Prufrock's Page

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Where There's A Will, There's A Play

In an observation that's sure to strike a chord with all of us here, James Shapiro says that he hated William Shakespeare during his teenage years: "What pleasure I might have found in his work was killed off by my teachers. Dissecting his lines in English class seemed as pointless an exercise as cutting up a frog in the biology lab. Though I studied hard, his plays felt alien, their language impenetrable."

This attitude changed, however, when he began watching the plays on stage: "Over time, I saw scores of productions. In those days, with a little diligence, one could hunt down a ground-breaking production of almost any one of Shakespeare's plays."

Which is why he's particularly enthused about rhe Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works Festival, that will stage the entire canon over the next 12 months. Commenting on the lesser-known plays, Shapiro makes the interesting point that "what gets lost is Shakespeare's restlessness, his unusual development as a writer, his daring refusal to stick to what had brought him success. His less successful experiments have as much to tell us about the nature of his accomplishment as his masterpieces do: the RSC festival should make clearer how Shakespeare could have found his way to Hamlet only through Titus Andronicus, while the seeds of Pericles and The Tempest were sown early on in The Comedy of Errors."


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