Might Bad Handwriting Lead To 'Lend Me Your Beers'? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Might Bad Handwriting Lead To 'Lend Me Your Beers'?

Play associated audio

William Shakespeare was a singular genius who sometimes made that hard to see — or at least read.

The New York Times reports this week that modern computer analysis has persuaded scholars that 325 lines in the 1602 edition of Thomas Kyd's play The Spanish Tragedy were truly authored by Shakespeare.

The Bard's name was not on the script. But researchers have scoured other Elizabethan plays for bits and pieces of Shakespeare because he was a showman who would get called in occasionally to "punch up" a speech or plot like a Hollywood script doctor.

Douglas Bruster of the University of Texas, who is editor of a forthcoming new edition of the complete works of Shakespeare that will include those lines from The Spanish Tragedy, says there's been skepticism about that passage because it seemed to have little of Shakespeare's powerful music or metaphor.

But new analysis suggests that the Elizabethan printer may have simply misread Shakespeare's speech because the Bard was a genius who had poor penmanship.

Professor Burster told the New York Times, "What we've got here isn't bad writing, but bad handwriting."

His observation might make you wonder if, over the centuries, scholars were simply stymied by Shakespeare's quill-and-ink chicken-scratches and just kind of wrote in something on their own.

What if, for example, Shakespeare's Marc Antony was mostly thirsty when he began his funeral oration over Julius Caesar, and Shakespeare actually began, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your beers..."

A classic tragedy sounds like a Budweiser spot.

What if Shakespeare had Hamlet, woe-struck by the hatred that can hide in the human heart, including his own, actually greet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by remarking, "What a piece of jerk is a man!"

What if Shakespeare really wrote that Lady Macbeth looked down at her tunic after the killing of the King of Scotland that she had inspired and saw not a splotch of blood, but something on her shoe and said,"Out, damned knot!"

A little less powerful, isn't it?

What if Shakespeare wrote that Romeo looked up to the balcony of the Capulet household and actually exclaimed, "But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet looks like she might be a lot of fun."

Not the same brilliant image as a beloved who shines like the sun, is it?

And what if two p's got confused for b's in the opening lines of Hamlet, "to be or not to be"--and it turns out that Shakespeare was only trying to decide what he was going to do during intermission?

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In This Test Kitchen, The Secret To A Great Cookbook Is Try, Try Again

Yotam Ottolenghi and his partner have a thriving food empire that includes wildly successful cookbooks. We go inside their London test kitchen as recipes are put through their paces.
NPR

Bugs: Not What's For Dinner — Until They're Tastier, Maybe

A U.K. researcher says the environmental argument for eating bugs isn't working on its own. She says chefs and policymakers must "make insect dishes appeal as food, not just a way to save the planet."
NPR

Nebraska Legislators Overturn Governor's Veto Of Death Penalty Repeal

NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with Nebraska Sen. Jerry Johnson, who said he switched his vote in the decision to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska after speaking with his constituents.
NPR

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners

The scanners are standard equipment for police, but what's not settled is what happens to all the data collected. That data can link people to certain addresses and flag unusual activity.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.