Shakespeare Was A Knob-Jockey Who Ate Too Much Cheese

And I feel a certain amount of empathy for him, I really do.

We need to have a chat about these old littérateurs, the fucking gentry of fiction through the ages. And I don’t know if this is the time or the way to have the chat, but some things need to be said. For example, they’re all fucking boring. It’s important to note, however, that there’s a reason for this.

Number one if they’re the fogies who actually wrote stuff, the ‘greats’, we’re looking at them now out-of-context. When they were cutting edge, they were fine, but now they’ve been replaced. Some of them several times over. Greatness never extends beyond context, beyond the shit happening around it that makes it great, that makes it something other than just another event in a very long stream of events.

Shakespeare for example. We pretend he’s cool because you’re forced to learn about him in school, and then possibly act out his plays and study him for years after that. I say YOU are, I mean thousands of people are. And that’s enough to create a bit of a mystique, the idea that he means something beyond the ages. Nope. He doesn’t.

The work of these great names is kept up by their fans, not by their absolute quality. People who have either been forced to learn about and admire them, or people who study history, who found them and who thereby establish a new connection with an old author, knowing some of their context. Example: I looked up Catallus (a shitty Roman love poet) because a beautiful man in a waistcoat quoted me some lines. Now I have a book of Catallus poems, with Latin to English translations. I don’t think Catallus is a great poet, but I bother to engage with him and recognise some of what he WAS. I do this because I had a current connection with someone who studies classics – they have the connection because they love the Latin language (fuck knows why) and like old romantic poetry, presumably of all kinds. I can understand that much. And I have to admit that weird grammatical constructions like a chiasmus are pretty cool. Latin uses them. Chiasmuses. Chiasmi. Chia seeds. Anyway…

Back to Shakespeare, because some people out there will refuse to accept that he’s a dead idiot. I recently watched and enjoyed a new production of Twelfth Night. I’ve mentioned it on here somewhere, possibly in a poem. It was good. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet is pretty decent. The Grigori Kozintsev Hamlet is fun times. But these aren’t Shakespeare. They’re modern adaptations of Shakespeare, all in their own ways trying to make old Shakespeare accessible. And I don’t want to say that’s a bad idea, but I will say “WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING THIS WHEN THERE’S SO MUCH NEW THEATRE THAT DOESN’T HAVE THE RESOURCES OR SUPPORT OR ATTENTION IT DESERVES?”

I’m not just writing this because I think people should pay more attention to my poetry than, say, Keats’ or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s or Emily Dickinson’s. Shakespeare too, bastard did the sonnets. No I don’t think I necessarily deserve more attention, but, particularly in schools, other contemporary poets definitely DO deserve more attention. It should be on the English curriculum to regularly check out online poetry mags and browse new content. Or something. It should be 16+ syllabus to read Charles Bukowski. Life Skills and English in one…they could never pull that lesson plan off under normal circumstances. And if you start changing things in schools, the baseline for the rest of society changes. We pick up way too many bad habits in schools people. I’ve spent the last decade trying to unlearn or adapt the filthy stupid shit that got stuck in my head at school. And I went to nice schools – lucky bitch, right?

So on this site, on an ongoing basis, I want to try and devote the occasional bit of time to debunking myths about these literary ‘greats’. Yeah they WERE great. And they are great IN CONTEXT. But that doesn’t make anyone a generic, perpetual ‘great’. That’s fucking Jesus-complex, King-appointed-by-God NONSENSE.

Sorry for the ranting, I have a lot of pent-up anger at the moment. Also a hyperactive combo of beer, chocolate, coffee, sugar, sugar, sugar on the go. One of the sugars was rum.

P.S. At the start of this piece I wrote “littérateurs” because I thought it sounded good. Then I looked it up to double check I wasn’t making a fool of myself, and I realised I could talk about a whole other class of literary idiot: the critic. Now, I’ve tagged this piece “critique”, so that should tell you something. That should actually tell you enough for now. The critics are a strange breed, and despite my best efforts to lay into them by laughing at Aristotle and William Hazlitt (two corpses I really respect) I don’t think, right now, I can do what needs to be done to them. Not even in summary. So you’ll have to tune in some other time.

What’s a nice, high note to end on?

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