No Love for the Bard

Why I hate Shakespeare

I don’t actually hate Shakespeare. The trouble is, I don’t speak or read Olde English. Nor was I actually taught Olde English in school. This would have been a good intro to reading The Bard. Instead I was told that the Shakespeare was the greatest writer in world and now we were going to read his works and appreciate them.

“For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?”

Blah, blah, blah. For paragraphs. Not so much paragraphs – endless run on sentences. Saying what? “Quietus”? “Bodkin”? “Fardels”? I grew up reading Marvel Comics in the seventies. I never heard of those words. (If you think that’s an admission of illiteracy you’ve obvioulys never read Stan’s Soapbox.)

Context is everything. Brilliance is pointless if the audience hasn’t a clue what they’re seeing/hearing. Reading that snippet of Hamlet’s whine now I find that, hey, this is some fancy stuff. It might be good. Maybe. But I still ask now what I wondered in my teenaged brain when first confronted with this tedious majesty – Who talks like that? The Olde English? Really? Prove it.

(Not really. Rhetorical question. I’ve read other Olde English. Gives me a headache. I know they talked like that. Sorta. But I would have better appreciated Shakespeare’s writing if I’d gotten a dose of what his contemporaries were hacking out at the same time.)

The point is I was never taught why Shakespeare was brilliant, only told he was and then expected to explain his brilliance for the teacher.

Glad we finally got that cleared up.