Expensive Educations


I am probably being slightly unfair to Fellowes. I have not yet seen his new Romeo and Juliet , but he has reportedly taken pains to preserve the most quotable lines, so Juliet apparently does say "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" and not the more comprehensible "Why are you Romeo?" However, the great remainder of less-quotable lines appear to have been twisted out of all recognizable shape, and the overall implications of Fellowes's flippant remarks are a bit distressing.

Far be it from me to claim that Shakespeare's 400-year-old language is easy to understand. It's not. However, the language barrier isn't nearly as substantial as certain expensively educated people might think. Take a ten-year-old kid to a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream  and she'll be able to tell you exactly what is going on, even if she thinks an eglantine is a sort of pastry. Anyone can appreciate Shakespeare. The language may seem foreign at first, but the story, the characters and - crucially - the way everything comes together in performance make it comprehensible. 

I am of the opinion that adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, even apparent hatchet-jobs such as Fellowes's (and an upcoming biker-gang-themed take on Cymbeline, the premise of which has left me entirely baffled) should be embraced and encouraged. The Globe's education advisor, Fiona Banks, summed it up nicely when she said that "[adaptations] have the potential to help us re-imagine and re-discover a wealth of wonderful literature. But they are not a prerequisite for their enjoyment by the non-Oxbridge educated members of the population."

The figo for thy expensive education, Mr. Fellowes.