Saturday, April 23, 2011

Don't Analyze Shakespeare ?

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)“If we were theatre practitioners, we might claim that Shakespeare’s plays should always be regarded as scripts for performance, not texts to be analyzed in the study or classroom.  We might argue that the force-feeding of Shakespeare’s demanding language to schoolchildren for the purposes of examination is positively destructive of the enjoyment and enlightenment that the plays offer in performance when the momentum of the plot and the relationships between the characters are so forceful that it does not matter if we find ourselves not entirely sure what is meant by phrases such as Hamlet’s ‘Against the which, a moiety competent / Was gaged by our king’, or the Fool’s ‘O, nuncle, court holy-water in a dry house is better than this rain water out o’door’. We might say that theatre is drama before it becomes literature, that Shakespeare is most Shakespearean when actor and audience meet in the live, shared space of a playhouse. In support of this view, it might be argued that whereas Ben Jonson carefully prepared his plays for publication, Shakespeare showed no interest in the immortalization of his drama in print. He was a working playwright, the first to have the position of in-house dramatist within a theatre company. He wrote for particular actors, particular stage spaces, particular audiences (public, private and courtly). He would be astonished to discover that his scripts have been turned into literature and submitted to more interpretations – moral, psychological, formal, political, sociological, historical, philosophical, biographical – than any other writings in the history of the world with the exception of Holy Scripture.” Jonathan Bate, AVSI English Literature, p115.
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