Blooms How to Write about William Shakespeare

ENL 2330: Introduction to Shakespeare: Writing About Shakespeare
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click He guesses that Shakespeare attended the execution of Roderigo Lopez, a converted Jewish physician who was allegedly part of a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth and was executed and disemboweled—drawn and quartered. And according to Greenblatt, Shakespeare was troubled by this and decided he would write a play about a Jew who was more human than the Jew of Malta, who may or may not have provoked the laughter at a funeral he may or may not have attended. It lay moldering in an Oxford library until Donald Foster, then a graduate student at U. Santa Barbara, published a study in attribution in which he came very close to saying it had been written by Shakespeare.

Then in , Foster and his colleague Richard Abrams announced to the world that they were certain this poem had been written by Shakespeare. I tried to believe this. But I concluded that Shakespeare had never before shown his ability to write this tediously, this piously, this unskeptically, this humorlessly, with almost none of the depth or resonance or flashes of brilliance that any other lines of Shakespeare would provide. If this turns out to be true, what are the implications?

But Werstine takes issue with some of the arguments people have used to support this. His main concern is that this attribution is causing us to make decisions about other open questions in Shakespeare scholarship.

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And for some, the alleged Shakespearean handwriting of Hand D was being used to make the choice. He felt it was a shaky foundation on which to establish any important decision about what Shakespeare really wrote. Even though you focus so much on texts, you encourage readers to actually hear Shakespeare performed, even if that means watching a film or just reading the lines out loud.

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What should I read first? Watch some of the great films first. You were teaching Sonnet 45 , a poem where Shakespeare compares thought and desire to air and fire. This is an element of the sonnets.

Bloom's new invention

I had written out one of the sonnets on a blackboard. This is when I was a graduate fellow, and these were Yale freshmen.

Biography - SW - Shakespeare - Part 2 of 2 of William Shakespeare - English Writer

I was going through all the ambiguities with them, the way he shifted the meaning of one word and another word would shift, the dislocations, the resonances. I found myself, for a moment anyway, shifted back and forth. It was an experience I had not had from poetry before.

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I think the sonnets are exquisitely designed to evoke something more than just imagery or ideas, to set the mind in motion. The words and ambiguities of the sonnets are buzzing with motion. Sometimes it has to do with the way different elements interact.

Bloom's How To Write About William Shakespeare

And in other plays, it has to do with people exchanging identities and trading gender roles. Speaking with you about these subjects makes me wonder why you object so strongly to Harold Bloom. I interviewed him once at his house in New Haven, and he spoke about so many of the same things that interest you. What is it? I really think I was taking issue with his way of looking at Shakespeare, which is to abstract away from the language. To me, the language is the real excitement and the glory.

I think one values him for his language. The problem is that Bloom has had a vast influence on how people look at Shakespeare, and I thought it was necessary to offer a contrary perspective to that. He told me about a public debate he had with the Shakespearean scholar Frank Kermode.


Please sign in to write a review. Salt Publishing. In other projects Wikiquote. After a general introduction and brief bio, the guide attempts to put the play in a little more context by discussing its backstory. When she came to the door of my house unbidden, my youngest son turned her away. Aristotle speaks about four kinds of causes.

Someone asked Bloom to name his favorite Shakespeare films and he listed two Japanese adaptations by Kurosawa, Ran and Throne of Blood. I was there at that debate, and to be honest, Kermode wiped the floor with Bloom. That was one of the points exactly. I rest my case. At the same time, though, I think Bloom is subtler than you give him credit for.

I admire his long and lonely struggle on behalf of the idea of literary value. Even more important, I would say, is his belief that one work can be viewed as better or more valuable than another. For a while—and I think this is still the orthodox view in the academy—there was this notion that all such judgments are subjective and therefore baseless.

Bloom played an important part in arguing against that point of view. I guess where I disagree is in the nature of that value. So much writing about Shakespeare focuses on biography or theme that what makes Shakespeare exceptional—the language—is not given the intense attention it deserves. I find myself whipping back and forth between the persuasive arguments on both sides, not willing to make a choice between them. Is the Internet changing the degree to which non-scholars can participate in these discussions?

For instance, you can now access The Enfolded Hamlet , which I think is one of the most interesting ways of reading the two major Hamlet texts—the Good Quarto and the Folio version—because it juxtaposes the word choices from each.

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You can see the small, subtle changes and variations. Before, it was hard to get these books in their expensive hardback editions. Now people can look at them and think about them and make their own judgments. You start with an enormous, almost metaphysical question about a major figure in world history and then set off on a scholarly journey to find the answer. How did your exploration of Hitler inform your research on Shakespeare? So by the time I decided to write a book on it, I knew a lot of people I wanted to talk to, a lot of issues I wanted to explore.

Aristotle speaks about four kinds of causes. I went back to your Hitler book and noticed a reference you made to Shakespeare. Or does he occupy a separate dimension of evil, off the continuum, off the grid? Not all Shakespeare was as if handed down by God; not all Shakespeare is equal.

What would be the equivalent debate in Hitler studies? They think it makes it too easy to dismiss the whole Nazi movement instead of seeing it as a danger that any human being could fall into. So even though the two debates are totally different, maybe someone could argue that just as the lessons of Hitler are less valuable if we make him subhuman, the genius of Shakespeare is less meaningful if we see him as superhuman, completely out of reach of what human beings can achieve. In his monumental study of Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, another of Bloom's literary idols, sensibly points out that when Shakespeare began to write there was very little systematic study of the human mind and emotions.

When Bloom claims that Shakespeare invented the human, however, he doesn't merely mean that he pioneered these psychological fields in literature before they became established in what gradually became our modern disciplines. According to Bloom, Shakespeare-especially in his creation of Falstaff and Hamlet-so utterly altered human consciousness that after him the world was a different place and we were different creatures. In other words, Shakespeare re-created humanity. This a bold claim, and one expects to find ample discussion of it.

Yet here Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human disappoints. For Bloom chooses to devote most of the book to critical essays on each of the plays, leaving himself only some fifty pages of front and back matter to explain what he means by his provocative subtitle. Though richly packed with brilliant observations from a lifetime of reading and teaching Shakespeare, these essays do not add up to the kind of systematic support Bloom's central claim deserves and demands.

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Summary. Arguably the most revered and researched author of all time, William Shakespeare has forever changed the face of literature. Bloom's How to Write about William Shakespeare ( ): Paul Gleed: Books.

A book devoted exclusively to Shakespeare's cognitive power and his decisive role in the alteration of human consciousness would have allowed for a more coherent and persuasive argument. It would have given Bloom the opportunity to explain more precisely what Shakespeare's unique intelligence consists of and why "the aesthetic achievement of Shakespeare cannot be separated from his cognitive power.

The play-by-play organization seems also to work against Bloom's own critical disposition: for example, he proudly acknowledges that to "exalt Falstaff above his plays" is to commit a formalist and historicist "sin. Even if Bloom's central assertion cannot be proven-historically, empirically, or deductively-it might have inspired more reflective and speculative criticism. Why was the spark of modern consciousness set into motion by a single dramatist from one small nation and not by the general European intellectual movement we customarily call the Renaissance?

Assuming Shakespeare did indeed transform human consciousness, how quickly did the change occur? Though they clearly appreciated Shakespeare's enormous gifts, did his contemporaries realize their limited minds were suddenly being permanently altered and enlarged?

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Bloom's thesis raises countless questions like these that he rarely addresses or anticipates. It's also difficult to know how far to take his claim. He makes no attempt to define what he means by "human" either in its post-Shakespearean or pre-Shakespearean sense. Surely, when we read Plato or Sophocles or Juvenal or Petrarch or Dante or Rabelais we cannot help but recognize their vital and convincing connection to the human spirit.

Yet, how "human" were they? It's not at all clear how Bloom wants us to understand the great minds that preceded Shakespeare should we consider them "old human"? Their "inwardness" is insufficient.

Bloom's new invention

Though they may transmit important messages, their bandwidths are simply too narrow. If by some historical intervention they were given the opportunity to read Shakespeare, would Erasmus have been able to comprehend Hamlet? Let's suppose that Shakespeare did invent the human.

How good an invention did it turn out to be?

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Bloom claims that if Shakespeare had died at twenty-nine, like his friend Christopher Marlowe, the world would be a different place: "we would be very different, because we would think and feel and speak differently. Our ideas would be different, particularly our ideas of the human, since they were, more often than not, Shakespeare's ideas before they were our own. Did Shakespeare, with his powerful creations of abusive, tyrannical, and murderous egoists, supply the future with the best "role" models?

Should it make us uneasy that Hitler, in an attack against modernist theatrical filth, praised Shakespeare along with Goethe and Schiller as one of the great dramatists of all times? Isn't the playwright also responsible for fashioning the modern psychopath or, as Bloom might have it, the "criminal visionary"? To be sure, Bloom recognizes the full spectrum of benignity and malignity included under the word "human.

Bloom might also have devoted more attention to his theory's critical and philosophical ramifications. If throughout four centuries Shakespeare has remained the circumference of our intellectual possibilities if he wholly "contains" us, as Bloom likes to put it then might we also-imagine Shakespeare's art as an immense prison system that has kept his human invention tranquilly confined within its intellectual walls for life? If Shakespeare, as Bloom predicts, will also "go on enclosing those likely to come after us," could it be about time for humanity to make its break?

What intellectual world might lie on the other side of this enormous jailhouse? Or is it Bloom's contention that from Shakespeare there is no exit? Imprisonment is one of Shakespeare's dominant tropes, one that figures in nearly every play, whether there is an actual jail or not. In Measure for Measure , a vastly underrated play given over entirely to the idea of imprisonment Bloom's analysis is brilliant , even death offers no escape: the unfortunate Claudio imagines that to die is "To be imprison'd in the viewless winds.

We may profitably consider how close this image brings us to Shakespeare's artistic core. Bloom points out that Shakespeare always seems way ahead of us; though Bloom relishes the intellectual challenges we face in continually trying to catch up, he doesn't address the peculiar frustrations of that impossibility. Like Nabokov another literary genius fascinated with prisons and traps , Shakespeare exerts terrific intellectual pressure on even the most sophisticated reader.