Modern Turns of Phrase and Archaic Language

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
I might also add to my point that even in Tolkien’s work this sort of comedy is present, since Thorin speaks in a more archaic and grand style that’s meant to portray him as pompous, which I believe is a mark against him.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
You see, my goal is to make the general dialogue of SilmFilm closer to the published source material, as well as more watchable to a modern general audience. The register of the Silmarillion dialogue should sound high to be sure, and should feel old. But we really should not be doing this at the expense of the audience. Not only that, the difference in style of language between the Ainur and the Quendi should absolutely be greater than that between the First Age and the Third Age.


Here's the thing. Other works, even works set in the Elizabethan period or even the Middle Ages, avoid using the mode of language you are describing. And they do so for the reasons we have been expressing to you here.

Ultimately, it would come across as self-indulgent to critics and jarring to the audience. Would people get used to it? Sure. But given the size and scope of this story, I see no reason to unnecessarily raise the barrier to entry, and I'm still completely against it.
I think this would be underestimating the intelligence of the audience. Yes, there might be some people who get frustrated with the archaic dialogue, but I do not think this would be a large portion of the audience at all. Moreover, I think the charm of the archaic language could actually be a selling point of the series and make it stand out from those other works you mention.
I might also add to my point that even in Tolkien’s work this sort of comedy is present, since Thorin speaks in a more archaic and grand style that’s meant to portray him as pompous, which I believe is a mark against him.
Yes, and Thorin is a Dwarf in the Third Age, not an Elf in the First Age. This would be an example of the incongruity between the audience and other characters' expectations about the register of the language and what Thorin actually says. Also, Thorin's archaic and grand style would be likely be accompanied by a pompous tone of delivery, over-dramatic gestures, and eye-rolls from those around him. I am not suggesting that we do not use the archaic dialogue for comedy; I think it is possible to have both a generally more archaic register in the earlier seasons of the show and comedic archaism later on.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
I think this would be underestimating the intelligence of the audience. Yes, there might be some people who get frustrated with the archaic dialogue, but I do not think this would be a large portion of the audience at all. Moreover, I think the charm of the archaic language could actually be a selling point of the series and make it stand out from those other works you mention.
Why do you think those other works choose not to do it then? Why do you think Tolkien chose not to do it in his later writings?
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
Why do you think those other works choose not to do it then? Why do you think Tolkien chose not to do it in his later writings?
I am not advocating something radically more archaic than Tolkien's later writings or other works, but I think that people have a greater capacity to understand archaic language than they are given credit for, so I do not think it will be a problem for us to be a tiny bit more archaic at first then work towards that level of archaism.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
I am not advocating something radically more archaic than Tolkien's later writings or other works, but I think that people have a greater capacity to understand archaic language than they are given credit for, so I do not think it will be a problem for us to be a tiny bit more archaic at first then work towards that level of archaism.
That doesn't really answer the question, though, does it? Because it isn't just me making this case. It's pretty much everyone creating content for general audiences. And a fair number of us here.

I'd challenge you to spend a weeks talking to strangers that way in like, supermarkets and restaurants and what not and see how many times they have trouble understanding.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
That doesn't really answer the question, though, does it? Because it isn't just me making this case. It's pretty much everyone creating content for general audiences. And a fair number of us here.
The answer, of course, is that they want to ensure the audience understands the dialogue. However, I think the audience would still be capable of understanding a couple verbs that end in -eth.
I'd challenge you to spend a weeks talking to strangers that way in like, supermarkets and restaurants and what not and see how many times they have trouble understanding.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! :D
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
The answer, of course, is that they want to ensure the audience understands the dialogue. However, I think the audience would still be capable of understanding a couple verbs that end in -eth.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! :D
It's not merely a matter of comprehension. I've discovered that merely talking with an above-average vocabulary is off-putting for a lot of people, and in order to professionally appeal to a wider variety of clientele in sales, I had to adjust my speech.

Like you say, there's a fine line. I just think you're on the wrong side of it here.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I think there are a few issues to consider here.

Season 1 of our project focuses on the Valar in the time before the Awakening of the Elves. That is the time frame that should seem most remote and distant, and those are the characters who should seem least human. I agree that simply giving them -eth verb endings won't do that. I never suggested that that would be the key feature of their speech. What I said was that, in analyzing the corpus, it was clear that the -eth endings are used by the Valar, not by the Elves in Beleriand. Tolkien made sure to pepper their speech with words that show their role in the world. Look at Tulkas' dialogue - what he says is all about fighting and taking action. Look at Mandos - every proclamation is full of doom and 'so be it.' So, yes, there is a lot more to writing Valarin dialogue than simply tacking on the -eth verb endings to regular speech. We are agreed there.

You say you would like to show the language changing over time. I can understand that impulse. Our story does, after all, cover thousands of years, and what you are suggesting is using a version of English that is just over 400 years old. It seems a modest accommodation when put in those terms. But what, precisely, is changing? Quenya doesn't change much after the Ban. Like book-Latin, it becomes a fixed language passed along more-or-less as-is. What is actually changing are the actual languages spoken by these characters. So, Season 2 Elves would be speaking Primitive Elvish in the first 5 episodes, and gradually this evolves into both Sindarin and Quenya, which is what the characters in Season 3 are speaking. In Season 4, the Sindarin and Quenya speakers meet, and discover that their languages are far enough estranged that they no longer understand one another. We have introduced that there are different languages to the audience, which conveys a much greater passage of time than simply a more archaic form of Modern English conveys.

I am not overly concerned if the register of the First Age stories and the 'high' parts of the Third Age stories are similar. Because we don't have First Age characters talking to Third Age characters - what we have are First Age stories, and then, separate from that, Third Age stories. The characters are actually speaking Quenya, or Sindarin, or Adunaic, or Westron. So, there is no real need for the 'translation' to get archaic for seasons at a time and then 'lessen up' in later seasons. I would rather save strong archaicism for dialogue that should sound archaic to the other characters in the scene, not the audience. So, when Ulmo addresses Turgon or Tuor, he does so as an ancient being stepping out of the Sea. When Thorin addresses Bilbo, he does so as a very important dwarf whose cultural memory is much longer than a hobbit's.

What you are suggesting is that viewers will have to wait until the 2nd Age material in order to hear dialogue similar to what Tolkien wrote for the Elves and Humans in the Silmarillion. That is a very big ask. You say you do not think it will confuse the audience. But in the very small sample size of those who have read your scripts, you will find that there have been several comments that the language is too archaic and it makes it hard to find the voices of these characters. Everyone who is part of this project is a dedicated Tolkien fan who loves the Silmarillion. Obviously, you cannot expect that of a TV audience! The Hosts have explained that the 'intended' audience for this project is people who have enjoyed Lord of the Rings (either the books or the Peter Jackson films, or the new Amazon series), but who are not already familiar with the story of the Silmarillion. So, what is most important in our choices is that we are able to tell these stories in a way that makes sense to those hearing them for the first time, while simultaneously making them enjoyable for those who are familiar with them.

Similarly, while we may consider all of Tolkien's writings available to get inspiration from, this project is meant as an adaptation of the published Silmarillion. If, as we go along, we find opportunities to work in elements from other sources, we can choose to do so, but the primary text is the published Silmarillion. Corey Olsen loves the Book of Lost Tales. He has been quite happy to incorporate elements from it - Rog, who fell outside the walls of Gondolin, and Melkor's involvement in the Lamps, for instance. When doing so, however, he is always careful to point out that we don't want to make the characters as silly as they are in BoLT. The tone of those stories is all wrong for what we are trying to do. He strenuously objected to any detailed portrayal of magic when we were discussing Fëanor's making of the silmarils, and his argument was very much based on Tolkien doing just that in BoLT.

I understand that you find the use of -eth verbs charming. Suffice it to say that not everyone does. And, yes, I think that style of speech is way too remote for an average viewer to understand when they hear it. It's not that someone can't write beautifully with it - I would say that both the King James Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare have stood the test of time quite well! But...I would like our adaptation of the Silmarillion to sound like Tolkien's work, and I would like to focus the efforts on moving the dialogue in a direction that sounds like it walked off the pages of one of his books. Just...not Book of Lost Tales. And preferably not pre-LotR material; I think what he wrote post-LotR was done with everything he'd learned while writing that in mind.

I also remember high school classes where we read Shakespeare's plays aloud. We were seniors, in an AP English class, and we were reading Henry V. The class would read a scene (with parts assigned), and then the teacher would ask us what just happened. I would raise my hand, and summarize the scene. This happened multiple times. Every time, the class was amazed. They asked me if I'd read ahead, or read the Cliff Notes version or something. The teacher wanted to know how I knew what was happening in the scene that we'd just read aloud. In other words...it was not the the case that my classmates could understand Shakespearean dialogue just from hearing it read aloud. And they were all native speakers in a 12th grade AP English class (so, 17-18 years old, and all good enough students to be taking a college-level class). Granted, that is not everyone's experience. When my brother was 10 years old, he asked me to read him Hamlet while I was home from school on Thanksgiving break. So I did. At some point, my father interrupted us, and gently chided me that there was no way my brother was following the story, so I should just stop. I turned to my brother and asked what was happening - and he informed our father that Hamlet wanted to kill his uncle to revenge his father, but couldn't do it right now because the uncle was praying, and it wouldn't be good revenge if he went straight to heaven when he died - he had to wait for a better opportunity. Our dad left us to it, and that brother read The Silmarillion that same year.

But, in the interest of letting people compare the sounds of the words, rather than just the written texts, I did record the scene from Episode 1 where the messenger tells Fingolfin about Fëanor's death.
Here is the version in the current script:
https://clyp.it/5w2rppuq

And here is the version I worked on editing:
https://clyp.it/2u3ex0vb

Look, I'm no actor, and it's not like I make audiobooks or anything. So...the quality is what it is. But I think you can at least get a flavor in these 4 minute clips as to how the dialogue would sound.


I understand that what I am asking for is much harder and much more work than simply picking a grammatical rule and applying it consistently. I am asking for intentional word choice and intentional sentence structure in every line, and there's no hard-and-fast 'rule' as to how to do that. I understand that it is a daunting task to apply these standards to 50-page scripts. I'm not saying that anyone has to do all that work. I am merely suggesting...that it will sound better in a Tolkien project if we make the effort to imitate Tolkien's style. I am pointing out what Tolkien's style is. You may decide you prefer a different style. But I think you are finding that it's a hard sell here. People are letting you know that it stands out, and not in a good way.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Here is a scene from the first Thor movie, including Thor's self-sacrifice when he appeals to Loki and Odin's invocation:
Thor: "Brother, whatever I have done to wrong you, whatever I have done to lead you to do this, I am truly sorry. But these people are innocent. Taking their lives will gain you nothing. So take mine, and end this."
Odin: "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

Here is a scene from Kingdom of Heaven, which is set during the Crusades (1187):
Saladin: Will you yield the city?
Balian: Before I lose it, I will burn it to the ground. Your holy place is ours. Every last thing in Jerusalem that drives men mad.
Saladin: I wonder if it would not be better if you did. You will destroy it?
Balian: Every stone. And every Christian knight you kill will take 10 Saracens with him. You will destroy your army here and never raise another. I swear to God that to take this city will be the end of you.
Saladin: Your city is full of women and children. If my army will die, so will your city.
Balian: You offer terms; I ask none.
Saladin: I will give every soul safe conduct to Christian lands. Every soul. The women, the children, the old, and all your knights and soldiers. And your queen. No one will be hurt. I swear to God.
Balian: The Christians butchered every Muslim within the walls when they took this city.
Saladin: I am not those men. I am Salah Eldin. Salah Eldin!
Balian: Then under these terms I surrender Jerusalem.
Saladin: Selam (Peace be with you in Arabic)
Balian: And peace be with you.
Balian: What is Jerusalem worth?
Saladin: Nothing. Everything!

A clip from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - the parley (set in - roughly - 1728)

Barbossa: You be the cur that led these wolves to our door?
Beckett: Don't blame Turner, he was merely the tool of your betrayal. If you wish to see its grand architect, look to your left.
Jack Sparrow: My hands are clean in this. Figuratively.
Will Turner: My actions were my own and to my own purpose. Jack had nothing to do with it.
Jack Sparrow: Well spoke! Listen to the tool.
Elizabeth Swann: Will, I've been aboard the Dutchman. I understand the burden you bear, but I fear that cause is lost.
Will Turner: No cause is lost. If there is but one fool left to fight for it.
Beckett: If Turner wasn't acting on your behalf, then how did he come to give me this? You made a deal with me, Jack, to deliver the pirates, and here they are. Don't be bashful; step up! Claim your reward.
Davy Jones: Your debt to me is still to be satisfied! 100 years in servitude aboard the Dutchman, as a start!
Jack Sparrow: That debt was paid, mate. With some help.
Davy Jones: You escaped!
Jack Sparrow: Technically -
Elizabeth Swann: I propose an exchange. Will leaves with us, and you can take Jack.
Will: Done!
Jack Sparrow: Undone!
Beckett: Done!
Barbossa: Jack's one of the nine pirate lords. You have no right-
Elizabeth Swann: King!
Jack Sparrow: As you command, your-
Barbossa: Blaggart! If ye have something to say, I might be sayin' something as well.
Jack Sparrow: First to the finish then?
Davy Jones: Do you fear death?
Jack Sparrow: You have no idea.
Beckett: Advise your brethren: You can fight, and all of you will die, or you can not fight, in which case only most of you will die.
Elizabeth Swann: You murdered my father.
Beckett: He chose his own fate.
Elizabeth Swann: Then you have chosen yours. We will fight, and you will die.
Beckett: So be it.

And from Silence, set in Edo Japan with Portuguese missionaries (17th century - c. 1637). Warning: this scene contains a graphic execution.
Rodriguez: I want to talk to him.
Interpreter: There's no hurry. It is early. Plenty of time.
Rodriguez: Tell me. Does he know I'm here?
Interpreter: I cannot tell you. I must not speak about the business of the Inquisitor's Office. But, I can tell you, he knows you are alive, because we told him you apostatized.
Interpreter: Now, do you know what they use those mats for?
Rodrigues: No...
Interpreter: Look, the guard. What could he be saying to Fr. Garupe? Maybe this. 'If you are truly a Christian, you will apostatize, and not let them die.'
Interpreter: You know, the Inquisitor promises that if Fr. Garupe apostatizes, the four will be free. I hope Fr. Garupe agrees.
Interpreter: I should tell you, these Christians already trampled and denied their faith at the Inquisitor's office.
Rodrigues: If they did what you wanted, then let them go! Let them go! They-they-they did what you wanted, so let them go! Please! Please! Please! Let them go!
Interpreter: We don't want them. Four farmers? There are still hundreds of Christian peasants on the islands off the coast. We want the padre to deny and be an example to them.
Garupe: Stop! Please!
Rodrigues (internal): Apostatize, apostatize, for their sake, Lord, do not leave this to us!
Garupe: No!
Rodrigues: No, no, no, Garupe, no!
Rodrigues: No no no no no!
Rodrigues: No! Please-please-please
Interpreter: It's a horrible business! Terrible! No matter how many times you see it. Think of the suffering you have inflicted on these people. Just because of your selfish dream of a Christian Japan. ...Through you! At least Garupe was clean. But you! You have no will! You do not deserve to be called a priest.

Braveheart - William Wallace and Murron are reunited (1297)
William: How did you know me after so long?
Murron: Why, I didn't.
William: No?
Murron: It's just, I saw you staring at me, and I didn't know who you were.
William: Well sorry, I suppose I was. Are you in the habit of riding off in the rain with strangers?
Murron: It was the best way to make you leave!
William: Well, if I can ever work up the courage to ask you again, I'll send you a written warning first.
Murron: Oh, it wouldn't do you much good, I can't read.
William: Can you not?
Murron: No.
William: Well that's something we shall have to remedy, isn't it?
Murron: You're gonna teach me to read then?
William: If you like.
Murron: Aye.
William: In what language?
Murron: You're sure enough, now.
William: Are you impressed yet?
Murron: No. Why should I be?
William:{speaks French}
Murron: Do that standing on your head, and I'll be impressed.
William: My kilt'll fly up, but I'll try.
Murron: God, you certainly didn't learn any manners on your travels!
William: The French and Romans have far worse manners than I.
Murron: You've been to Rome?
William: Aye, my uncle took me on a pilgrimage.
Murron: What was is like?
William: {speaks Italian}
Murron: What does that mean?
William: Beautiful. But I belong here.

Prince Caspian - Edmund is sent as an emissary to issue Peter's challenge to Miraz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry9ztvh8Ac8
General Glozelle: Perhaps they have terms of surrender.
Miraz: No. They are much too noble for that.
Edmund (reading): I, Peter, by the gift of Aslan, by election and by conquest, High King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Emperor of the Lone Islands, in order to prevent the abominable effusion of blood do hereby challenge the usurper Miraz to single combat upon the field of battle. The fight shall be to the death. The reward shall be total surrender.
Miraz: Tell me, Prince Edmund -
Edmund: King
Miraz: Pardon me?
Edmund: It's King Edmund, actually. Just King, though. Peter's the High King. I know, it's confusing.
Miraz: Why would we risk such a proposal when our armies would wipe you out by nightfall?
Edmund: Haven't you already underestimated our numbers? I mean, only a week ago, Narnians were extinct.
Miraz: And so you will be again.
Edmund: Well then you should have little to fear!
Miraz: This is not a question of bravery.
Edmund: So you're bravely refusing to fight a swordsman half your age?
Miraz: I didn't say I refused.
Counsellor: You shall have our support, your Majesty, whatever your decision.
Lord Sopespian: Sire, our military advantage alone provides the perfect excuse to avoid what-
Miraz: I'm not avoiding anything!
Lord Sopespian: I was merely pointing out that my lord was well within his rights to refuse.
General Glozelle: His majesty would never refuse. He relishes the chance to show the people the courage of their new king.
Miraz: You. You should hope your brother's sword is sharper than his pen.





These are all post-1995 Blockbuster films that cost millions of dollars to produce and were advertised to a wide (often international) audience. They are all serious dramas (though they may have comedic elements and comedic characters). Interestingly, accented English doesn't seem to have been an issue in these productions. They likely have a lot of restrictions that our project does not - we do not need to appeal to such a broad base. We can be more 'niche' in what we write. Unfortunately, such popular films do 'train' the general public not to expect any more archaicism than this, even in shows with historic settings. No one is asking or suggesting that we write dialogue that would fit in those films, though. Rhiannon, you are being given the nod to write dialogue like Tolkien did in the published Silmarillion. And I know you particularly like the -eth verb endings, but you are not finding much support for that idea here.

 
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Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
That doesn't really answer the question, though, does it? Because it isn't just me making this case. It's pretty much everyone creating content for general audiences. And a fair number of us here.

I'd challenge you to spend a weeks talking to strangers that way in like, supermarkets and restaurants and what not and see how many times they have trouble understanding.
UPDATE:

This is a lot of fun. I went to several stores today and used the kind of archaic language I use in the scripts in all my interactions with the staff and other customers. No one at Walmart, Goodwill, or the used furniture store I visited seemed to have any problem understanding me. When I was in Petsmart, a little boy I asked about the fish he was buying did not respond to me at first, but I believe that was due to shyness rather than lack of understanding. This is not a very large sample size, and I did not do very much talking today, but I will continue using archaic language to see what the effect is.

Also, I now have a new betta fish. His name is Finwe, and he didn't mind when I talked to him with archaic language on the drive home. :)
2507
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Nice fish!

Here are some examples of TV shows set in a historical context:

Reign (France c. 1557)
This show made very little attempt at historical accuracy of any sort.

Adam Bede (1799) - was this a movie or a TV show? I didn't know. I think it's BBC.

Outlander (1745) - English woman from post WWII falls back in time to mid-1700s Scotland.
(Everyone has clothes on in this scene)

Sleepy Hollow - a man from late 1700s America steps into the present day

Vikings (10th century?)
This show is on the History Channel. Which...might mean that there is some attempt at historicity? Some....

The Tudors
Anne of Cleves (1540)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqu1OS_Bhe4
Duke of Suffolk Charles Brandon talks to a ghost
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epzJaWechy8
Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More conversation (1528)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctmg9wbR2zc

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (1806-1816)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDujirtX8U4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KQ79BoKw9o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UElFFEmamGw

You'll note that two of the examples are mis-matched times - a character from the past enters the present, or a character from the present enters the past. This mis-match requires a distinction in forms of speech. There need to be words and mannerisms that set the time traveller apart. The last one is more rightly alternative history than actual history and a bit late to be on this list at all, but being a BBC production, the devotion to historical accuracy is...much higher than in some of the others.

Apart from actual productions of Shakespeare, I do not think you will find many video productions including the sort of language you are looking to include, and indeed Tolkien's dialogue in the published Silmarillion is more archaic than audiences will be expecting.
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
There’s a bit of a shift in dialogue when comparing the published Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin; for example Glaurung’s last words in the published version are “But the worst of all [Turin’s] deeds thou shalt feel in thyself”, while in the 2007 version of The Children of Hurin it’s “But the worst of all his deeds you shall feel in yourself.” I wonder why Christopher Tolkien (I’m assuming it’s him) made that change.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
Nice fish!

Here are some examples of TV shows set in a historical context:

Reign (France c. 1557)
This show made very little attempt at historical accuracy of any sort.

Adam Bede (1799) - was this a movie or a TV show? I didn't know. I think it's BBC.

Outlander (1745) - English woman from post WWII falls back in time to mid-1700s Scotland.
(Everyone has clothes on in this scene)

Sleepy Hollow - a man from late 1700s America steps into the present day

Vikings (10th century?)
This show is on the History Channel. Which...might mean that there is some attempt at historicity? Some....

The Tudors
Anne of Cleves (1540)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqu1OS_Bhe4
Duke of Suffolk Charles Brandon talks to a ghost
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epzJaWechy8
Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More conversation (1528)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctmg9wbR2zc

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (1806-1816)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDujirtX8U4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KQ79BoKw9o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UElFFEmamGw

You'll note that two of the examples are mis-matched times - a character from the past enters the present, or a character from the present enters the past. This mis-match requires a distinction in forms of speech. There need to be words and mannerisms that set the time traveller apart. The last one is more rightly alternative history than actual history and a bit late to be on this list at all, but being a BBC production, the devotion to historical accuracy is...much higher than in some of the others.

Apart from actual productions of Shakespeare, I do not think you will find many video productions including the sort of language you are looking to include, and indeed Tolkien's dialogue in the published Silmarillion is more archaic than audiences will be expecting.
Please realize that when I say "more archaic," I am not saying I want to go full Shakespeare instead of what Tolkien wrote. Really, the only ways I am wanting to go beyond the dialogue in the published Silmarillion is by using thee/thou with the associated verb forms in the informal second person, ye as plural second person, and -eth as the ending for third person singular verbs. The first two are used in other writings such as the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth. The third, Tolkien does use in some cases, and I want to use it more consistently for the reasons I outlined above. I am not saying that I want the dialogue in the scripts to stand as it is now, and I am perfectly willing to significantly reduce the use of -eth. I just do not think it should be eliminated altogether.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Please realize that when I say "more archaic," I am not saying I want to go full Shakespeare instead of what Tolkien wrote. Really, the only ways I am wanting to go beyond the dialogue in the published Silmarillion is by using thee/thou with the associated verb forms in the informal second person, ye as plural second person, and -eth as the ending for third person singular verbs. The first two are used in other writings such as the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth. The third, Tolkien does use in some cases, and I want to use it more consistently for the reasons I outlined above. I am not saying that I want the dialogue in the scripts to stand as it is now, and I am perfectly willing to significantly reduce the use of -eth. I just do not think it should be eliminated altogether.
I'd say that if keeping it is very important to you, restricting its use to the Fëanoreans makes sense. Having them come off as pompous seems fine to me.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
I'd say that if keeping it is very important to you, restricting its use to the Fëanoreans makes sense. Having them come off as pompous seems fine to me.
I agree that the Feanorians should, in general, sound a little more pompous, but I think this, like the difference between the Elves and Ainur, should not just be shown through single verb form; it should be shown through their overall language and evident even when they are not talking about others in the third person singular. I think a difference in accents would also be an excellent way to highlight this, and, with the accent I suggested for Noldor who made the þ > s shift, those -eth verbs would essentially be pronounced as if they ended in -s.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
I agree that the Feanorians should, in general, sound a little more pompous, but I think this, like the difference between the Elves and Ainur, should not just be shown through single verb form; it should be shown through their overall language and evident even when they are not talking about others in the third person singular. I think a difference in accents would also be an excellent way to highlight this, and, with the accent I suggested for Noldor who made the þ > s shift, those -eth verbs would essentially be pronounced as if they ended in -s.
I'd be a bit careful with that. All of these characters learned to speak in the same metropolitan area, with very little separation. Not only that, the change from "speaketh" to "speak" is hardly a trivial one in actual practice.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
I'd be a bit careful with that. All of these characters learned to speak in the same metropolitan area, with very little separation. Not only that, the change from "speaketh" to "speak" is hardly a trivial one in actual practice.
But the change would not be from "speaketh" to "speak;" it would be from "speaketh" to "speaks."
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
The thing is....keeping '-eth' in many cases does make the dialogue more archaic than Shakespeare! I know you don't plan to make anyone speak in iambic pentameter or rhymed couplets, and there is a limit to how much obsolete vocabulary we could employ without confusing the audience. Old words still in use are much safer, of course, and easier to write with!

I am not objecting to thee/thou/thy/thine nor ye.
And I understand that you can say 'Do you?' or 'Dost thou?' but that it would be weirdly mismatched to say 'Do thou?' (Though if you were a Quaker, you would say 'Do thee?')

So, to that point, we are agreed on how to proceed.

As Nick and I have both pointed out, the auxillary verbs keeping the -eth ending (hath, doth) was something that lingered longer in use than the -eth ending on main verbs and is less incongruous to a listener. Keeping it for main verbs sounds very archaic. You have explained why you want to use it in more instances than Tolkien did. I do not think it's a good idea, though, and I would STRONGLY recommend against doing so. I understand you are willing to make edits, and I am glad to hear that. I just also hear you saying you want to keep -eth for all elven speech in Season 4 and merely 'tone down' the number of times it appears by writing around the unmodified third person singular indicative, and I really don't support that choice in any way.


Here is one example from a Shakespearean play where the '-eth' ending is fully deployed, used on all appropriate verbs throughout. Portia's "The quality of mercy is not strained" speech from The Merchant of Venice is a courtroom speech. I'd have to go re-read the play to see if Portia always talks like this, or if she does solely in this scene in her role as young lawyer. And this professional actress sure does hit the emphasis on 'drop-peth' when delivering this line:

But...here's the thing. Even in Shakespeare, you don't necessarily always or even often find this grammar!

The St. Crispian Day speech from Henry V:

You will note appearances of 'hath' and 'rememberéd'...but no instances of 'cometh' or 'shedeth' - it is clearly spoken as 'comes' and 'sheds' in this Kenneth Branaugh production.

"To Be or Not to Be" from Mel Gibson's Hamlet:
This speech has few examples of the type of grammar requiring the '-eth' --> '-s' ending, though the cases that do appear (nearer the end) all employ '-s' (returns, does). What makes this speech archaic is certainly its vocabulary, as it contains many words no longer in use in modern English (bodkin, fardles, contumely, etc)

'Out, out, damn spot' from Macbeth:
This is meant to be disjointed mad ravings, but worth pointing out that we cast her in Silm Film as Nienna :p. Oh, and no '-eth'

Anthony Hopkins has played Titus Andronicus. It's quite obvious that they chose him for the role because of the Hannibal Lecter thing. The movie is set in a vaguely modern setting (perhaps 1920s?) - there are cars and somewhat modern costumes. But the language is preserved. There are 'hath's and 'doth's and 'art's and 'whilst' in this. The emperor and empress address people familiarly as 'thou.' But the main verbs all use '-s' rather than '-eth' when it is called for. If you do not know this play, then I warn you that the following scene is brutally violent.


Obviously, there are many adaptations of Shakespeare when it comes to staging or filming his plays - they can be set in any time/setting, and the language can be adapted or left as it is (director's choice). But the point here is that what you are asking to do goes beyond what Shakespeare did in terms of using 'archaic' grammar (I know, I know - it was current to him). To claim that audiences will just accept that and get used to it and be fine with it is a stretch. Can a reader/viewer put up with it? Sure, probably. Will they still understand what is going on on screen? As long as the actors are decent, the gist of the message will come across despite the words in the script. But this is a very big ask, and significantly departs from what Tolkien did in the published Silmarillion, where he reserved such language to the Valar rather than the Elves in Beleriand.
 
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Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
That's completely tangential to the point.
Sorry, I guess I misunderstood what you were trying to say. The point I was trying to make is that a difference is accent based on conveying the shift from "The Shibboleth of Feanor" would both differentiate between the Feanorians and the other Noldor and soften the effect of the -eth ending by making it sound more like the modern -s, so I was trying to make it clear that "speaketh" is not an alternate form of "speak" but of "speaks."

What exactly did you mean by that last post?
 
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