People are always raving about how great William Shakespeare is. Even almost 400 years after he was (thankfully!) buried under the floor of the Church of the Holy Trinity in his hometown Stratford-upon-Avon. Where all the trouble started.
A bit harsh? I don’t think so. Here are five reasons why I can’t stand him, and why you shouldn’t put up with him either:
Shakespearean English ain’t English. It’s indecipherable. Admit it. Case in point, this ditty from Hamlet: “When he himself might his quietus make/With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear . . . ” Anything you need a guide to translate isn’t really English. And is it really funny if the jokes have to be explained? Someone has to say it. Might as well be me. You’re welcome!
Shakespeare treats women like crap. His female characters always get the shitty end of the stick. He constantly plays “jokes” on them that usually end in death. Look at Juliet — she takes a sleep potion, Romeo thinks she’s dead and offs himself, then she offs herself. What a mess! And poor Ophelia. Hamlet tells her to get to a nunnery. (Shakespeare slang for “brothel.” Because that makes sense.) She drowns herself instead. Then there’s Cleopatra and her pain in the asp, Cordelia in King Lear . . . women in Shakespeare are a big, hot mess.
Just say it, damn it! The hell with his elaborate metaphors and rhetorical phrases. Iambic pentameter is cruel and unusual punishment. A line of verse with five metrical feet, each consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable, followed by one long (or stressed), for example. What the . . . ? Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Doesn’t help, does it? Just spit it out, Billy Boy. Get to the point and get on with it.
Starlings are his fault. I want to kill all of the chattering, screeching starlings that roost in the tree outside my bedroom window and wake me up at 5:07 every morning. If he weren’t already dead, I would strangle Eugene Schieffelin, the genius who brought all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare to North America. He released 100 loud, bossy starlings in Central Park in the 1890s — and now they’re all outside my house. That’s what happens when you bring in a non-native species: They take over and mess stuff up. Like my sleep.
Let’s be honest, it’s torture. Sitting in a high school English class and listening to Willie's plays get mangled in Brooklynese is one of the most painful things you can imagine. It’s probably just as bad with a Midwestern twang or a Southern drawl. I still have nightmares about Donna Mendez answering Mrs. Bogash’s question about why Othello was so upset: “Because he thought Desdemona was a “who-er,” (Brooklyn-speak for “whore.”) And Mrs. B asking me to translate for her. Embarrassing. I still have nightmares about Luanne Montalvo’s Portia from Julius Caesar: “Wha? Is Brutus sick?” Please. Make. It. Stop.
I mean, really. Please make Shakespeare stop. Here and now. Once and for all. Why? Because it sucks. That’s why.