Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shakespeare's Birthday

 I once made the mistake of sharing my dislike for Thomas Hardy with a teacher (I dislike quite a few of those authors you’re supposed to like) and she turned to me and said: “you can’t say that! That’s like saying you don’t like Shakespeare or something!” And yet, I hated Shakespeare when I was in school.  English lessons were spent going through Macbeth at a painstakingly slow pace: translating word-for-word until the meaning was lost.  

You can acknowledge a writer’s cleverness, contribution to Psychology, that the literary canon is essentially based on them without actually enjoying their writing.  It can be so easy to get wrapped up in a name which has essentially become a brand that everything he ever touched is deemed a masterpiece.  Some of his stuff isn’t brilliant: I think it’s about time we admitted that, no? 

It’s interesting though, when somebody says that they dislike Shakespeare, how the common assumption is that they simply don’t understand him.  They’re missing something.  And maybe some of them are, his language is different from ours, the topics are complex, but it’s a lazy assumption to think that he’s the greatest writer we have and only uncultured people don’t like him.

I guess you could say that I admire him from a distance.  I love some of his plays and sonnets: they're just brilliant. Some of his other stuff, however, I always find wouldn't really be as loved as it is if it didn't have his name attached to it.  Yes, it's wonderful that we're celebrating him but I also think it’s about time we stopped insisting that everybody should love his work.  "But it's Shakespeare!" shouldn't be a valid response to someone saying they didn't like something he wrote.Let me know what you think – I’m so interested to see if anyone else agrees with me…..or if I’ve just alienated all of my readers! (Hopefully not…!)
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char said...

I really do agree, I think it's sort of ridiculous how some of the more famous writers get viewed with those rose-tinted glasses which suggest that everything they ever created was amazing. Of course it wasn't. I like some of Shakespeare's work, whilst finding some of it really dull. I think it's wrong to make such broad generalisations.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Shakespeare has written some amazing works, but when writing such a huge amount of poems and plays, it's only logical that not all of them are masterpieces. Even one of my professors at university (I study English Language and Culture) said so. He also said it's a pity that there is such a great focus on Shakespeare while there were some other fantastic (maybe even better) writers in that time as well. I guess it's partly to do with the quantity of his work, too, and the huge contributions to the English vocabulary he has made.

Becki Explorer said...

Urgh...Thomas Hardy. I am not a fan either!! I completely agree about not liking an author for the sake of them being "classic". Ultimately, literature is an art and certain art reaches certain people....not everyone has the same opinion about the same works.

B x

Amanda Johansson said...

What a great post. I couldn't agree more. I've always said that reading should be about enjoyment and not painstakingly analysing every single word.

It's a shame when the brand overpowers the actual work. Like you said, it's a lazy assumption for people to make.

Really great article! :) x

Amanda Johansson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlotte said...

Well said! I enjoy some of Shakespeare's works, but I don't think we should take it for granted that everything a well-known writer produces is going to be great

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