This was originally going to be a triviality, but after arguing with a friend over the genius of Shakespeare, I knew I had to do my nerdly, intellectual duty and defend the Bard.
|He could do without the moustache...|
So, first off: What the hell is the 'human condition'? I didn't pick that phrase by accident - many scholars and teachers use it when talking about the Bard.
The human condition is basically what all humans feel. What makes us different (unique's a better word) from everything on Earth and the universe. From the pain of a breakup, to laughing really hard at that joke your friend told you, to the awe at stargazing, to worrying about your future and concerns for family -- everything that we have unique in feeling and thought is the human condition.
So how did a weird, perverted guy from the late 1500s do that? Look at the plots of his plays.
Two people meet and fall in love. Love at first sight. They want to be together, but they can't. Frustration and depression. Sound familiar? His play's an allegory (says one thing but means another) for how people want to seek out lovers who may be impossible to get, and how hate is evil.
|"What a piece of work is man! Er, ghost.."|
As you can see, Shakespeare tried really hard to capture his audiences' feelings in his own characters. Remember, he had only 2 forms of competition, in a line I'll borrow from Baz Luhrmann:
"We know about the Elizabethan stage and that he was playing for 3000 drunken punters, from the street sweeper to the Queen of England - and his competition was bear-baiting and prostitution."
But wait, you're saying. I don't care that he copied people really well or whatever that lame 'human condition' is. Why do we still care about Shakespeare (henceforth referred to as William/Will/Willy)?
Well, here's another thing for you: his poetry. Not his sonnets (I really don't care for his sonnets, though, his plays are cool.) But William can be very poetic when having his characters open their mouths. This line from Romeo and Juliet is a very romantic way to describe a woman:
Well, in that hit you miss: she'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow; she hath Dian's wit...
O, she is rich in beauty, only poor,
That when she dies with beauty dies her store.
In 2013 English: Love (Cupid) can't "shoot his arrow" at her (meaning make her fall in love), she's as smart and clever as Artemis (Diana/goddess of hunting)...she's so beautiful but yet when she'll die, her beauty will die untouched since she would not go with any man.
(Gentlemen: If you're now interested in writing love poems to your significant other in the style of Shakespeare, let me direct you to a little song by Cole Porter...)
Now you're probably very bored or very interested, and I have one more reason to give why you, too, should like Shakespeare: His double entendres.
"Wait, what? He has...naughty jokes?" Well, yes, he does.
But before you start opening that barely-opened copy of Othello, let me warn you, they don't make any sense anymore. Unless, of course, you are well versed in the art of William's language. But here are a couple that one can get without going too much into rhyming and changing consonants.
"GET THEE TO A NUNNERY!" (Hamlet to his girlfriend. In Will's day, a nunnery meant a brothel.)
"My cherry lips have often kissed thy stones." (Midsummer Night's Dream. You can figure it out.)
In addition to double entendres William also invented lots of words and phrases that we use today, such as "mind's eye", "lonely", "puke", "obscene", and "cold-blooded". He was also a master at wordplay. Though, to be perfectly candid, he did adapt many of these from Latin, so it shouldn't count. That'd be like you taking a word from Spanish or Chinese and turning it into an English-sounding word and making the world use it.
So yeah, Shakespeare was awesome. He had double entendres going on, he could sure describe people really well, and in poetry. If you have any more questions or more reasons you'd like me to argue, drop a line in the comments. I'll likely devote some future blogposts on his quotes. I just love quoting Shakespeare, especially the lesser known ones ("to be or not to be" just doesn't cut it).
-The piece of work of man that is known as Rob