Monday, July 27, 2009

Mangling Shakespeare and Other Popular Pastimes

by Julia Buckley
A while ago I posted a little essay about this product; I thought it would be fun to get my students a little memento of their reading of the Bard, and I scanned the net for a likely trinket. I found these cards with tiny matching flowers and thought they were cute until I noticed the egregious error. (Click on the picture to read it better). Shakespeare fans, you might feel a desire to light a torch and march toward this company with righteous literary indignation!

I guess if you're in the business of selling stuff, you're not necessarily in the business of reading Shakespeare. :)

This got me thinking of other humorous (yet ire-inducing) mis-quotings that I'd encountered in the past. Here are some of my favorites:

--My sister's college roommate, who demanded imperiously that someone let her by: "Out of my way, damn spot!"

--The inevitable commercials, at Halloween time, which show three witches in stereotypical garb, chanting "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, watch our brew begin to bubble." Geez. All they had to do was look it up. They could Google it, for goodness' sake.

--Even worse offenders are the endless take-offs on the lovely balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Inevitably some actress will be stuffed into a costume and placed into a makeshift balcony in order to sell cars, or spoof a tv show, or hawk a beauty product. And inevitably she will look out of her balcony, her hand over her eyes, saying, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?" As though she is LOOKING for him. Come on! Didn't any of these directors read Shakespeare in high school? Doesn't anyone in the present know what "wherefore" means? It's quite disappointing.

--The far more forgivable errors come from my students, who are occasionally offered extra credit if they are able to complete the rhyming couplets that they are (supposedly) studying. I'll write one half, and they have to come up with the other. So one girl, confronted with "Good night! Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow . . ." wrote "So I'll just talk to you tomorrow."

I gave her credit for making Juliet such a pragmatist. :)

Do you have any favorite Shakespeare-mangling tales?


Sheila Connolly said...

You mean it isn't "Double-Bubble, toil and trouble?"

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Something's fishy in the state of Denmark.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, great post! Isn't it amazing that Shakespeare is still being quoted (however inaccurately) in 2009?

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sandra Parshall said...

The quote on those cards is astonishingly stupid! The "not" destroys the meaning of the thought. Don't the witches say "Double, double toil and trouble" to multiply the effect of the curse or spell? (Double the toil, double the trouble.)

My favorite Shakespeare quote is "Something wicked this way comes" -- which Ray Bradbury used as a book title.

Julia Buckley said...

And Sandra, right before that the witch says "By the pricking of my thumbs." Wasn't that an Agatha Christie title?

Yes, Elizabeth! I realized last April that the bard would be 445 years old today.

Liz, that's a great one. Funny how people remember, yet don't. Or maybe they don't even know what they're half-quoting.

Sheila, I hope you haven't heard that version too often. :)

Jenna said...

I thought, "Out of the way, damn spot!" was kind of funny...

Some of them may be deliberate mis-quotes, you know.

Julia Buckley said...

Still unacceptable. :)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Julia, I think you're right that people don't always know. Many years ago I took my husband to see the movie of Hamlet (with Olivier), and I kept having to shush him as he recognized (with surprise) all the familiar "one-liners."

Julia Buckley said...

I guess that makes sense. The language creeps into the common usage without attribution.