Saturday, February 24, 2018

Computer Program Translates Ordinary English into Shakespearean Verse

Dateline: CAMBRIDGE, MA—A team of computer programmers at MIT, led by Wallace Thickglasses, has completed its Shakespearean Translator, which converts plain English into Shakespearean verse. The translator has received rave reviews from Shakespeare scholars.

Access to translator is free on the internet and it works like Google Translator: you type the phrase you wish to sound as though Shakespeare had written it, and the program pops out the phrase’s more embellished version.

Our producers tested the program’s merit by entering the simple statement, “She gave the thing to him.” In less than a second the program had completed the translation, riveting us with this astonishing bit of poetry straight out of the Elizabethan era:

“Would that it were, had it not been so,
But neither within nor upon it sat the thing not hence;
She that had it, yet twice the cockerdoodle
Spat out the flipperflapper and him beneath whom
Had it sat not whereupon she gave it.”

Certainly, that translation is as needlessly confusing as Shakespearian poetry. As to what a “cockerdoodle” or a flipperflapper” might be, we assume they could have figured somewhere in the Elizabethan era’s infinite reserve of bizarre notions, many of which show up in Shakespeare’s plays, such as “fitchew,” “cockled,” and “kickie-wickie.”

We wondered, though, whether the program’s success was a fluke. So we entered another plain statement, “She borrowed it yesterday,” and we received this dazzling passage:

“O nuncle, the bladdercock did slippy slide
Had not the river-raver rather than not but she,
The taller nor under but the day yester not;
Neither simmer chimney the cabled boot
Did go bootless, wherein the morrow lay,
Borrowed not, yet whence not pollyglot
She that had it were it not yet hence;
Riddle-me-this, but not wherein she borrowed it
The day yester than mine eyes did see but thence.”

Oddly, when we entered a poor Shakespearean concoction of our design, the translator reversed its complexity. Thus, we entered this verse:

“By heaven he hath not sailed the babble brook;
Would that I had not but been nor heretofore
Thence but not, not but whence she came;
Ay, the morrow, scuttlebutt, the nut buster.
Prithee, lord, I fear; fie on thee, thou fiend!
A plague upon thy wallypoodle.” 

But in response the translation supplied us merely with this uncluttered sentence: “He shouldn’t do it.”

“I can attest that the translations are valid,” said Wallace Hifalutin, professor of Shakespearean Studies at Oxford, who consulted on the project at MIT. “The computer program has an ear for Elizabethan dialect and even seems to convey something of the Bard’s soul in its interpretations of unvarnished modern English.”

The team at MIT is currently working on a Shakespearean name generator. You specify the type of character you’d like named in the Shakespearean manner, and the program spits out a name.

Here are some of the names we got from the beta edition of the program: Hasbro, Atari, Lego, Nerf, Mattel, Funko, Nintendo, Kenner, Bandai, Remco, Crayola, Tonka, Slinky, Galoob, Gendron, Mezco.

Those names are all taken from the names of toy companies, but we agree that they sound remarkably like the names of Shakespeare’s famous characters, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo, Cassio, Iago, or Othello.

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