Levan Center presents classics in new light

Ruben Perez

The Norman Levan Center for the Humanities continued its Reading the Classics series on April 12 by presenting works of William Shakespeare along with The King James Version of the Bible.

Jack Hernandez, director of the Norman Levan Center for the Humanities, who put the event together, explained why they had decided to put these two pieces together.

“Last year was the 400th anniversary of the King James translation, which was done in 1611,” he said.

“It was 2011 last year, so we kind of missed that by a little bit, but we thought it’s really affected our language a lot.

“Shakespeare finished his last play ‘The Tempest’ the same year that the King James Version of the Bible was published,” said Randy Messick, Bakersfield College theater instructor, explaining the relationship between the two texts.

Messick began the evening by giving some background on the English language at the time and explaining how the work of Shakespeare related to the King James Version of the Bible.

“The Renaissance, printing press, and education coming back … came together to make the English language just explode and become this awesome vehicle for expressing human intellectual thought, emotional thought, spiritual thought.

“The word was just a form of entertainment. If nothing else, they would sit around and have a drink in a tavern and just outwit each other with the use of our words and the use of our wordplay and that’s why Shakespeare’s works are so full of wordplay and the manipulation of a word that becomes important,” he explained of the time.

Messick also explained that the writers of the King James Version of the Bible had no rules that stopped them from writing in a poetic sense or manipulation of the words. So writers of the King James Version of the Bible, along with Shakespeare, were able to create something that could have multiple meanings.

Messick, along with Bob Kempf and Kim Chin, then read different versions of “Song of Songs” from the King James Version of the Bible, and two more updated versions to illustrate how the English language has changed from then to now.

Messick’s version from the King James Bible began with, “Thy two breasts are like two young gazelles, that are twins which feed among the lilies.”

Kempf’s version was, “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of the gazelle that graze among the lilies.”

Chin’s translation said, “Your breasts are perfect, they are twin deer feeding among lilies.”

They also did this with a few of Shakespeare’s works as well.

Hernandez said he wanted people to take from this an, “appreciation of the language of the time and what the people were trying to do with the language.”