on a Dutchman’s beard, unless you do redeem it by
some laudable attempt either of valour or policy.

This one’s from Twelfth Night. One of Shakespeare’s better similes (…pause to recall high school English….tries to remember whether it is a simile or metaphor that uses like or as …. going with simile).

<time passes>

Ok, I spent about 15 minutes in the stands watching my daughter cheer and now I’m back in the car with a newfound appreciation for Dutchmen. Still not sure I’ve got icicles on my beard but man, those metal bleachers are cold. At least our team scored first.

So where were we?  Ah yes icicles in Dutchmen’s beards. I’m not completely sure what the quote means – is an icicle in a Dutchmen’s beard something that he’s just so used to that he ignores it? Or is it an annoying thing that he wishes to get rid of?  I take “sailed north” to mean “You’re gone, you’re out of her thoughts now until you go something to get back into them.”

Since Bardfilm sent me an article on the topic, I learned that it’s actually a reference to something specific, not just one of those hyperbolic hypotheticals, like “colder than various parts of a witch’s anatomy.”

For, the expedition of Bardendsz and Heemskerck which spent the winter of 1596/97 in the Arctic Circle appears to have appealed so strongly to the English imagination that references occur over a period of many years.

(Bardfilm, can you help me give proper credit for that quote?  Even if I copy down random words that look like the right names I’m sure to get the format wrong.)

I still don’t fully understand the context (the article goes into a discussion of scientific discovery dating back to Galileo and the cuts over to Hamlet, but I didn’t make the connection back to Twelfth Night). I’m guessing that it means, “When these dudes decided to sail north, everybody thought that’s it, they’re done, they’re never coming back.”  Then they actually did something important or learned something important, so when they returned those same people were all, “Dude, that was awesome.”

To my ear it sounds like, with a little shuffling of words, that “icicle in a Dutchman’s beard” could be looked at like a trophy.  I imagine these guys, who everybody thought as good as dead from their own stupidity, suddenly bursting into the local tavern, beards all full of icicles, making it more like a trophy of an important journey well taken.

Maybe not my finest analysis but did I not mention I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot? I’m lucky I’ve got wifi.

Speaking of beards, I’m trying to be part of No Shave November this year to raise some money for cancer prevention awareness.  This year I’m celebrating the holidays with three relatives in various stages of their own personal cancer battles. I hope none of you have to experience that.  Please consider a donation if you haven’t already.  Thanks as always for your continued support!


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Thankful for Little Candles

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
Last year one of my daughter’s favorite teachers retired. This week he returned to the school to help mentor some of the freshman class, and my daughter sought the chance to catch up with him.
“Tell your dad,” he told her, “That I think of him whenever the Shakespeare category comes up on Jeopardy.”
That makes me very happy.  Not because there’s another person in the world more aware of Shakespeare than they would have been — he’s an English teacher for heaven’s sake, he would have already been killing it in the Shakespeare category.
No, that makes me happy for a number of other reasons.  For him to think of me that means he first has to think of my daughter.  Maybe over the years to come, he’ll tell people about that one year he had a young lady for a student that brought him Shakespeare cookies, and he will smile at the memory.
And for him to have told my daughter that means that it works in reverse, too.  Whenever my daughter sees the Shakespeare category she’s going to think about her favorite teacher. Other teachers have heard the Shakespeare cookie story and asked if they get cookies too.  Maybe they will – but they won’t be Shakespeare cookies. Those took on a surprising new meaning.
I’m not sure how long that memory will last, for either of them.  But I hope it makes them both happy for many years to come.
Those memories, that bond, and that happiness would not exist if not for what we do here.  Little candles indeed. Who knows what other stories are out there?
Happy Thanksgiving everybody.  Keep making life better.
And if you want to make a lot of lives better in a very real way, please consider a donation to my No Shave November page. This month we’re trying to raise money toward cancer prevention awareness.  This holiday weekend I’ll be seeing three relatives who are battling cancer. I hope none of you have to experience that, but statistically I’m afraid that won’t be the case.  Thank you so very much for your support!
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