History | August 26, 2017 5:00 am

Controversy Surrounding the Spelling of ‘Shakespeare’ on New USC Statue

To 'e' or not to 'e'?

The rivalry between USC and UCLA goes back so far, most people don’t even remember when, or how, it started. But the most recent edition of the cross-town debate is a little different this time.

Last week, the University of Southern California revealed a new statue of Hecuba, queen of Troy, as part of a $700-million project. The statue features verses from Hamlet, writes The Los Angeles Times, and the playwright’s name is noticeably missing a final “e.”

The base of the 20-foot-statue reads:

“And all for nothing — For Hecuba!

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,

That he should weep for her?”

Shakespear’s Hamlet”

Students from the University of California Los Angeles noticed the glaring detail and pointed it out in a tweet on Monday.


The 12-foot statue of Hecuba — which includes an 8-foot base that depicts six women from different ethnic backgrounds — was created by sculptor Christopher Slatoff, who worked on the piece for more than two years. It is in the middle of a new development, the USC Village, which includes student housing, a 30,000-square-foot fitness center, restaurants, a Trader Joe’s, and a Target, reports The Los Angeles Times. 

But USC is standing by the spelling, saying that there are many different variations of Shakespeare.

“To E, or not to E, that is the question,” USC said in a statement, according to The Los Angeles Times. “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.”

And the university may just be correct. Caroline McManus, a 17th century English literature professor at Cal State Los Angeles, says that spelling was not standardized in English during Shakespeare’s time like it is now.

“We see Shakespeare’s name spelled in different ways on documents written during his time period,” she said to The Los Angeles Times. 

There seem to be three many variations: Shakespear, Shakspere and Shakespeare.

The big reveal. Welcome Hecuba, Queen of Troy. ?✌️#USCVillage

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So USC and UCLA will just have to add this to the list of things to fight over for decades.