Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hmm …

… National Book Critics Circle: Second Thoughts: George Scialabba on Shakespeare - Critical Mass Blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

By comparison with Bunyan’s, Shaw claimed, Shakespeare’s view of life was impoverished, his sense of motivation and personality cramped, his imagination fertile but only within narrow limits. His characters have no sense of a purpose larger than themselves, their political or romantic ambitions, their dynastic allegiances, and other trivial matters. Bunyan’s, by contrast, live by and for something truly great, a conception of stark moral and intellectual grandeur. Bunyan and his Hebrew forebears, if I understand Shaw correctly, were heroes because they cared little about their individual destiny, having identified themselves generously and wholeheartedly with an explicit cosmic moral order, unlike Shakespeare’s heroes, with their comparatively trivial purposes and preoccupations.

As if Shaw himself had any grand world view other than a political one, and that pretty shallow overall. Shakespeare shows us people as they are, and most people, happily, are not ideological activists. Art is at its best when it causes us to see things and people as they are, rather than as someone thinks they ought to be.


  1. Shakespeare actually could write dramas. I'm not sure that Shaw could. One is getting onto shaky ground when one says that Lawrence had content and Flaubert only form: A Sentimental Education gives a pretty damning picture of French social and political life of that period.