Friday, July 27, 2018

Lear Steer

In his Hollywood Reporter review of Ian McKellen' latest King Lear, Demetrios Matheou writes:

And so Shakespeare, the playwright whose finger somehow never leaves his nation's pulse, seems to be writing for Brexit Britain, a country tipped towards the precipice by ambition, hubris and lies, dodgy negotiations and factions that can't stop stabbing each other in the back.

Matheou can think what he likes, but he should leave his political beliefs out of his review.

It's easy enough to recruit Shakespeare to your point of view.  But there's no reason Lear (or any play by Shakespeare) relates to Brexit Britain--whatever you take that to mean--any more than it relates to Britain ten years ago, or ten years from now (even if this were McKellen's explicit intent).

If you had the inclination, you could say King Lear points toward the "ambition, hubris and lies" of the EU, or the American President (whichever one is in office at the time), or Angela Merkel or pretty much any leader anytime.  This is pure waste motion that no decent critic should attempt.

Shakespeare isn't, and shouldn't be, especially known for having his finger on the British national pulse.  That cheapens him.  What he's got is insight into the human condition and transcendent poetry, good for any people anywhere.

In fact, Shakespeare's been celebrated for how he doesn't let any political opinions get in the way of his artistic beauty--"negative capability," as Keats put it.

Recruiting Shakespeare for rather shallow shots at the present-day scene isn't just dumb politics, it's bad criticism.


Blogger New England Guy said...

Well the greatness of Shakespeare largely comes today from critics, academics and scholars telling us he's great. Seeing the applicability of his plots to current conditions (yes even to contrary and unrelated current conditions)is one of the appeals of his work.

4:25 AM, July 28, 2018  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're going to have to parse that "applicability to unrelated and contrary "for me. Sounds like a null set.

I gather he's endorsed Occasionally-firing Cortex.

5:28 PM, July 28, 2018  

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