My Secret Vice

I have a confession to make, something that I have never told anyone before, but I feel it’s time to come out of the closet.

 

Okay, maybe not quite that shocking. Here it is. I like to read Shakespeare’s plays, for pleasure.

The problem with Shakespeare is that over the centuries, the literary critics and the intellectuals have gotten hold of him. They have given the impression that the only way to read Shakespeare is with furrowed brow, studying the great themes he put in his plays, etc. Shakespeare himself, if he came back from the grave, would probably laugh at all of the interpretations of his plays, and explain that Hamlet was a rush job, or that the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet was written while he was drunk. Isaac Asimov actually wrote a short story, The Immortal Bard,  in which a scientist brings Shakespeare to our time. He is amused by all of the commentary his plays had produced and takes a college course on his own plays. The scientist has to send him back in humiliation when he flunks out.

Shakespeare was not writing for the ages. He wrote his plays for his audience. And, they are good, really good. They are full of action, romance, even humor. The language is a bit difficult but not insurmountable. The meanings of most of the more archaic words can be deduced from context. The blank verse takes a little getting used to but it’s not so hard. After a while you get to actually enjoy the rhythms.

Shakespeare’s characters talk more than is usually the case in modern plays and movies. This is because he did not have the advantage of modern technology to create special effects. Nor could he use such camera techniques as close-ups or various angle shots. He couldn’t usually show a battle with hundreds of soldiers on stage. A lot of the action had to take place off stage with the actors describing what was happening. He couldn’t show a flashback. An actor had to say what had happened before the events of the play. The soliloquys were the best technique he had for telling the audience what was on the character’s minds.

When you take into account the limitations that Shakespeare had to work with, his genius is all the more incredible. I can’t help but wonder what he would have made with all the technology of modern Hollywood, and why there are no contemporary Shakespeares.

Anyway, try reading and watching his plays. You’ll like them, trust me.

Oh, and if you want to insult someone and don’t want to use the usual stand-bys, there’s the Shakespearean insulter, thou weedy, common-kissing pignut!

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