My battle with Shakespeare

The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1849 by Sir John Gilbert

I have, for a very long time, been told of the beauty of Shakespeare’s works; of how is the best playwright in the English language, and among the best writers of the classic cannon. I have, on the several occasions I have had to read and study Shakespeare, been had it drilled into my head that his plays are incredible, remarkable. And a small part of me has always fought tooth and nail against it. Why should I think there is no better writer than Shakespeare just because several others think so? I have seen how bawdy and vulgar he can be. What is so beautiful about his plays? How exactly is he different from every other famous playwright?

If I have struggled with Shakespeare, it is not so much because the Elizabethan language has gone over my head, but that I rebelled against being told what to think about the Bard. I wanted to be able to form my own opinion about him, and so I have battled my way through  the plays of his that I have read. I cannot say that I did not appreciate a few of his works. However, I refused to think him remarkable. For me, Marlowe was a better playwright because of the raw passion that comes through in his plays.

And yet…I have found myself, of late, wondering if perhaps there is merit in the Bard’s cannon position. No doubt there is if there are several who believe so and adore him. However, for me, as a reader of Shakespeare, on a more personal level, I have begun to see some merit in his works.

It has crept in upon me, slowly but steadily over the past five years, as I discovered I was better able to appreciate the likes of Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s DreamHamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and so on whenever I watched a stage or movie performance. So much in the dialogue begins to make sense when I see Shakespeare in action. I have begun to understand the endless possibilities of character portrayals simply because of the universality of his men and women that walk the pages of almost every conceivable human emotion. I have also begun to comprehend the stage-directions within the dialogue that gives the text a vast lee-way for interpretation in the imagination of the reader.

And so, for my personal enjoyment of what I am beginning to discover of Shakespeare, I have decided to do my own step-by-step reading of his plays; perhaps adding in my bit of stage-direction from what I read of his scenes; probably even re-writing sections into my imaginative prose. I intend watching whatever I can or may, if time permits, that will help me to study various portrayals of the Shakespearean works I read. In essence, I am simply going to have fun with Shakespeare on my own, in my own way!