Friday, April 29, 2016

Why is Shakespeare Still So Popular? For the Same Reason Tolstoy Hated Him

The fact that the Bard's work is so open to interpretation means it can endure.

Among the First Folios and rare quartos and historic theatre costumes at the British Library’s recently opened exhibition, Shakespeare in Ten Acts, there’s a book. About the size of a modern paperback, it’s neither particularly old—it’s from 1907—nor is it particularly rare. But what is interesting about it is that, unlike many of the other pieces on display, this book is about how awful William Shakespeare is.

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was not a fan of Shakespeare, professing himself in this book, Tolstoy on Shakespeare, to be in “complete disagreement with this universal adulation”. When he read Shakespeare, he said, “I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium”, and wondered whether he was just wrong to see “works regarded as the summit of perfection by the whole of the civilized world to be trivial and positively bad”, or if the civilized world was just mad. He read them all, and now, as “an old man of seventy-five”, he could look back and say with honesty that all he ever felt was “repulsion, weariness, and bewilderment”.

No comments: