A Note on Sources

I’m not much of a modernist when it comes to literature, but I feel the need to speak about secondary sources.

I feel very strongly that I should approach each text without bias or expectation. That said, neither I nor anybody can completely escape the way Shakespeare has permeated world culture. Here I find myself agreeing more and more with what I once considered hyperbole by the great scholar Harold Bloom, that Shakespeare “invented” so much of the modern psyche that he’s become inseparable from our self-definition.

My quest here is not to play dumb and  avoid such statements but to test them against my own experience. Which for me means reading the texts on my own (and risk being a fool) by posting before I’ve consulted with leading authorities such as Mr. Bloom.

This approach has both strengths and weaknesses, some of which are more apparent than others. While one school might question the need to reinvent the wheel, others might balk at falling into the same convenient traps that doom many Shakespeare projects.

I will not allow myself to be a hypocrite. Context matters to me as much as candor, no matter how eager I might seem to go it alone. No sooner did I finish the first act of Othello than I wondered what other people had to say.

And yet there’s something invigorating about approaching such a famous work such as Othello as a virgin. Iago is no stranger to many literate people, but he literally leapt off the page for me. I had no preconceptions whatsoever.

It seems to me that Shakespeare does this for every new generation – or at least he could were it not for the legions of scholars and pedagogues ramming him down our throats. Is there no way to come at him alone?

(My battery is failing. To be continued)

My entire update just got deleted – I’ll work on this another day when I’ve calmed down.  Scrooge!!!!

UPDATE: With a computer, editing becomes a bit easier.

Here are the resources that sit upon my desk:

Ackroyd, Peter: Shakespeare: the Biography

Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare

Boyce, Charles: Shakespeare A-Z

Charney, Maurice: All of Shakespeare

McGinn, Colin, Shakespeare’s Philosophy

Meagher, John C.: Shakespeare’s Shakespeare: How the Plays Were Made

Watt, Homer A. (et al): Outlines of Shakespeare’s Plays

When I take from these sources, I will cite them.  My promise is to read the plays and react to them myself, in my own voice, with my own ideas, drawn from my own experience.  The hazards I take, the mistakes I make, the errors in taste and judgment are entirely my own.

It just seems willful and stupid on my part, however, not to at least consult with greater minds who have grappled with Shakespeare before me.  And so these resources sit, waiting for me to consult them.  I find, however, that I’m more of a generalist in nature, which is why I probably prefer Asimov above all the other guides.  Just as I want Carl Sagan to lead me on a tour of the Cosmos, I prefer a balance between erudition and wonder, to keep it at a level where intellect is encouraged but child-like joy is not left behind.

I am no scholar.  As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, I believe that Shakespeare has become encrusted by pomp and erudition – so much so that most people will never know how popular he was in his time and how much fun he still is.  My job here is partly to strip all that away, to discover him anew and for myself – and hopefully to encourage others to do the same.

These resources are here to consult for context, to provide a more authoritative opinion, to suggest, to debate – never to swallow whole.  I will cite them as their ideas intrude upon my own.  To offer them for you to comment upon.  To let you know where my own thinking has changed or expanded by including them into the conversation.

I don’t want there to be any doubt about my purposes with this blog or confusion about where my posts are coming from.  Therefore, I disclose the above with full candor and expose myself freely to any question regarding whence my takes on various passages are derived.  Unless needing help with certain passage for clarity, I can honestly state that what I present here are fully my own opinions, and I plan on continuing to do only this moving forward.


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