Cheeky fellow has his day

hisoryrewriteWhen I was involved with living history, a common belief among many was this curious thing about early Native Americans and the way they lived and hunted. It went something like this…

Before the colonials came, the natives lived in complete harmony on the land. When the natives hunted, they used every bit of the animal they killed. Nothing was ever wasted.

Hogwash. Societies  as we know them have never lived in complete harmony on the land. It’s always been about the exploitation of resources to ensure your own survival. If it needed to be drained, you drained it. If it needed to be cleared, you cleared it. When you exhausted your resources, you moved on. Likewise, if you needed to use the whole carcass you would. If you didn’t need to, you didn’t. People are people then as now — often wasteful and choosey. One only need to examine history’s midden piles (garbage dumps) to figure that out. 

Think about this — an adult buffalo can weigh 2000 pounds.  That’s a ton. The carcass wasn’t a Walmart of ready-made things. It had to be processed and processing took time. I’ve made leather from raw hides. It takes days just to do that part of the processing right. There are historical accounts of tribes killing whole herds of buffalo at once. How many women do you suppose it took to drag their one-ton haul back to camp? How could they possibly have used each and every carcass completely? The Native American spiritual belief said honor the spirit of the life that fed your family and allowed your survival. Everything else about this story just isn’t true.

This isn’t the only way we clean up the less than perfect details. You see it in books all the time — the abridged version.  It gets worse.

Today is Bowdler Day

Shakespeare_censoredThomas Bowdler, (1754 -1825) was an English doctor of medicine and a philanthropist. As far as I know, he was known for two things: his book Family Shakspeare written in 1818, and the fact his name gave us the word bowdlerize.

Bowdlerize verb
to expurgate a written work by removing or modifying passages considered vulgar or objectionable.

Bowdler felt the vulgar parts written in the Bard’s 37 works were only there to titillate and appease the vulgar crowds of the day. So Bowdler took it upon himself to censure Shakespeare. The man even changed William Shakespeare’s name for his book Family Shakspeare. How’s that for hubris?
Here’s a sampling of the sort of changes he took it upon himself to make to another man’s work:

Lady Macbeth cries “Out, damned spot!” 
Lady Macbeth cries “Out, crimson spot!”

Hamlet’s Ophelia commits suicide
Hamlet’s Ophelia dies in an accident

Romeo & Juliet’s Mercutio says “the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon”
Romeo & Juliet’s Mercutio says “the hand of the dial is now upon the point of noon”

Part of the beauty of reading Shakespeare is discovering the grittiness. It’s the London streets, the stink of the Thames, the reek and coarseness from every corner of Elizabethan England. The Bard’s sense of humor and delicious innuendo are hidden between the lines.  I think William Shakespeare wouldn’t have appreciated this bowdlerizing censorship of his works. I think he would have punched ol’ Thomas Bowdler in the nose.

In honor of one of the greatest storytellers the world has ever known, I officially change Bowdler Day to Punch Bowdler in the Nose Day. If only he were here…  😀



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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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2 Responses to Cheeky fellow has his day

  1. Ray G says:

    I’d heard of Bowdler when the Larry Flynt trial was going on and possibly earlier. The word comes around every once in a while when censorship rears its ugly head. Banned Books, removing or changing words or any form of censorship is anathema to me. I have a banner I got from a web site with a picture of Dr. Laura’s head and saying, “Burn Censors Not Books.” It would make an outstanding bumper sticker.

    When I took a couple of US History courses in college it was like culture shock. Why didn’t I learn these things in high school and before. Reading since college has taught me that even that told the story from the standpoint of what the textbook writers wanted and not what I could learn from original history. Some things I stumbled on by accident. I doubt the librarians in the city library knew the information was on the shelves or I wouldn’t have found it before I was eighteen. One book told some really atrocious details of the holocaust.

    I have a friend, if he is still alive, who always told me, when some earth shattering news takes place watch what comes in under the radar, before the spin doctors get hold of the event.

    • Nice. That would make a good bumper sticker.

      US history started with the Pilgrims, lightly touched upon the Revolutionary War, briefly mentioned Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, saw Pearl Harbor bombed and Hitler ousted, and then Kennedy was assassinated. That’s the sum of my schooling on US history. Oh yeah, and Betsy Ross sewed the flag, Paul Revere rode, Abe was honest, George Washington never told a lie and confessed to chopping his father’s cherry tree down. Everything else I had to discover for myself.

      The “founders and their documents” are so completely media-burned by media these days. It would be nice if people actually understood that thing they keep in their pocket. Heck, it would be nice if they actually read it. Sarah Palin’s “Paul Revere rode to tell those British they weren’t taking our guns” is a prime example of talking the talking points and not getting the point. If we look at the US Constitution and the Articles of Confederation, we’ll see the marvelous hope for human potential behind it. The spark of it began in the crafts guilds of Europe and created the Enlightenment. Ours was the Grand Experiment based upon the ideals of an intellectual renaissance and skimmed from the best the ancients ever conceived in their democratic Greece and a republic of Rome. Ours is a democratic republic.

      Why we were fed the trimmed down, romanticized, and sanitized version I just don’t know. School children 100 years ago learned far more. I suppose with all the post-war, McCarthyism, Cold War turmoil, the uneducated were simply easier to lead. Aren’t we fortunate to have knowledge at our fingertips?

      Your friend is onto something. Look for the wackiest preoccupation in the media. At the same time digging into the news will reveal that something important has happened and we weren’t paying attention. Political legerdemain.

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