Where can I find a modern English translation for Love's Labor's Lost?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Your best option for a modern version--and one readily accessible in both hard copy and electronic form--is Love's Labour's Lost in Plain and Simple English, a Book Caps publication. It has three sections of text, a comparative section, a modern section and an original text section. It is available for Kindle or in paperback from Amazon and as an e-book or paperback from Google Books, which directs you to various sellers, including Barnes & Noble. You can also get it directly from Book Caps, an imprint of Golgotha Press, in e-book form.

The comparative section aligns Shakespearean text with modern English text. The two are associated line-by-line, modern below Shakespearean, so comparison between Shakespearean and modern language is easily made (hence, a "comparative" section).

FERDINAND [Comparative Version]
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Let fame, which everyone seeks in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs
Live carved upon our brass tombs
And then grace us in the dishonor of death;
And then honor us in the dishonor of death; ...

The modern English section presents just the modern English lines, the same ones as in the comparative section, as a separate unit of text. It is especially useful when not wanting to be distracted from content meaning by language comparison. In the excerpt below, you can see that the lines are the same as the italicized lines of the comparative version [above]. 

FERDINAND [Modern Version]
Let fame, which everyone seeks in their lives,
Live carved upon our brass tombs
And then honor us in the dishonor of death; ...

The original text section adds some enlightening interest and surprises. This section provides the text as Shakespeare's troupe of actors would have seen it, with paragraph and stanza style and with spelling as Shakespeare composed it. Just from considering the three lines in these excerpts, you can see differences in style and in how words were written and, consequently, pronounced (such as in the random example of "pro-nounced" versus "pro-noun-ced'"). Note the two different approaches to the word "registered" as seen in the language of the comparative version and the original version.

[Original Version]
KING: Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live regist'red upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; ... [compare: register'd]

Looking at the original and comparative versions, you'll also note that the word "brazen" has been interpreted as "brass," which may not be incorrect but which curtails a word play on "brazen" coupling the metal brass with the attitude of audacity. This coupling makes a silent comment on the contradictory nature of living and dying: living is not always virtuous, so commendation in death may be audacious. For these features, Love's Labour's Lost in Plain and Simple English does provide your best easily accessible option for a modern version of Shakespeare's text.

[For commentary on Love's Labour's Lost, you might also consider Love's Labor's Lost (Folger Shakespeare Library).]

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