Is there a loser and a winner in Shakespeare adaptation?

I finished briefly scanning a book titled Shakespeare Translated by H.R. Coursen. I only read the introduction and conclusion because I needed general statements and the majority of book analyzes specific examples, which for my purposes was not helpful.

Anyway, he argues in the book that attempting to adapt Shakespeare into a more modern context, a significant portion of the “original” is lost. It is a long standing debate throughout the Shakespeare community about debasing Shakespeare to more common media forms. This argument to me seems odd for several reasons.

First, Shakespeare, when it was originally written, was not considered some higher art form. It has been placed onto this pedestal of cultural brilliance that is both good and bad. It is good because it forever places Shakespeare into the sphere of higher study and permanent cultural significance, which it should be. Shakespeare should always be something valued and encouraged for every person to experience. It is bad because it has partially roped us into simply teaching by reading because adaptations are somehow not good enough.

I have to wonder what the problem is with making Shakespeare more (to sound like a hipster) mainstream. Is it not better to have more people with at least an interest in Shakespeare than to have huge groups who hate him? I think it is better. The higher study can come with time. Let’s get people interested before they get afraid of the difficulty of the language. Serious study can turn some people off, they need to be interested first. Television and film can provide that.

What are your thoughts? Is there something lost during adaptation? If so, what are the negative effects on students and culture?

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