QOTD: Is It Shakespeare’s Fault?


Ostensibly, this is a blog about poetry. The word is right there in the title. But we here at The Poetry Question like to think that this can be about more than poetry as it is narrowly defined as a genre. We’ve taken the idea of discussing the relevance of poetry and expanded it to a discussion of language as a whole and the way language helps us understand and even shapes the world around us. If it sometimes seems like we stray from the stated topic, it’s only because we see poetry everywhere.

For example, if you scroll back through the posts that I have written*, you’ll find that history is a bit of a theme. I am a fan of history for many reasons, not the least of which is the literature and poetry that has come down to us. In a time before novels, the histories of the Greeks and Romans often read like stories, and, unlike our modern versions, staying true to the facts often took a backseat to poetic flourish and moralizing. (Well, maybe not THAT unlike our modern versions.)

Judging by these dramatized historical accounts, which are really the only accounts when dealing with ancient history, people long ago had a much better grasp of language than we do today. The great generals of Rome were politicians who could, and regularly did, give speeches that lasted six hours or more. These men were masters of oratory, and prolific writers. For them, a working knowledge of how to craft language was essential for gaining and keeping power in a way that seems to have been lost. I doubt any of our politicians today could give a speech lasting six hours, any more than we could sit and listen to one.

So, I guess my question is: why do Ancient Romans in movies and TV shows always have British accents? Is it Shakespeare’s fault? This baffles me.

I’ll take my answer off the air.

*I know you do that. Don’t be ashamed. You’re only human and I am damned entertaining.

7 thoughts on “QOTD: Is It Shakespeare’s Fault?

  1. I say 3 reasons:
    1. most guys had the hots for Helena Bonham Carter…up until Fight Club.
    2. masochism…we all secretly wish to re-unite with evil mother England,
    3. it’s a flight from a flat blood-less accent that we feel exposes our shameful dopey self-concept, rather than a flight to the tea-fount of everything capital.

    Shakespeare’s only fault is he’s so damn confusing to read.


  2. I think there’s an element of cultural memory to it. It wasn’t that long ago, historically speaking, that the British Empire was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Maybe there is an association with imperial authority? Interesting.
    Gravitias was very important to the Romans, how better to illustrate that than by talking like Benny Hill? (I kid because I love, UK.)

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