Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 March 2005

AYLI Redux

A quick thought on As You Like It that has bugged me since I saw the show: after this I'll let the whole thing drop. I promise.

In Act I, Shakespeare uses the word "hussif" which is a word that came in-between two other words in etymology. When I read the play, I thought to myself that, not wanting to use the word "hussif" which would have no meaning to a modern audience, I would've changed it to hussy, which is what the word came to mean later on in history. Rosalind calls the lady Fortune a hussy. The idea is that fortune is a slut and instead of being faithful to people, their luck changes because of Fortune's fickleness.

Peter Hall changes "hussif" too, but he changes it the other way: back to its original form, which would be "housewife." Most of the audience, not knowing the history of the word, would only hear the "housewife" and probably not even register the lovely play on words that Shakespeare was doing. Shakespeare still meant all that about Fortune being a slut, and it would work just as well in Elizabethan times for an actor to say "housewife." The Seventeenth century audience would still have gotten the joke.

No one laughed in Peter Hall's audience. He erred on the side of caution instead of on the side of humor. No fun, Sir. No fun at all.