To E or not to E
Controversy over the spelling of Shakespear(e)
What’s in a name?
If you happen to be strolling across the campus of the University of Southern California, you would probably come across a majestic statue, unveiled this summer, and delight in a verse displayed upon it, from ‘Hamlet’… the famous tragedy penned by “Shakespear”. This would probably have gone unnoticed apart from the significant absence of the letter ‘e’ at the end of his name. It is the missing ‘e’ that has caught the headlines.
When William Shakespeare penned “Hamlet” around the turn of the 17th century, he probably never imagined his words would one day grace the base of a statue at the University of California (USC) as part of a $700-million project. Likewise, how was he to imagine that the spelling of his name would ignite a cross-town debate between two famed Los Angeles universities? Did the Bard spell his name Shakespeare or Shakespear?
2. That last question was asked recently when USC unveiled the new statue of Hecuba, queen of Troy, this summer. The statue featured verses from “Hamlet” and the dramatist’s name, which was noticeably missing a final “e.”
3. The excerpt, found on the base of the 20-foot statue, reads: “And all for nothing — For Hecuba! What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her? - Shakespear’s Hamlet”
4. Students from USC’s longtime rival, UCLA, spotted the small, but glaring, detail and pointed it out: “USC. The only place in America that can unveil a statue as the centerpiece of a $700 million project and manage to misspell Shakespeare,” the official student-run account tweeted.
5. The bronze statue, created by sculptor Christopher Slatoff, stands in the middle of the new development, dubbed USC Village. The complex includes six five-story buildings, student housing, a 30,000-square-foot fitness center, restaurants, a Trader Joe’s and a Target. 6. Despite some criticism, USC is standing by the spelling, saying that there are variations of Shakespeare. "To E, or not to E, that is the question,” USC said in a statement. “Over the centuries his surname has been spelled 20 different ways. USC chose an older spelling because of the ancient feel of the statue, even though it is not the most common form."
7. It looks like USC may have a point. Caroline McManus, who teaches 17th century English literature at Cal State Los Angeles, said spelling was not standardized in English during Shakespeare’s time. “We see Shakespeare's name spelled in different ways on documents written during his time period,” she said. Some of those spellings include Shakespear, Shakspere and Shakespeare.