Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bardic Controversy

Apparently Stephen Greenblatt's book Will in the World has got many scholar's knickers in a bunch. The book, which I hadn't bothered investigating because I thought it was yet another dry academic examination of Shakspeare, is written more as a "contemporary biography" in the genre of "creative nonfiction." It has sold 150,000 copies and spent time on the bestseller list. But scholars are picking it apart for all its inaccuracies and waggling their fingers at Greenblatt because he should know better. This brings Rachel Donadio to ask Who Owns Shakspeare? Does he belong to scholars or readers? And I ask, why can't he belong to everyone? It seems to me that people are interested in Shakespeare but are afraid of him. So a book like Greeblatt's that is accessible and interesting for the general reader seems a good thing to me. People who read Will in the World might then be inspired to find out more, read more of the plays besides Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, and even venture a more scholarly book about Shakespeare. That would be a good thing for everyone. Wouldn't it? All I know is that I am suddenly interested in reading Will in the World and I am excited about the list of Shakespeare books Donadio mentions that are being published this year and next. Who knows, maybe in the next couple of years people will start quoting Shakespeare regularly in daily conversations at work, or say things like "that was such a Macbeth thing to do." It could happen.