The Joy of Lex

As noted below, when I stumble upon useful and relevant websites (I know it’s subjective, but somebody has to speak up), I plan on sharing them with you — and I hope you’ll do likewise.

For years I’ve been complaining about the pointless and unnecessary (and redundant and run-on and paranthetical) gap that exists between pop culture and the highbrow arts (so-called). If you want to enrage me, start hurling around the word “elitist” in an accusatory fashion, as if being great at anything is ipso facto bad. As if you have to wear a tie in your living room while listening to a concerto. Or drive a Lexus to like opera.

Being outstanding in your field is not the problem. All the snobbery and exclusivity based on extraneous factors are. It should really come down to whether or not you can play. And whether or not you enjoy watching/listening to/gazing at the works of those who can.

The game of life has many rules, but it shouldn’t bar non-members arbitrarily for being the wrong gender or not being born on the right side of the tracks. (I love the movie Finding Forrester for this reason. It shreds these typical stereotypes. And it features Sean Connery for crying out loud.)

So much grey-pouponery has accumulated around Shakespeare that we fail to remember that he was a populist as well as an entertainer of royalty. You get the sense that he loved a good fart joke. And sex. Certainly sexual banter (a trait that’s apparently contagious).

I love resources that help demystify the otherwise complex; I’ve often found that people who claim they aren’t interested in certain subjects really are, they just get flummoxed by cultural barriers like period language, historical context and complex symbolism compounded by snickering from the “in” crowd.

That’s why websites like http://www.shakespeareswords.com/ are invaluable (Yippee — the hyperlink works!) I take a special joy in pointing them out as quickly as I come across them. (Signified locally with a thump of the chest, a whack upside the head and a cry of, “Where has this been all my life?” — which I suppose I could YouTube, but then again, maybe not.)

Imagine being able to type in any thorny Shakespearean word online — there is a book form available on amazon.com as well — and not only having it defined for you but placed into context as well. David and Ben Crystal have done a spectacular job creating a googlish interface that simply begs to be played with.

Wordplay comprises so much of the joy of good poetry. And as we all intuitively grasp, Shakespeare was the master at it, combining poetry with drama and characterization in a synergy that has never been equaled in the entire history of language.

The text as Shakespeare wrote it will stand for all eternity. But resources like No Fear Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s Words will only help bridge the widening chasm between English as the Bard knew it and the lite/less filling version we consume today in emails, text messages and (ahem) blogs.

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