I love Shakespeare, but not those who think they can speak for him.

Oh, Reader.

We could just as easily ask this gif. file for its opinion

I have a bone to pick. I was reading an article in The Guardian about multi-generational, -racial, -cultural theatre critics and was thoroughly enjoying it … until the end. The last sentence?

“Surely the Bard would approve.”


You know why? Because none of us have ANY idea. Why?

1) Shakespeare is dead, not a 21st century gossip blogger. If you ask him a question and he answers, you should probably seek psychiatric help.

2) Although it doesn’t apply in the case of this article, some people link hypothetical Shakespearean opinions to concepts/media that would have been foreign to somebody who lived in and died in the Renaissance.

3) Shakespeare did not provide us with an extensive biography, a list of aphorisms detailing his personal opinions, etc.

4) Few of his contemporaries left detailed anecdotes about Shakespeare’s life to apply to these sorts of things.

5) Shakespeare’s work holds layers of meanings. He had to veil his opinions so as to keep friends and dissuade powerful enemies. Although some of the parts he wrote seem to be men after his own heart (Prospero directing a scene with his magic book, Hamlet mourning a dead father at the time that Shakespeare was mourning the death of his son, and so forth), unless he told us specifically that this character’s opinions were his own, they could just be opinions that he was flirting with, rather than the gospel according to Shakespeare.

I could go on, but I won’t because no matter how much I whine about this, people will be prescribing opinions to Shakespeare for as long as his work are still in circulation. That being said, if I find someone on the blogosphere who hints at Shakespeare ‘rolling in his grave’ one more time, you can get ready for ‘Prepare for a proper schooling,’ Part 2.



Filed under Heated Response

3 responses to “I love Shakespeare, but not those who think they can speak for him.

  1. RA

    these people probably wouldn’t have known what he would have approved of even if he was alive! However, it would be cool to see him “rolling in his grave”.

  2. Pingback: New Year’s Resolution coming to life! « Why I love Shakespeare

  3. Pingback: Secret Diary of a PhD Candidate: Entry 5. Loving Shakespeare does not make me noble | The Shakespeare Standard

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