Thanks so much to All Things Linguistic for setting up the Crowdsourced Linguistics project. We tend to prattle on about things we know, or find interesting, so it’s great to get an idea of what some people find bamboozling or tricky about language!
I offered to help explain the collected jargon of ergative, accusative, unaccusative and unergative. I still remember sitting in undergraduate classes and trying to get my head around ergativity, so for anyone trying to puzzle it out, I feel your pain.
Each Wikipedia page (linked above) explains the relevant phenomenon with as much detail as you’d find in an undergrad linguistics text book, but to make sense of it you have to start thinking about sentences like a linguist. For example, this is really a very elegant summary:
But only if you understand what the A, S and O stand for, and what that actually means for real language. I’ve given a short intro before (in this post), but I thought I’d write a post that goes right, right back to basics. Hopefully by time you’ve read this, the information on the various Wikipedia pages will be more accessible. Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a long post by Superlinguo standards!
Slightly damaged but still good nerd girl.
Have you ever realized that some people are slightly damaged and don’t even know it. They don’t see the damage and sometimes they don’t see it in others. It’s like how a teenager looks a new car. It’s not used, they don’t see the dents or the scratches, or the beat in leather and worn off paint. They see a car, a new opportunity. Eventually after they drive the car, it loses it’s luster, but it’s still their car.
I don’t know where you go when you leave this earth, I’d like to think it’s a place where you’re surrounded by the loved ones you’ve lost. My Grandfather passed today. Pap is a great man, who loved unconditionally. I’d like to think wherever you go when you pass he was greeted by my Grandma with open arms and plans of mischief. He just loved her, the way I hope to one day be loved (no daytime drama could ever top in its most romantic pairings). I’ll always hold them both in my heart and thoughts of them, though they cloud my eyes with tears because I can no longer hold them, will always bring a smile to my face. Maya Angelou had a saying which in its simplest form boils down to “people will remember you most for the way you made them feel.” Robert and Pearl DeMartino made me feel loved, everyday. I felt cherished, I felt pretty, I felt strong in their vision. Thank you Pap for teaching me how to beat up the neighbor boys, for instilling patience in me, for showing me friendship and kindness, for giving me the sense to know I could chose whatever I wanted as long as I felt it was right. These are life lessons I will carry with me always.
I’ll have good stories when we meet again.
This is not silly at all, and actually accessible shakespeare is something very important to me, so I’ll do my best to give you some options.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume you’re comfortable with torrenting things because that is the absolute easiest way for me to handle this, but if you’re not — send me a message off anon and I can upload things to google drive or find some other good way of getting you anything you can’t find streaming for free online and don’t feel like/aren’t able to buy.
First I’d like to start by saying: there’s no wrong way to enjoy Shakespeare. If Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet is the best thing you’ve ever seen, or if you adore Kenneth Branagh, or if The Lion King is your favorite adaptation of Hamlet, there’s no “right” Shakespeare. Some people prefer 100% faithful productions, but for some people, three hours of Kenneth Branagh reciting every line the bard penned for Hamlet is exhausting, boring, or impossible. And there’s nothing wrong with that! The most important thing about Shakespeare is to enjoy him, whether that means reading the plays in the middle of the night with 8 colored highlighters, or watching Heath Ledger dance down the bleachers in 10 Things I Hate About You (better known to Shakespeare as The Taming of the Shrew). That being said, here is my as-comprehensive-as-possible-for-a-blogger-who-just-woke-up guide to Shakespeare.
Shakespeare is, above all, meant to be watched. I wrote a whole paper about the importance of physical action in Shakespeare, and I firmly believe as a dramatic artist that it is necessary to watch Shakespeare. So, here are some options for watching him.
- Kenneth Branagh is not my cup of tea, but you can’t deny that the man understands Shakespeare. He has made films of quite a hefty percentage of Shakespeare’s well known plays, and most people adore them. I’ve heard especially good things about his Othello and his Much Ado About Nothing, and anything with his name attached should be a piece of cake to find steaming online, whether for free or on Amazon instant video if you feel like shelling out a few dollars. His Hamlet is done with a completely unabridged text, and I expect many of this others are too.
- The BBC has some amazing films of Shakespeare plays that they’ve released, especially recently, and all of these are of incredible quality and handle the script really well. In fact, their Hamlet (with David Tennant in the title role) is one of my favorite productions of Hamlet ever. Just last year they released The Hollow Crown, which was the biggest of Shakespeare’s history plays (Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V) with great great actors like Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Dockery, and Rory Kinnear. These, too, are pretty easy to find online, and are stunning. The BBC also did a series awhile back called Shakespeare Re-Told with some fairly outrageous but fun looking modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays, and while I can’t attest to the quality of these as I’ve never seen them, the casting looks great (Billie Piper, James McAvoy, and Imelda Staunton among them)
- A number of bigger theatres will actually film and release their productions. The National Theatre in London has a program called NTLive, where they release filmed productions of some of their plays. I saw their Othello when I was in London with Rory Kinnear as Iago and enjoyed it. If you look around, I’m sure you can find a handful of other one’s they’ve done (as well as some great non-Shakespeare productions)
Even when the stories don’t include the bard’s on words, watching modern adaptations is a great way to get the story without the fuss of the seemingly-unapproachable Early Modern English that Shakespeare writes in. There are a ton of these, but some personal favorites are
- 10 Things I Hate About You, or, The Taming of the Shrew in high school with Heath Ledger and baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- She’s the Man, or, Amanda Bynes stars in Twelfth Night and also shoves a tampon up her nose
- The Lion King, or, Hamlet with impossibly hot animated lions
- West Side Story, or, Romeo and Juliet plus 1950s gangs and race relations
Listen to it:
One of the best decisions I ever made was to download a torrent of The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare. It’s a huge huge file and it took my computer almost a week to do it, but that’s fully dramatized unabridged audio recordings of 38 Shakespeare plays. Which is, really, pretty incredible. Each play is fully cast from a pool of actors shared across plays, and it’s basically the complete auditory experience of going to a Shakespeare play, just minus the visual. As sometimes Shakespeare’s language can be dense, hearing actors who really understand what they’re saying handle the language makes it much much easier to know what they’re saying. I find it helpful to listen to the plays as I read them, adding an extra layer of both comprehension and entertainment. And David Tennant plays Mercutio!
There’s nothing wrong with reading Shakespeare. It shouldn’t be your stopping point — you shouldn’t read them and, upon hating them, decide you hate Shakespeare. Shakespeare wouldn’t have wanted it that way. But, if you enjoy reading them? Read all of them! It’s by far the most accessible way of tackling Shakespeare, as they’re all public domain and thus free online, and there are half a dozen published copies with good footnotes that will help you slog through some of the language. I love the Folger’s Shakespeare Library editions of the text for their notes and critical material, but you can also get a plain old copy of the text free online with just a simple google search (project Gutenberg, I think, has all of the, though I tend to get mine here.
I know you said you don’t have access to theatre productions, and obviously I’m not going to tell you to fly yourself to the Globe and see them anyway, but what I will say is: keep an eye out. Colleges and Universities do Shakespeare a lot and even if it’s not an incredible production, the experience of seeing Shakespeare live is unbeatable. Shakespeare in the Park-type productions tend to be free or cheap depending on where you are. Check out and see if theaters in your area have student/artist/unemployed discounts on tickets, or if they do discounted preview showings, find small indie or community theaters with cheaper tickets or, if locations is your issue, take every chance you get while traveling to see if there’s an opportunity. I’m not going to act like you can’t truly love Shakespeare if you see him live, because that’s not true, there are a million and one ways to love Shakespeare and each one is as valid and important as the next, but seeing his work live truly is a treat.
Don’t take him too seriously. There’s plenty of bloodshed and betrayal and tragedy but at the end of the day, Shakespeare wasn’t trying to be a Great and Noble Artist, he was trying to make money by entertaining a crowd. Look up a list of Shakespeare’s 10 best dick jokes and laugh your way through the plays as you read them. Find the joy in the comic relief characters, and don’t be afraid to have fun.
This is awesome. Much appreciation to those who share.
He didn’t tell me so much in words
Actions subtle and motions slow
The meaning in his eyes lost
Love buried deep but changed
I will let you go my love
My heart will ache and your thoughts will haunt you
Logic urges you to keep me
But your heart has already let me go