Shakespeare for a Modern Audience
William Shakespeare's language can be very difficult to understand for modern audiences.
Reading or hearing Shakespeare for the first time is often very difficult, for children and adults alike. It is unfamiliar in style and language.
Shakespeare wrote for his audiences at the time, not for today's readers. His language and style were entirely appropriate and topical to the day and age howerver, vocabulary has changed dramatically over the past 400 years. Words have disappeared, changed meaning and Shakespeare was not afraid of making up new words if he could not find ones to suit his purpose. In essence, Shakespeare had created a vocabulary style all of his own.
In Shakespearean times, many people were uneducated. Approximately 72 percent of men and 92 percent of women could not read and write. However, their ability to take-in spoken language was more developed than today's audiences often are. The language was also patterned and had distinctive rhythms and repetitions of words and phrases; helping the audience to keep track of what was happening and to makes sense of what they were hearing.
Shakespeare used his language to not not only convey what was happening in the play, but to generate mood and audience reaction. He used mostly blank verse and prose. Prose, broadly speaking, is any sort of writing which is not poetry, and blank verse is unrhymed poetry. Prose was often used for comedy and the lowly characters and verse was often left for the upper class characters.
Iambic pentameter was another important aspect of Shakespeare's writing. Iambic pentameter is a writing style that consists of five iambic feet. An iambic foot consists of two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed. Each line in iambic pentameter consists of ten syllables. The rhythm goes along the lines of: de-dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum. Shakespeare also used rhyming couplets. A rhyming couplet is a pair of rhyming lines, which Shakespeare used to signal the end of a scene or the entire the play. To add emphasis and meaning, he added pauses into lines of iambic pentameter, prose and verse (McEvoy 27).
The language and style of speech in this production of A Midsummer's Night's Dream has been dramatically simplified. The script has been edited and adapted to make it much more accessible to younger audiences ie easier to understand. Many Shakespearean words have been 'translated' into modern-day language to ensure the same sense of relativity to the day and age it is performed in. For example, the word ‘chink' has been changed to hole and ‘joiner' to carpenter. These are slight changes which may not be noticed, but ones which translate the Shakespearean language into understandable English for modern audiences, especially young audiences.
While it may appear that a lot has been changed, the essence of Shakespeare has not been lost, it has merely been adapted to make it more appropriate for younger audiences of today.