'Misspelled' Shakespearean statue leaves people puzzled

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"USC. The only place in America that can unveil a statue as the centerpiece of a 700 million-dollar project and manage to misspell Shakespeare," an official student-run account of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), @uclatheden, wryly tweeted.

The University of Southern California (USC) unveiled last week a new statue of Hecuba, queen of Troy, mentioned in Shakespeare's Hamlet. The statue, with a quote from Hamlet, is supposed to be the centerpiece of the USC's 700 million U.S. dollars new "Village" project.

But the 20-foot new statue of Greek mythological queen has left some students scratching their heads.

The sculpture, created by sculptor Christopher Slatoff, featured excerpt attributed to "Shakespear's Hamlet", which was noticeably missing a final "e" in the dramatist's last name.

The common spelling of the world's most famous playwright's name is "Shakespeare". Many visitors to the university also noticed the curious spelling. "Did the sculptor make a mistake?" a viewer was muttering.

Despite some criticism, USC is standing by the strange spelling, saying that the spelling is intentional, because of the way the statue looks.

"To E, or not to E, that is the question," USC quipped 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," the university said.

American Shakespearean and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stephen Greenblatt told Xinhua in an email that "the university's explanation is correct."

"Shakespeare's name was spelled in a variety of ways - in general, spelling in English was not regularized until well after his lifetime," the Harvard University professor said.

Did the Bard spell his name Shakespeare or Shakespear?

"The spelling 'Shakespeare' was standardized by custom about 80 years ago. One of the most distinguished Shakespeare scholars of the early 20th century, George Lyman Kittredge, used the spelling 'Shakespeare,' and there were other spellings before World War II," Roland Greene, a scholar of the early modern literature and of poetry and poetics from the 16th century to the present, told Xinhua.

"Nowadays it's uncommon to see nonstandard spellings but there's nothing wrong with them unless they make it obscure to whom they refer," the Stanford professor said in an email.

Slatoff's latest work towers over the Central Piazza in the middle of USC Village. The 12-foot-tall sculpture stands atop an 8-foot base that depicts six women of African, Asian, Caucasian, Latina, Native American and Eastern Mediterranean descent.

The excerpt, found on its base, reads:

"'And all for nothing, for Hecuba!

what's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,

That he should weep for her'

"Those intent on correcting might rather ask why there is no question mark at the end of the quote," said Ivan Lupic, a professor specializes in Shakespeare and early modern English literature. "We all know how we spell William's name today. That is not the question. However, artists should be allowed to spell as they please."

"To question or not to question, that is the question," he emailed to Xinhua.

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