REWRITING SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS. I have posted from time to time about the debate over whether Shakespeare’s vocabulary in his plays should be updated to be more easily understood by members of the audience. The rewrites of the sonnets by Santayana and by Pound’s disciple represent calls for much more sweeping changes in poetry. They challenge Shakespeare as part of a broader debate over what modern poetry should be like. If you want to change poetry, Shakespeare is a good target to guarantee you attention.
Santayana was defending much of nineteenth century American verse. Although Santayana created the word “genteel”—which ever since has been used to criticize traditional poetry—his revision of Sonnet 29 made a dramatic point: There would be a great loss if Sonnet 29 and the tradition that followed it were abandoned.
As for Pound, he was engaged in an attack on most English poetry (and poetry in other languages). He was very influential.