Friday, November 15, 2013

Shakespeare Recast in E-Prime

I dug this out of some 'ancient' notebooks of mine, from the first general-semantics seminar-workshop I ever attended—a two-week one back in 1979. The Institute of General Semantics had a long tradition of a mid-seminar party on Saturday night, where participants and staff would put on some kind of 'behavioral performance'. Everyone could do something. Skits, songs and other musical performances, dramatic presentations, etc., all provided ample opportunity to play on themes and issues related to what we were studying in this intensive course in 'general-semantics': the endlessly fascinating topic of evaluation and mis-evaluation in human behavior—not only in others' behavior, but in our own as well. The talent displayed in the shows I saw over the years awed me. In this one, besides some wonderful playing of his original piano compositions, lead lecturer Robert P. Pula, presented this recasting of Hamlet's soliloquy in his friend David Bourland's E-Prime, a program for eliminating all forms of the verb "to be" from written and spoken English. Bob didn't qualify as a major fan of this approach and decided to give it a little poke with this performance piece which, I recall, he hammed up wonderfully, lots of laughs. His friend Andy Hilgartner's suggestion to verbalize some nouns also came in for some good-natured ribbing. After the show, I asked Bob for his index card notes and tucked them away in my notebook, till now. So now here, published for the first time: Shakespeare's Soliloquy for Hamlet Recast in David Bourland's E-Prime by Robert P. Pula, with the assistance Stuart A. Mayper (1979) and a little editing from me (2013):  
"Existing or not existing. That constitutes the questioning. Whether we postulate the greater nobility of tolerating in our neuro-linguistic systems the slings and arrows of what we perceive as outrageous fortunes or to take arms, legs, thoraxes, et cetera, against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. To die, to sleep no more and by a sleeping to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh seems heir to: I formulate this as a consummation devoutly wished. Sleeping, perchance dreaming, ay, that constitutes the rubbing—for in that death sleeping what dreamings may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause. The respect that makes calamity of so long living consists in that. Who would seminars bear, grunting and sweating under a weary life but that fear of something after death, that undiscovered country from whose Bourland no traveler returns, puzzles the will and makes us rather bearing familiar illings than flying to others not known. Thus consciousness of abstracting doth make cowards of us all, and thus the native hue of resolution sicklies o'er with the pale castings of semantic reactions, and enterprises of great pith and moment, with this regarding, their currents turn away and lose the naming, action."  

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