Another tiny postscript to the Stephen Marche piece. Here he is in the Paris Review today (thanks to Nicholas Morris for the heads-up):

When I think about other writers, I probably remember their lives more clearly at first than their work—Hemingway in Paris, Joyce in Trieste, all that junk. With Shakespeare, there just is nothing there. I guess I found that liberating because he is so counter to everything that we’re supposed to admire about writers: he wrote for money, he was in no sense an innovator, and he didn’t live this grand amazing life.

I should find this more agreeable, I suppose, but it seems to miss the mark the other way, falling short where the book overshot by a mile. “In no sense an innovator” — really? The chronicle play has to count for something, no? (With a little help from Marlowe.) And the development of the soliloquy in English drama owes a little to Shakespeare, too, I’d have thought. Plus the genre of romantic comedy. And so on. That he didn’t invent or change everything doesn’t mean he didn’t have any new ideas at all.

Yes, the “world’s mad love” for him. My whole book’s about it basically, because I find it so bizarre just how much influence he had. For people, like me, who love early-modern drama the way that Dylan fans love Dylan, it’s just weird that theater companies will happily put on Henry VI or King John and never think of The Revenger’s Tragedy or even The White Devil. Thomas Middleton was such a magnificent playwright and there wasn’t even a reliable collected works until 2008.

I couldn’t agree more. Not sure how writing a book about how Shakespeare enabled Obama and put skulls on teenagers’ clothes helps with redressing that imbalance, though. In other words: the cultural dominance of Shakespeare may have just a little to do with people constantly reasserting, exaggerating, even inventing the pervasive cultural influence of Shakespeare.

And now I’ll stop writing about Stephen Marche, lest I come across as someone who’s on a personal vendetta of some sort. I’m really not.

2 Responses to So Now Shakespeare Didn’t Change Anything?

  1. Portia says:

    I find it extraordinary that Anglo-American audiences attend Shakespeare plays and camp out for Shakespeare festivals. This not because I fail to enjoy the plays, quite the opposite – I enjoy them very much. But I’m a nerdy Tudor historian. What’s everyone else doing there trying to make sense of 16C lingo and get jokes that were old when Shakespeare included them in his plays?

  2. Giulia says:

    “he was in no sense an innovator”. Well, I suppose writing a book about someone’s influence is very innovating. Honestly, he’s just giving in to Shakespeare “fame”, but through the dark side of it, you know, to innovate.

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