William-shakespeare-007

Language is a Fickle Whore that Can Be Used by Lots of Customers

It certainly is the case that Shakespeare has been the darling of an extraordinarily weird array of people -- whether it’s Brecht on the one hand, for the communists, or the people who embraced Shakespeare largely because of the “Merchant of Venice,” for the Nazis. So we have a phenomenon in which a wild array of people, people who would and did happily kill each other, nonetheless looked to Shakespeare as a source.  

I’m very amused from time to time to hear much smaller misunderstandings: “Wherefore art thou Romeo,” meaning, where are you?  But of course the line in context means, “Wherefore art thou Romeo,” why are you called Romeo?  

Or candy companies say, “Sweets for the Sweet,” when that’s referring to Gertrude’s strewing flowers on Cordelia’s corpse.  But that too would probably amuse Shakespeare.  Language is malleable. Language is a fickle whore that can be used by lots of customers.

60 Second Reads are recorded directly from experts in Big Think's studio. 

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