Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tradegy (for Tragedy)

Say “tragedy” ten times fast and it’s easy to get confused: the G and D begin to sound the same. Once you get used to it, though, the spelling makes sense. Repeating a good tongue twister is an important warmup for an actor performing a Shakespearean tragedy. My personal favourite sneaks up on you: try saying the woman’s name "Peggy Babcock" five times in a row. It took me months to work up to that one, though it doesn’t look as obviously difficult as “The sixth Sheik’s sheep’s dead” – considered one of the most difficult tongue twisters in the English language. Either can help you master the Bard's rapidfire dialogue. I’ve got tragedy on the brain, since this is the anniversary of the death of an historical figure who inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth: the King of Scotland was killed on August 15th, 1057. He was apparently a very different figure than the play's corrupted, cowardly, and power-hungry general controlled by his wife. Though Macbeth did become king after the death of Duncan I, he killed Duncan (then a young king, known as “Duncan the Diseased” – not that beloved by his people, perhaps) in battle, not in his sleep. Of course, Shakespeare changed many stories for artistic reasons, but that doesn’t give us cataloguers free rein to change spellings willy-nilly. Beware tradegy, a moderate probability typo for tragedy, lest your catalogue be a database constructed by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but fruitless user searches finding nothing.

(Painting of the witches from Macbeth by Johann Heinrich Füssli courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Leanne Olson

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