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Shakespeare's Freedom (The Rice University Campbell Lectures) Hardcover – November 15, 2010
The Daughter of Union County
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Take, for example, his analysis of beauty in Shakespeare's works. Blemishes, wrinkles, birthmarks and scars were considered to mar beauty is Shakespeare's time, and the poetry and drama of the time often indicated that. And these disfigurements often indicated deeper flaws. Shakespeare used these conventions on occasion himself. On the other hand, he often noted these conventions, even as he turned them on their head. ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun... The sonnets glorify the "dark lady", Henry V encourages his soldiers to show their scars, and beautiful Innogen's mole all show Shakespeare to take a wider view.
Greenblatt also has a great discussion of the necessities of hatred and silence in his fresh analysis of Shylock and Iago. This is followed by, if anything, an even cleverer discussion of absolute authority which leads him to the idea of autonomy. The powerful in Shakespeare often claimed to be bound by legalisms and yet, would throw away the law by fiat, when it served. Thus creating an ethical dilemma for those that wield power that is difficult to resolve. This is linked to an author's ability to create his own world, and the dangers it entails.
All in all, this is a book filled with ideas, which is what I look for most in books about Shakespeare. Shakespeare runs so wide and deep that the is room for endless discussion and debate. Professor Greenblatt has added another series of sound arguments to the field.
There is kind of Literary Criticism I have always loved reading because it seems to provide not only insight into Literature but wisdom about Life. This work rich in ambiguities and references at times outside my reading reach well exemplifies this kind of Criticism.
Musing that the poet Shakespeare and playwright Will started out in life Catholic but had to slip away from home to escape persecution as a Catholic into wicked old London, Greenblatt does not say but suggests that the writer probably hid in plain sight by playing a a youth the roles of women. Greenblatt intimates that this experience adds a dimension of truth to the women of whom Shakespeare writes. Greenblatt points out without saying it that the Denmark of Hamlet must have shown in the play taken place before Erasmus was born, or at least before Henry the VIII beheaded Anne Bolelyn an thus ws excommunicated and before Henry 8 assumed the role of Head of the Church of England.
Also, if Denmark on stage was supposed to be a stand-in for England, and if Hamlet a stand-in for the helpless young Elizabeth, the "Get thee to a nunnery " lines refer not only to interpreting the girl as a doomed lover, but also as a doomed Catholic girl living in a castle writhing with sub rosa tension between Catholics (who will lose their footing), and as yet undeclared Protestants, to say nothing of the troubles Denmark had with the extant Hanseatic League which treated Denmark like a poor sister. There already was political unrest in Denmark for real. Reread the lines about the nunnery and you thus may find a third meaning not just two.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Greenblatt is a learned Scholar and a true Shakespeare enthusiast, and his writing reflects these facts. Read morePublished 3 months ago by James Bithos
I read everything I can find on Shakespeare, and I found this to be the most intellectually dishonest book I have ever read on the subject. Read morePublished 7 months ago by richard falk
Stephen Greenblatt continues to impress me with his ability to have scholarly discussions with documentation and yet keep the reader connected. Read morePublished 11 months ago by dancing3g
Excellent review of Shakespeare's contemporary times, that shaped his words, his themes and his greatest objective, to stay out of The Tower.Published 14 months ago by Jim L.
He is a scholarly writer but not dry. He brings the old historical stuff to life. I long ago graduated from college and not with a Lit degree but I have always loved Shakespeare... Read morePublished on December 30, 2012 by Jan Zina
The author creates an intelligible and empathetic picture of how the world of art and literature in Shakespeare's time looked at itself. Read morePublished on July 1, 2012 by William M. Youngblood