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  •  Okay, Shakespeare (6+ / 0-)

    The giant in the room.

    Love his comedies. Don't trust his histories. He didn't dare insult the Tudors, for one thing -- as you well know.

    Still, Beowulf is considered iirc the first great epic poem in English (okay, an Old English few now can read, but still...proto-English).

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:52:15 PM PST

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    •  'Beowulf' compares to 'The Divine Comedy', which (7+ / 0-)

      was the first serious work written in vernacular Italian, in an age when scholars all wrote in Latin. I think Dante also had grander ambitions than the author of Beowulf (he invented Terza Rima rhyme scheme, derived a system for his moral cosmos, and pioneered a lot of new ideas in storytelling) - but I don't know what the bardic background Beowulf leapt out of at the time.

      How can you assess Shakespeare without considering his tragedies, when Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth and Othello are rated among his best plays? Did you know that he's one of the only playwrights ever to write plays considered first-rate tragedies, as well as first-rate comedies?

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 12:07:56 AM PST

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      •  Did I assess Shakespeare? (7+ / 0-)

        I don't think so.

        Macbeth is one of the best plays EVER, imo. It's true that I don't have much use for Hamlet, that wimp. I've read Othello but not recently, and am even less familiar with Lear (okay, I know the Lear story, just not Shakespeare's version very well).

        Tragedy's easy; comedy's difficult. Any asshole can write tragedy (and NO, I am NOT calling Shakespeare just another asshole: he clearly is one of the greatest writers in this or any other language).

        Did you know that people are still arguing about Richard III? Not just Shakespeare's version, which had to appeal to those damn Tudors (and Eliz. I is a hero of mine) but they're arguing about the princes in the tower and how Richard didn't kill them.

        I have no opinion on this topic. I don't have the education to have an opinion about the Richard III/princes controversy.

        But still: it's like what I keep telling Tara the Antisocial Social Worker...and what SenSho keeps telling Tara...and there are others:

        Some people have it, that ineffable ability to write wit. Tara is one; Shakespeare was one; Austen was one.

        That Shakespeare could write humor and tragedy cements his importance as a dramatist.

        Nevertheless it remains more difficult to write humor than to write tragedy.

        English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

        by Youffraita on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 12:22:38 AM PST

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        •  Hamlet the character is one of the most resonant (6+ / 0-)

          in all of fiction - but people like to agree that it's the greatest play ever, just as The Mona Lisa is deemed the most beautiful painting, and that's too pat for me. The play has many fine speeches; as a whole, it's too long-winded and Hamlet-centric for my taste.

          All you say seems sound, and I agree with your three Olympians of wit. When Tara's effervescing, she has a quick stroke and flawless aim.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 01:11:32 AM PST

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