The Ghosts of Othellos Past

History and English in one post? Is that a challenge? Game on. As directed, I looked through Quatro 1 and First Folio to examine the differences now and then. The First Folio has an interesting use of “u” that replaces our modern “v.” Where the word “even” appears in our modern version, “euen” resides in the First Folio. The First Folio also has an extra ‘e’ behind many words that our version leaves off. The Moore of Venice, and doore, are two notable examples. Perhaps this is just a linguistic change.  English in the 1600s, I presume, still relied heavily on French and Germanic influences.  The vestigial ‘e’ is characteristic of French, and it too is not pronounced at the end of a word.

Quatro 1 also had some interesting spelling. Despite the 1 year difference in the publication of these two versions, there are some notable differences.  To begin, it is called the “Tragoedy” instead of the “Tragedie” like in the First Folio. The compound oe, or dipthong, is borrowed from latin, but it has been dropped in most American orthography.  Why one is spelled with “ie” versus “y” at the end remains a mystery to me.  Once again, the ‘u’s, ‘w’, and ‘v’ seem very different from how we spell now.  Most notably, the play is by “VVilliam Shakespeare.”

Similarities between these versions and our own: orthography overall seems consistent with ours. However, some of the lettering looks a little different.  In the First Folio and Quatro 1, the lowercase S looks like a cross between an integration symbol and an f.  What interests me about these plays is that in reading through them, the story is consistent.  I suppose this should be obvious as preserving meaning is the most important thing in translating and evolving language.  Still, it surprises me that after 500 some-odd years, we still maintain the language of Shakespeare.  Not only that, but we can easily understand the story and its background without having to understand many cultural implications.  I guess this is either a testament to Shakespeare’s timeless genius, or the fact that no matter how hard we try to be different from who we were before, man is at its core the same.



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