programming musings
09 Jul 2020

this is shakespeare

this-is-shakespeare.jpg

This Is Shakespeare: How to Read the World’s Greatest Playwright by Emma Smith

Emma Smith's tour through some of Shakespeare plays was a really interesting read. Her main thesis is that Shakespeare rarely provides answers, he just asks questions and plagues his plays with ambiguity: that's why every age finds works so modern, the key to their eternal relevance. We pick the interpretation that suits our times best, the genious being, of course, in writing something so malleable and covering so many facets of human experience.

One of the ways of being this wide is by a paucity of stage directions. For instance, in the final monologue of The taming of the shrew, there's no indication about the attitude and body language of Kate while she delivers her surrender, so one can imagine her kneeling and make it the misoginistic piece, or standing with a sneer, a stalwart of feminism (when i am feeling cynic, i suspect that Shakespeare was just being lazy, and the meaning was so obvious to everyone at the time, that no directions were needed).

Another funny example is discovering how A midsummer's night dream, our children and Christmas favourite, can very easily be read in a rather more lewd way.

I was also a bit surprised by how often Shakespeare reused and adapted plays and histories by other authors, most of them now forgotten. His genious here was of course writting them better and twisting their plots almost invariably to improve them; but it's funny to imagine what would have become of him in modern times, where the social media crowd would have immediatedly cried wolf, pointing their fingers to the plagiarist (and god knows what else) and asking to #CancelShakespeare.

Anyway, a very entertaining and highly recommended book!

Tags: books
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