Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MicroCast 1: Dirty Jokes and Translating Shakespeare

In this episode we take a whole new approach. We bring up some issues, but don't have definitive answers.

So what do you think about
  • Is Othello about race?
  • Should extinct words in Shakespeare be translated into modern English?
  • How explicit should we be when talking about dirty jokes?


  1. Always great to hear from you guys, if these smaller podcasts mean I get to have more regular updates, than I am all for it. Still my favourite shakespeare podcast, because you guys are real people talking about a love of Shakespeare, and not coming at it from a purely academic perspective.

  2. Nice short broadcast! And lots of good questions; here's my responses:

    Is Othello ABOUT race? - No. But it's an important subtext that although is not central to the plot, it was, and continues to be, of high interest to the public.

    Should extinct words be translated? I am of two minds about this... I generally dislike "modern" translations, there are some video examples (BBC's "Shakespeare Retold") which illustrate just how important Shakespeare's poetic language is... on the other hand, for *introduction* to Shakespeare's works, modernizing is very helpful. But since your question seems to be asking about just certain extinct words, not whole plays... meh - leave it up to the director.

    How explicit should you be when discussing Will's "blue" jokes? I'd like to keep this as "family friendly" as possible, since I don't know who your audience is, but I suspect that a fair amount of listeners are students looking for study aids.

    I had to laugh about the comment from an academic? about how Shakespeare wasn't meant to be performed! Gah! Reading Shakespeare is a sure way to kill interest in the Bard; he was a dramatist first, and his plays are best appreciated in a theater!

    And finally, LOVE Twelfth Night - never seen it live in a theater, just on video versions... if you guys would like a "perusal copy" of the Stratford stage version, drop me a line.

  3. I would agree that Othello isn't about race, as such. But of course, The Merchant of Venice is not about Judaism either. And I would also agree that Othello is less about race than The Merchant of Venice is about Jews. If you try to downplay the role of Jews in The Merchant, you simply have a different play. And you MIGHT be able to get away with an Othello that downplayed race. But it would miss a lot. It's one of the reasons Iago is so offended by Othello's success, it's one of the reasons his marriage to Desdemona causes such a stir.
    On dirty jokes: the compromise you noted seems fine. Mention it is a dirty joke and leave it at that. I do listen to the podcasts with my family, and while they are not so delicate that I would be offended by a more explicit discussion, it probably does not need more.

  4. I haven't listened to this podcast yet but am about to. But, I wanted to post a vote though and I don't know where so I am just posting it here. ad one vote to Taming of the shrew please!!!!
    keep it up, you guys are awesome!

  5. I have not yet listened to this blog but am going to right after posting this. I am not a new listener but I have only just started posting so I don't know where I am supposed to vote so I thought I would just throw it up here.
    i VOTE: Please do Taming of the Shrew after your next planed episode!!!

  6. Completely off-topic. Have you guys seen "Macbeth" with SEAN CONNERY in the lead? CBS TV production from 1961, complete video on YouTube:

    He's got the Scottish brogue nailed... ;)

  7. Love it whenever you have time to give us a podcast.

    Dirty jokes - you could mention they are dirty joke ahead of time. I don't mind, they are rather fun, but I know everyone isn't at ease with the naughty bits, as i am. It might even be fun to do an entire podcast about Shakespeare's dirty jokes, with an explicit warning.

    Translating Shakespeare. A word here or there is fine, so that the audience can understand what is being said. I'd wager Shakespeare himself made changes every time he put on the play. But to completely modernize it, then it isn't Shakespeare anymore. The language is a huge part of what makes Shakespeare, Shakespeare. Taking away the language and leaving most of the plot and telling the story in a new way, you have something different much as the Bard did himself when taking a story from another source.

    The Othello question. Race is part of it, even if Iago is the only person who does not like him because he is a "moor" I think it allowed and may still allow audiences to more easily accept Othello's downfall.

    Some other thoughts for possible podcasts topics, assuming you will get through the entire cannon, "Best and worst comedies," "Shakespeare's women," or "Shakespeare's clowns."


  8. I'd love to hear you go over Titus Andronicus!

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for another great podcast. Some interesting questions discussed. As for the the translation question, are we maybe looking at it from the wrong angle? Wouldn't the best solution be to revive the words in question? I appreciate that it would be a fardel, but if enough of use bore it, it would soon catch on.

    Re Emma's comment about Titus Andronicus, they have already done it. As I recall it was one of the first ones and isn't on iTunes but is available on this website.

    Thanks again for your excellent podcast,

    Matthew Jones

  10. Thanks for the podcast guys. The BBC is doing a production of the Henrology, called the Hollow Crown. It's airing over in the UK right now and will hit PBS supposedly this fall. It consists of plays that have been addressed by the podcast in detail already, but I was wondering if there was a chance you would comment on these new productions on a future podcast or blog post.

  11. Hi guys, Great podcast, enjoying it very much, I'm combing through the archives and am thoroughly hooked. Wondering what if you've seen the new "Hollow Crown" productions of Richard II, Henry IV parts i and ii and Henry V that have been airing recently in the run up to the Olympics, and if you have seen them what are your thoughts.

  12. Love the podcast I don't know much about shaky but I enjoy the direct quotes the most.

    Is Othello about race? I don't know you tell me.

    Should extinct words in Shakespeare be translated into modern English? Yes I want to take lessons from these plays not learn archaic language.

    How explicit should we be when talking about dirty jokes? Please don't censor the greatest English language writer of all time who are you to do that. Seriously people editing shaky need to be smarter than you two.
    p.s Love the podcast

  13. 1. Othello is a play about jealousy.

    2. Shakespeare nourished our vocabulary with new words; so should we.

    3. Sexy ain't dirty.

  14. 1.) Is Othello about race? No, Iago's hatred of Othello is not related to his race. He loved his commander and was completely distraught when he was passed over for promotion. Another thing to keep in mind, the English in Shakespeare's time were fascinated by the Moors, which was unusual in their island culture. During the time of Othello and Merchant Of Venice, which has a Moor suitor for Portia, the English had opened up relations with the Moors. They were an unlikely allegiance, considering the homogeny of the English, but ultimately they were united in their hatred of the Spanish.
    2.) No, don't change the words. When I direct Shakes., I like to use the Applause folio editions, so that I can have the original word. I've found that if an actor says the word right, the audience will understand what they are saying.
    3.) Got nasty, filthy dirty. I love Shakespearean smut. Some of the books that claim to expose the bawdy of Shakespeare, completely miss the really good stuff. Want some specifics?
    Merchant Of Venice: Gobbo: "For, indeed, my father did something smack, something grow to, he had a kind of taste." Do I need to spell it out, the thing that Old Gobbo had a taste for? Do we need to 'go down' that road? In addition, Gobbo's first name has been cleaned up. In the folio, he's Launcelet, not Lancelot. He lets his lance do the talking.
    I got a million of them....:

  15. I think I like what you did for Twelfth night, with reading the line and telling us that it is a dirty joke. I was made aware i should be aware of it and then saw a joke "these are her very c's U's and T's" that i had not seen before despite the fact that i have both read and seen the play
    I think it is okay to change a word every now and then as long it is underlines or footnoted so people could know...also it is only okay if it keeps the pentameter and the rhyme scheme, rhythm etc. and again it has to be made known to the reader or listener...put a footnote in the playbill if done...something like that
    keep up the podcasts they are great!!!