Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Your Favorite Question

There are many “questions” about Shakespeare’s life and work.  There’s of course the big Authorship question, but also a whole bunch about his married life, that other woman, whether he was even heterosexual, who was Mr. W.H.…and then there’s questions within the work itself:  was Hamlet mad?  Did Gertrude know?  Sullied or solid? :)

Some questions annoy people, and we take the position that it’s not really a question at all.  Others, though, tend to merit lively discussion.

Which are your favorite questions?  You’re at a party and you hear people discussing Shakespeare – which topic do you studiously avoid, and which do you jump in with an “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing…”

As is probably obvious to my regular readers, I’m always interested in questions about the work more than the man.  While it’s interesting to me (mostly as a married man) whether Shakespeare was happily married or shotgunned into it, I just don’t think we’ll ever know. 

For the record, I realize that “questions about the work” could be considered simply “preference of interpretation” and thus there is no right answer.  What I’m talking about is Shakespeare’s original intent.  If we went back in time 400 years and watched these plays performed (assuming we could understand a bloody word of it!) would we see someone playing Hamlet as mad, or just putting on an antic disposition?


Anonymous said...

The problem I have with the Shakespeare Authorship: there are so many guys with their 'hats in the ring.' DeVere/Bacon/Marlowe/Neville/even the queen herself.
If one is conviced the man from Stratford did not write the plays, what do you do flip a coin? Each of these guys have their prolific followers. Marlowe is the latest big on on the scene. But the DeVere guys will argue their case against his. And there is the Bacon Society. It goes on and on. I think the Bard from Stratford is on solid ground for now.These guys just cancel each other out.

catkins said...

Anonymous zeroed in on the question I studiously avoid--the authorship question. Aside from the problems pointed out, the whole issue is one that was raised initially based on false assumptions and then fueled by even flimsier ones. But it just seems to have a life of its own. So I guess it deserves its own blog:)

As for my favorite question, I think the broader it is the better. Like, someone discussing favorite Shakespeare plays. Or even least liked Shakespeare plays. That gives me the best opportunity to talk about the most fun things about Shakespeare. If I hear something too narrow, especially too close to what I specialize in (like Shakespearean punctuation) I am likely to get very interested, but too likely to get too technical, and I fear, boring.