The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0537  Wednesday, 28 October 2009

From:       Justin Alexander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Tuesday, 20 Oct 2009 14:36:09 -0500
Subject: 20.0526 The Book of William by Paul Collins
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0526 The Book of William by Paul Collins

 >To me, "SHAKESPEARE," the power-meme, the cultural phenomenon,
 >is an emergent property that requires the presence of
 >Hamlet/Othello/Macbeth/Lear, and maybe one or two other signal plays;
 >the Henriad or Romeo and Juliet/MSD.

I think the interesting element in this question is how we all bring our 
unique perspective to it. One of the remarkable things about Shakespeare 
is the broad appeal of his work: One person resonates with Hamlet. 
Another loves the fantastic comedy of Midsummer's. Another resonates 
with the heroines of Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Another revels in 
the villainy of Richard III and Iago.

So any one of us might identify 4 or 5 works which are the 
"quintessential Shakespeare" for us. But it'll be a different 4 or 5 
works for each of us.

I suppose we could work by inversion by taking a wide enough poll and 
then figuring out which works rarely or never appear on those lists. 
(I'm willing to bet that we would discover Merry Wives' Windsor to be 
one of those, although it might be the only one.) It wouldn't be much 
more work to figure out at what point we could cut Shakespeare's career 
short while still including, say, 4 out of 5 plays listed by 90%+ of the 

Although, even here, we would be overlooking the important historical 
question: Which works kept Shakespeare's reputation alive (or created 
it) through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries?

Justin Alexander

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