Or so says a certain Charles Darwin, of our dear friend Mr. Shakespeare.
So I was led to believe when I saw that quote float by my Twitter stream earlier today (full quote: “I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and I find it so intolerably dull it nauseated me.”)
Curious, I googled the phrase to see if there was some context around it. Guess what I found? Darwin’s autobiography. Thank you, Google Books:
I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music. Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. On the other hand, novels, which are works of the imagination, though not of a very high order, have been for years a wonderful relief and pleasure tome, and I often bless all novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily—against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if a pretty woman all the better.
Emphasis mine, of course. The man’s talking about how he’s changed as he’s gotten older. It’s not that he’s singling out Shakespeare not in the least. And he’s also not making any sorts of proclamation that Shakespeare is lame. On the contrary he sounds to me a bit sad that he no longer has the appreciation for these things that he once did. Note after the Shakespeare bit that he even says pictures and music don’t really do it for him either anymore, only novels. And even then, only certain novels. You have to dig the joke at the end about characters whom one can thoroughly love. :)