The Problem of Shakespeare I dreamt last night that Shakespeare’s Ghost Sat for a civil service post. The English paper for that year Had several questions on King Lear Which Shakespeare answered very badly Because he hadn’t read his Bradley.
The Problem of Shakespeare <ul><li>His canonical position
“ an Upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers […] supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you” (Greene)
“ having small Latin and less Greek” (Ben Jonson)
“ As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: so Shakespeare among ye English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage” (Francis Meres)
John Heminges and Henry Condell assembled all the dramatic works of Shakespeare in 1623 in what is today known as the First Folio. This proves a high degree of interest in Shakespeare.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is “the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life” Samuel Pepys
In 1741, a monument was erected to Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey.
“After an hundred and thirty years’nap, Enter Shakespear, with a loud clap” Alexander Pope
“ Shakespeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice […] but since all reasonable beings naturally love justice, I cannot easily be persuaded that the observation of justice makes a play worse. Dr Samuel Johnson about King Lear
“Make out your amplest catalogue of all the human facultites […] and then compare with Shakespeare under each of these heads all or any of the writers in prose or verse that have ever lived! Who, that is competent to judge, doubts the results?” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1836
A.C. Bradley, the first academic critic to heavily impact Shakespeare studies, argued that Shakespeare could serve as proof of a stable and unchanging human nature. (Published in 1904 but written earlier)
By presenting Shakespeare’s characters as representative of unchanging types, people believed they had an argument against Darwin and evolution. Thus, Shakespeare was used as a cultural weapon.
Is Shakespeare a product of his time? <ul><li>Is he for all times?
Are his texts privileged and if so, why? </li></ul>
The Problem of Drama <ul><li>Where is the text?