Do you find Shakespeare’s plays a little too complex for your modern understanding? If so, there is help for you. MakeUseOf reports on Sparknotes’s “No Fear Shakespeare,” screen-readable versions of many of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. These versions display the original text on the left, and a modern-English translation on the right.
It’s a clever idea, and one I’m surprised no one’s come up with before. It’s a great way to keep the poetry of the original Shakespeare, but at the same time provide access to a version you can more clearly understand. I can see how this would be a boon to high school students studying the play, as well as to actors trying to decide how to interpret the original by gaining a clearer understanding of what the words they are saying are actually supposed to mean.
Sparknotes is a site that specializes in notes and analysis of various books—sort of a Cliff’s Notes for the modern age, and just as beloved of high schoolers as the latter. It makes sense it would come up with something like this. Certainly, being able to go through Shakespeare line by line with the original text right there will be a lot more useful in class than a simple summary. It could be especially helpful when watching movie adaptations or filmed plays on your computer. Just keep the website open for easy reference.
Shakespeare isn’t the only “No Fear” literature title available. Sparknotes also offers side-by-side transliterations of several other works of classic (and public-domain) literature: Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Heart of Darkness, The Scarlet Letter, and A Tale of Two Cities. It’s an interesting way to rediscover literature you might otherwise have had trouble understanding—and a keen argument for the usefulness of a well-stocked public domain. It’s too bad we won’t be seeing any more works enter the public domain for a while—if ever.