By John Rogers
Visitors to the University of Southern California might well be muttering, “What fools these mortals be” as they stroll past a statue of the legendary queen of Troy and notice William Shakespeare’s name seemingly misspelled at its base.
To USC officials, it’s much ado about nothing.
“To E, or not to E, that is the question,”’ the school responded in a statement week when asked why Shakespeare’s name is missing the last letter E in a quotation attributed to him.
The school noted Shakespeare has been spelled nearly two dozen different ways over the years. Officials say they settled on Shakespear, a spelling popular in the 18th century, because of the “ancient feel”’ sculptor Christopher Slatoff brought to his larger-than-life bronze work of Queen Hecuba.
The bard himself was known to switch up the spelling of his last name during his lifetime, although he did spell it Shakespeare on the last page of his will, filed shortly before his death in 1616.
He referenced Hecuba in several of his works, most prominently in Hamlet, in which Hamlet asks how the legendary queen of Troy grieved over the death of her husband, King Priam.
Her statue was unveiled to great fanfare at last week’s opening of the school’s new USC Village.
The $700 million project brings new restaurants, retail stores, and other amenities to both students and the general public, as well as 2,500 new units of student housing. It represents the largest expansion in USC’s history.
Hecuba was commissioned as a female counterpart to Tommy Trojan, the popular life-size bronze of a Trojan warrior that stands in the center of campus. Unveiled in 1930, Tommy Trojan has become a mascot of sorts to a school whose sports teams are the Trojans.
“This is our commitment to all of the women of the Trojan family,” USC president C. L. Max Nikias said at Hecuba’s unveiling.