ARGUING THAT SHAKESPEARE CAN’T BE TRANSLATED BECAUSE THERE IS NO SINGLE “MEANING”. I have posted a number of times on William Empson, whose SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY had a strong influence on how I read literature. I posted here, for example, on Empson’s claim that every one of the scholars’ differing contentions about the possible meanings of passages in Shakespeare that are found in the footnotes to the Arden Shakespeare is correct. This article at the Nautilus site ( by Jillian Hinchliffe and Seth Frey (link via artsandlettersdaily) explains the contention of Stephen Booth, an emeritus professor at Berkeley, that the effort to arrive at a single interpretation of a Shakespeare sonnet is only the result of habit. Hinchliffe and Frey quote Booth’s focus on “the links that spread out from each word based on ‘its sound, sounds that resemble it, its sense, its potential senses, their homonyms, their cognates, their synonyms, and their antonyms.’”

Booth argues that these patterns work on readers and audiences without their noticing them. Hinchliffe and Frey say: “What’s essential to Booth is that for readers and audiences—for everyone but the professional critic—these patterns usually remain below the threshold of our attention.”

In other words, Shakespeare’s poetic language works its wonders independently of our conscious efforts to paraphrase or translate.

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