Whyfore didn’t I know?
And howfore did I get involved? The error in fact — if, in factfore it was an error — was printed on another news site in another state, nowhere nigh the newspaper for which I scribble.
The news story was about a Florida guy named Abraham Shakespeare who won $31 million in the lottery in 2006 and since disappeared. A headline asked “Wherefore art thou, Mr. Shakespeare?”
That lit a flame under sis-in-law Christine’s keyboard quill:
“Anyone who has ever studied Shakespeare knows that Juliet was in no way asking WHERE IS Romeo when she uttered those lines ‘…Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?’
“To use the headline ‘Wherefore art thou?’ in the story about the man who is missing is just silly, not to mention uneducated. You are asking, ‘Why are you Mr. Shakespeare?’”
Christine sent me a copy of her literary lesson, knowing that I would guff a hearty haw at the other newsman’s ignorance. Instead, I just guffed.
I, too, thought the phrase was ancient English for “Yo, dude, where you at?” But I looked it up on Wikipedia, that font of all knowledge written by anyone with access to the Internet, and Christine is correct.
“Romeo and Juliet,” as you may recall from movies or Slim Jims commercials, is based on a play written by Bill “The Bard” Shakespeare in which the offspring in rival street gangs, the Capulets and the Montagues — also known as the Jets and the Sharks — fall in love, talk a lot, and die in pointless suicides. It’s a romantic comedy.
In their big balcony scene, Juliet gazes out her castle window and utters those immortal words, “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”
I thought the next line was, “Down here in the bushes! The ladder broke!”
That’s also incorrect. It’s “Deny thy father and refuse thy name; / Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
Roughly translated into plain English, Juliet whines, “Oh, Romey, why are you a Montague? If you were born a Capulet like me, we could have gone to the prom, got married and had a mortgage of our own.”
The less poetic speech my sister-in-law laid on the other news outfit was, “Has your writer no English degree? Have none of your editors an English degree?”
I work at a newspaper. Wherefore would I want an English degree? It’s not practical.
Christine was an English major. It got her a job as a flight attendant.
My degree is in journalism — news. I studied things like news writing, editing, page design, photography, American politics, psychology, sociology, economics and data analysis. Shakespeare never came up.
I sidestepped him in high school, too, except for one minor skirmish with Caesar’s ears and Brutus eating one, too. To quote a Woody Allen play, it sounded like “Much Ado About Nothing” to me, sort of like a mid-winter’s nightmare.
But thanks to my sis-in-law and her English degree, I have been educated. Now I know that “wherefore” means “why,” though I still don’t know “how” this makes any sense.
Still, as Yogi Berra famously said, “All’s well that ends well.”