Some thoughts on Shakespeare
the central tragedy of all of Shakespeare’s plays is the inability of people to understand how different we really all are. Shakespeare is in essence critiquing the Western value of self-knowledge over understanding of society as awhole. A great power resides in figuring out that people are different and have different motivations, and that they are manipulative, and that what one person wants, their desire, easily conflicts with those others.
Additionally, I think it is incorrect to not read some of Shakespeare’s characters as homosexuals. The bard clearly knew what a bent sword was and while it’s possible he knew because someone had warned him against homosexuality, he ascribed bent penis syndrome to at least one of his characters. It’s interesting that in the history of literature, homosexuals are so often negated, few works ever touch on or make apparent the sexual prolicitives of characters much less display the conflict-ions that people are a whole feel towards them. Film has been much better a medium for gays than literature has been, it’s telling then that the cornerstone of Western literature contains them.
Shakespeare is also commonly portrayed as retelling stories already known in abundance at his time, but I think what’s more true is that he realized that to make a point with the conflict of psychologies and the addition of some conceptual points, is to necessarily come to close archetypal stories of trauma and loss. He knew that in any story of true believers, in which the psychologies of characters are inflated to increase tension, and we the audience are let in on their mental worlds while the characters act in ignorance of them, is to necessarily come close to the form of any story truly lasting or true. That we today neuter stories removing their gory bits and destroying their conflicts creates a sense of same-ness in everyone, that we are all alike and can get along, Shakespeare on the other hand understood that society is diverse and choose to depict it not as harmonious, but as it actually is, consistently conflicting and pluralistic. Shakespeare warns us of the power of ignorance, that to not understand others is to act blindly in society, and that no society can be harmonious with out understanding. Today we place tolerance on our shoulders ignoring that tolerance is repression and that with the word comes the implication of rejection, that we tolerate because we don’t understand, because we can’t see that the flow of others is what makes society work.