domingo, outubro 09, 2016

Articulated Shakespeare: "Shakespeare After All" by Marjorie Garber


I've always tried to avoid judging a 16th-17th century playwright by 21st century standards. To truly appreciate Shakespeare's work one has to make the effort of being conversant with 16th-17th century ecosystem (literature, culture, etc.). In so many ways, Shakespeare’s characters created the archetypes that define who we are (or at least give us a language to understand ourselves). What I liked the most about Garber's book was her ability to reading into the plays in some plays and reading out of them in some others. At the end of the book, almost all of her choices seemed right to me. In some instances I didn't agree with her reading. "Pericles" ("The Incest Riddle" seemed far-fetched to say the least) and the "Winter's Tale" come to mind. On some other instances, her analysis was spot on. Coriolanus is one of those examples. Thank God I only read Garber's book after having finished reading and writing about each one of the plays. Even a long time Shakespeare reader and viewer like myself was able to find new insights into Shakespeare's work. Another "piece of wisdom" I extracted from her book was related to Shakespeare's apparent artificiality.  



Garber's reading into Shakespeare's confirms my own viewing, i.e., in Shakespeare there's always a contract between us readers and him. He knows we've got to accept some premises (meaning: one has to accept some degree of Suspension of Disbelief right at the outset). Thinking on my favourite play, Hamlet’s plot is put in motion by a ghost. Do I mind that? Not in the least. I know I’m buying the assertion so I can be placed into that special space where only Shakespeare can put me. I know these bunch of characters will behave in a particularly human way. Shakespeare defines full-fledged characters, and they are characterized by their weaknesses, and those weaknesses are outside the simple categories of being absolute evil and absolute good (read my take on Richard III to see what I mean by this). This is the only way I can explain Hamlet’s coldness toward Ophelia. This is the only way I can "explain" Shylock. Shakespeare's Shylock is a mix of frugality, justice, and paternal love. Shakespeare redefines us as weak, and flawed. To do so, he puts us into hard-to-believe situations in which we speak in iambic pentameter, and occasionally utter thoughts only newly recognized as inner voices. Garber's was able to articulate all this in a very satisfactory manner. Not an easy task by all means.

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