Friday, June 20, 2008

Cranky Geeks

Talking about Macbeth today, my 25yr old coworker told me that the only play he really remembers well from school is Hamlet.

"Maybe I'm just going through my cranky geek phase," say I, "But Hamlet has just lost its luster for me.  There comes a time when you study it so much and you've analyzed every word, it's just so hard to appreciate the brilliance anymore.  It's hard to argue that it is perfection when you know for a fact that Shakespeare wrote at least 3 different versions of something.  Which one is better?  Why?  Did he just change it at will, and we only have those few copies?"

I wonder if that's true for the real hardcore Shakespeare academics, or if they simply take it to a different level.   I remember thinking during Rosenbaum's Shakespeare War how often he commented on questions that were impossible to answer, but the pursuit of those answers anyway.  As an engineer that hurts my brain.  If I know a question to be unanswerable, then dwelling on it would make me depressed.  And if we basically say, "We don't know which version is 'more Shakespearean' and never will", that does not motivate me to hunt for the answer, it makes me sad that the answer does not exist.

Anybody know what I'm talking about?  I think I'm more into Lear lately not just because I'm the father of daughters, but also because it is relatively new ground to me.  I haven't analyzed it into the ground yet.


Alan K.Farrar said...

Could just be you've realised Hamlet ain't that good?

Anyway - I was just thinking about a related topic for a quick blog: I caught a part of a T.V. programme on an artist with quite a relevant quote.

"Art critics aim to remove the ambiguity - the artist to keep it in"

Said, of course, by an artist.

He went on to point out that critics treat their subjects (artists - and, by extension, playwrights) like idiots - as if they were too stupid to make something without a clear simple explanation - that ambiguity is not allowable.

Stop trying to make the text understandable? Enjoy the ambiguity? Follow the question Shakespeare asks and find as many answers - don't reduce.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Done the blog -

which makes a little clearer what I am on about (I hope).

Craig Bryant said...

Well, I think Hamlet is fantastic, but it is certainly also the most overrated work in all of English Literature (just as Shakespeare is the most overrated writer--the best, yes, but also overrated; he's not God, and he didn't "invent" humanity). Anyway, Hamlet speaks to me differently today than it did when I was a teenager, and perhaps it will speak differently to you at another time. Who knows what new production, what essay or comment or indebted work of art will open up a new angle on it for you someday? In the meantime, why worry? There are 37 other Shakespeare plays to enjoy, and that's before we even start blowing the dust off Marlowe, Jonson, Middleton...