The Murder of Macbeth

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

OK, so Macbeth knocked off at least six people in Shakespeare’s Play before dying at the hands of MacDuff at the Battle of Lumphanan in August 1057. These are not the deaths that are the subject of this article which is concerned with the murder of the English language by today’s teaching profession who want to render beauty down to bland simplicity.

As it is referred to by many of the acting profession, the Scottish Play is a jewel of English literature. It is one of the most quoted of Bard’s works, yet educationists feel the need to do their students’ work for them by offering explanatory notes online.

A few examples of this murder of the English tongue may prove my point. From the SparkNotes website -

“She should have died hereafter. There would have been a time for such a word.” becomes — “She would have died later anyway. That news was bound to come someday.”

“And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.” is rendered as — “And every day that’s already happened has taken fools that much closer to their deaths” while “Creeps in this petty pace from day to day” is translated as “The days creep slowly along until the end of time.”

It is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing without any sign of sound and fury.

Another online educational facility, Shmoop, proudly advertises that their website is used by over 100 million students and teachers. Here is their analysis of Hamlet’s greatest speech –

“Hamlet can privately deliver one of the greatest speeches of all time. Seriously, guys, you have to see this one. (with a link to a YouTube video of the speech.) What’s the question? “To be, or not to be.” In other words, is it better to go on living in this world or to, well…not? Hamlet compares death to sleep, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that there’s no way to know what kind of dreams we might have when we’re dead. Of course, we’d escape a lot by being dead, like being spurned in love, except that maybe it’s better to put up with the bad things you know about in life than to run off into death’s “undiscovered country.” Anyone else get chills? Hamlet then spots Ophelia reading her religious book, and closes his speech by saying he hopes she’ll pray for him.”

Where have the colour, the music, and the poetry gone? It is so “dumbed down” that it renders me speechless. I have not dared to look up how Schmoop interprets A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

If this is how they teach the English language these days, it is no wonder that so many of our children end up as monosyllabic truants.

Shakespeare did not adhere to the dictum of modern day blog advisors which says “Never use a complicated word or phrase when a simple word would do” but he was writing for stage and not Medium.

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Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.

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Adrian Arnold

Adrian Arnold

Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.

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