Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kirsch, Adam. "Is Milton Better than Shakespeare?" NEW YORK SUN May 21, 2008.

Smith, Nigel. Is Milton Better than Shakespeare?. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2008. It would be hard to dispute that Shakespeare's plays are more powerful, and more central to our culture, than Milton's biblical epics or his artfully classical lyrics. Around the world, when people dream about true love, they think of Romeo and Juliet; when they thrill with ambition, they think of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and so on down the list of Shakespeare's characters. Harold Bloom could even speculate, not quite in jest, that Shakespeare invented human nature, so completely does he seem to dominate our imagination of what it means to be human. Ever since Paradise Lost was published in 1667, Milton has been acclaimed as a supreme English poet, Shakespeare's only rival in linguistic mastery. Yet even at the height of his prestige, in the 18th century, Milton never inspired the kind of ardent intimacy that readers bring to Shakesepare. Nor is it simply our lazy generation, unused to reading long poems and deaf to the majesty of Milton's artifice, that has relegated Paradise Lost to the seminar room. Even Samuel Johnson, in his "Life of Milton," wrote that "Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire harassed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek for companions." . . . Read the rest here: http://www.nysun.com/arts/doing-battle-with-the-bard/76756/.

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