Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
Macbeth, II.iii.61

Last September, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (osf) announced an ambitious project called “Play On! 36 Playwrights Translate Shakespeare.” Predictably, the news that one of America’s leading repertory companies planned to “translate” Shakespeare’s English into a contemporary idiom set off a firestorm, and battle lines were quickly drawn between those who lauded the effort to make Shakespeare more accessible to more people, and those dismayed by the prospect of dumbing him down, and by the project’s implicit assumption that Shakespeare’s language could now be considered a foreign tongue.

A pair of Columbia professors,...


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