Friday, March 07, 2008

Porter, Peter. "How Shakespeare Started Out." TIMES March 5, 2008.

One of the fascinations of literary scholarship is its hold on writers of our own time. Contemporary poets read Shakespeare almost as if he were a rival, or some sort of perennial vade mecum of technical forms and approaches. John Berryman, embodying that special concept of his time, the “anxiety of influence”, went so far as to lament having written so much verse when he might have spent his life editing King Lear. Even without the expanding needs of modern education, Shakespeare would be with us in hundreds of studies year by year. What remains to be said that is new? Must all evaluation be reassessment in historical and lexicographical terms, or forays into literary value-judging, a procedure with hundreds of books behind it, from ancient Bradley to latest Kermode? The present fascination with Shakespeare’s life and some of its more speculative corners (E. A. J. Honigman’s Lost Years, James Shapiro’s 1599 and Charles Nicholls’s The Lodger) turns out to be as packed with basic literary criticism as any of their more orthodox predecessors. However equivocal Shakespeare’s record may be, his is one of the most familiar presences in our lives. . . . Read the rest here:

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