Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Oh, Romeo Romeo Why The Hell Is That Your Name?

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," William Shakespeare edition! What ho, and wherefore?

Herewith an explanation:

"Romeo and Juliet" is a rite of passage for our public school teenagers. Seems like every freshman in the US of A (not to mention the UK) has to read it.

And since all three of you know I teach public school freshmen, you know I must needs teach this tome.

Aye, there's the rub.

As you might imagine, my freshmen can't even graze the surface of the original text. Oh, me! Zounds! It biteth like an adder!

Kind of a shame, because "Romeo and Juliet" is full of poetry and all sorts of fabulous imagery, especially name-dropping, at numerous intervals, bored deities. At the same time, it's a ripping good tale with lots of action and those fabulous plot twists.

My district purchased a "side by side" edition of "Romeo and Juliet" that has Shakespeare's text on the right-hand page and a "translation" on the left-hand page.

Aye, zounds, there's another rub. My students can't read the translation! It's still too hard. Their eyes glaze over. And those long speeches? Forget it. No one is willing to read them out loud.

There's another translated version of "Romeo and Juliet" online, called "No Fear Shakespeare" by Spark Notes. In previous years I have used that one, because it really is easier to read. However, this year Spark Notes put the whole thing behind a paywall. And my district won't buy it because we already have the unreadable one.

Enter Anne, with a Bear.

Readers, I wrote my own translation of "Romeo and Juliet" this summer.

I was faithful to the original. In fact, I was more faithful than the translations. I used some rhyme!

Only one character got a new name. The Apothecary became the Drug Dealer. After all, who these days has a gram of poison that can knock you dead even though you have the strength of twenty men?

And I made one other change that was inspired by this year's freshmen.

It's hard to explain the term "banished" to modern urban teenagers. Let's see. Romeo has to leave the city, and he can't come back or he'll be killed. That was a thing 400 years ago.

As one of my students pointed out this spring, it's still a thing. Now it's called deportation.

So Romeo doesn't get banished. He gets deported.

If you have idly wondered what I've been doing this summer, this is it. I re-wrote "Romeo and Juliet" with struggling urban readers in mind.

This year it will get a pilot run, and if the students like it, I may try to sell it on a teacher platform. Not sure how that will fly with Spark Notes, but hey. I didn't plagiarize their text. I can't even access it!

What a sad story. "Romeo and Juliet," I mean. Not my awesome hood-inspired translation!


jenmoon said...

I love that you translated this into "drug dealer" and "deported." Sorry to hear No Fear Shakespeare was taken away (it really is the most helpful), but yours sounds delightful.

From what I recall, watching people act out Shakespeare also helped, especially to get the dirty bits, heh heh heh.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

"The drug dealer" and "deportation" are INSPIRED! You rock, Anne!

Anonymous said...

All kinds of brilliant! I hope the kids understand it and - gasp - enjoy it!

yellowdoggranny said...

if I've said it once I 've said it a dozen times..you are so fucking smart. I'm plum proud to know you..also would like you to send that copy if you can to Morgen Pittman. I don't know if he's on your friends list but he's another fabulous teacher in Florida(he's gay and life is not made easy for him by his gov.)but he flys his gay flag heads a group of lgbtq's and he's terrific.