Shakespeare As a Dramatist
The facts about Shakespeare are interesting in themselves, but they have little to do with his place in literature. Shakespeare wrote his plays to give pleasure. It is possible to spoil that pleasure by giving too much attention to his life, his times, and the problem of figuring out what he actually wrote. He can be enjoyed in book form, in the theater, or on television without our knowing any of these things. Some difficulties stand in the way of this enjoyment. Shakespeare wrote more than 350 years ago. The language he used is naturally somewhat different from the language of today. Besides, he wrote in verse. Verse permits a free use of words that may not be understood by some readers. His plays are often fanciful. This may not appeal to matter-of-fact people who are used to modern realism. For all these reasons, readers may find him difficult. The worst handicap to enjoyment is the notion that Shakespeare is a “classic,” a writer to be approached with awe. The way to escape this last difficulty is to remember that Shakespeare wrote his plays for everyday people and that many in the audience were uneducated. They looked upon him as a funny, exciting, and lovable entertainer, not as a great poet. People today should read him as the people in his day listened to him. The excitement and enjoyment of the plays will banish most of the difficulties.
Dr. Johnson’s analysis of Shakespeare is very judicious. It analyses both the merits and demerits of Shakespeare’s plays, Dr. Johnson praises Shakespeare for his faithful depiction of human nature. He found that Shakespeare made nature predominate over accident, that he depicted the influence of the general passions, and that he successfully presented life in its native colours. Shakespeare offers characters who think, speak and act as normal human beings in like situations. The dialogue is level with life because he “approximates the remote and familiarises the wonderful.” The language of...
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