Some theatre each day keeps the doctor away…

Mo Yan and the Timidty of Shakespeare

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I was reading Mo Yan’s Wikipedia article today, and part of it was as follows: “The Chinese writer Ma Jian has deplored the lack of solidarity and commitment of Mo Yan to other Chinese writers and intellectuals who were punished or detained in violation of their Constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”

I, too, until very recently (that is, until I read that sentence), would have deplored Mo Yan for his lack of solidarity.  Or perhaps not ‘deplored’ – for I understand that fear is a very powerful motivator – but have been disappointed, at the least.  But then I think, as I have been for however long it is, about Shakespeare, and his careful avoidance of irking the powers above him, whereas Ben Jonson/etc managed to land themselves in prison.  And one wonders if it is not much the same system of censorship/tyranny going on…  (A huge statement to make, a huge parallel to draw, and there is no way I can be bothered researching it all to find out.)  Did Shakespeare ever strive to rock the boat, as it were?

I was wondering today, too, whether us knowing the man that was Shakespeare would help with anything.  Musing over it, I tentatively decided that Shakespeare the man was probably no more than the reflex of his youth, and that he didn’t know what he thought with any more certainty than irrational opinions give us.  Yet his capability to inhabit different versions of himself produced his characters, or something like that…

“Reflex of his youth”.  I originally wrote “reflex of his upbringing”, but I like “youth” better.  I quite like that phrase.  Must use it in a play some time.  “All men are but the reflex of their youth”.

The bit of Bloom from yesterday (it’s from an interview with the Boston Review):

“Think of Dante. Let us forget the Athenian dramatists, forget Pindar and Plato—in all of what can be called Modern Literature, Dante is the strangest writer, and after Shakespeare, the one who matters most. I love that moment in Joyce when his friend, the painter, asks him the desert-island question about which of the two greatest Western writers to keep: “I should like to answer Dante, but I would have to take the Englishman, because he is richer!” He is, it’s the truth. He is richer than Homer, which is astonishing. Everybody in The Divine Comedy, except Dante the Pilgrim, has achieved their final form. But Shakespeare is change. In that sense, he always remains an Ovidian poet, and in the same sense, anti-Platonic. Plato didn’t really care about our life; he was after permanent forms. He was transcendent. I don’t like him at all though he’s a very powerful prose poet, he’s a great writer, much more ironical than we realize. Dante is very great, but I don’t like him either. They both make me very uncomfortable.”

Which is why we keep coming back to Shakespeare?  (I say this in the full knowledge that plenty of people “keep coming back” to Dante as well.)  My experience of the Divine Comedy – albeit a sprint in which I didn’t comprehend all that much – is that the protagonist reacts like a dumb audience at a spectacular slideshow.  Picutre one, cue expression of awe.  Picture two, cue expression of shock.  Three, cue happiness.  Etc, etc.  Presumably I’ve got it wrong, though, but that was my feeling of it upon reflection.

The thing about “Shakespeare is change”, too, is that it’s very hard to be moral when one is changing.  Shifting moods/personalities/justifications/situations throws morality into chaos, perhaps?

Been watching/reading quite a bit about Shakespeare today, which is probably not the best of ideas.  It’s a bit like reading a fashion magazine when you’re fat.  Not that I’m fat, nor have I read a fashion magazine (well, read with any particular interest, anyway).  There’s a debasing aspiration to it.


Written by epistemysics

October 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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